From: Bryan Bremner <>
Subject: Religious relativity  Aug 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Massey

I sent a letter to the Spokesman but it is evident that they are not going to print it.  It was admidedly too long but I thought that it might be acceptable because it was in response to a submitted letter which was much longer than their 200 word limit.  I guess that I was wrong.

Since I am emailing you direct I will make a couple of specific comments:

"Most patients can readily go someplace else for treatment."  I live in Ferry County Washington, previously I lived in Benewah County Idaho, and before that I lived in Shoshone County Idaho. In Ferry county there is 1 hospital and 3 clinics, the clinics are not open 24/7 - where would I go?  In Benewah county there was 1 hospital and just before we moved a clinic, also not 24/7, opened.  Where would I go?  I do not know the current status of Shoshone county.

I was an EMT for 25 years, 20 in Idaho, 5 in Washington.  I have seen fellow EMT's fail to deliver appropriate service.  Some were because of lack of experience and ignorance, some were because of adrenalin rush, and the worse were because self-styled extremely religious Christians did not like the the "life style" of the injured person.  Luckily those two persons quickly dropped out, I hope because they realized that they were not delivering appropriate service that they had sworn to provide.

If you respond to this email please don't expect and answer back very soon.  I am leaving to spend several weeks with my daughter.  She has just given birth to a new granddaughter.  I mention this because the young lady in question was not conceived in the traditional manner.  Actually I have a grand niece and grand nephew who weren't either.  Should all of them and their parents be put in the gas chamber, isn't that where the religious radical absolutists from Hayden believe that everyone who is just a little different from them place their "enemies"?

My original letter to the Editor follows:

Dear Editor,

On Saturday, Aug. 12 in the Faith & Values section of the Spokesman there was an article entitled, "Religious relativity victimizes Christian health-care workers".  The writer defended health-care workers who would abandon patients because of their religious beliefs, who would refuse to deliver legal medical treatments, and who would try to force their belief structure onto other medical practitioners and suffering patients.

Perhaps, but just who is victimizing whom?  I have three basic problems with this type of attitude. They have to do with the morality issue, personal issues of choosing health care providers, and financial-political issues for the state, nation, etc.

Morality:  When most people discuss moral issues (should I do it? will I get punished for doing it?) they are generally referring to religion or to the legal system.  Since the overall question is whether health workers should be required to perform legal treatments, it therefore becomes strictly a question of religious morality.  As far as I know, all religious faiths and political systems agree with Commandments 6 - 10: do not kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, covet other's property.  The other commandments are not so universal and not referred to in civil law outside of theocracies.  However there are many different interpretations of exactly what it means to "not kill" or "not steal".  The Spokane Police are currently wrestling with the definition of "not kill", the military has "rules of engagement".  These rules are related to the situation.  If I were to walk in to a 7-11 and blow away a funny looking guy or shoot the next guy with a beard and a rifle during deer season, I would quite properly be charged with murder.  The cop on the beat or the soldier might get a commendation.  Religious doctrine has always been relative, and in this case it should be based on the beliefs of the patient, not the beliefs of a single health-care worker who is a member of a particular sect of one religion.

Personal Issues:  How do I tell if a health care provider (doctor, nurse, EMT, pharmacist, etc.) will be practicing faith-based medicine?  What faith is he referring to?  Will she give me a transfusion? refuse to prescribe a modern drug I need because my infection has evolved a resistance to penicillin? refuse to give my daughter a medication for a rare gynecological disease because it could be used as a morning-after pill?  Our health care system is not perfect but currently it works reasonably well.  It would be an absolute mess if I had to personally ask each and every health care provider what his religious and personal beliefs are before receiving service.

Financial-Political Issues:  Much of our educational system is government supported.  All health care workers attend grade and high schools.  All those with any appreciable degree of skill must attend a university and those with the highest skill levels attend professional schools.  EMT's, Paramedics, and others have educational requirements.  Tuition is required for many of these schools but it never covers all of the cost; there is always external (state) support.  If we allow each and every student to decide for himself/herself what curriculum they will follow we are going to have to set up a lot more schools.  For the entire history of medicine in the United States, governing bodies have set up minimal requirements for each and every health care profession.  Practitioners can use their training in many different ways but they must meet at least the minimum standards.

In conclusion, my feelings are that if a would-be health care worker wants to practice faith-based medicine they should first return all public moneys spent on their education.  Also, every office or company they work in must display the words, "Faith Based" in the same size type as the name of the organization everywhere the name is placed.  The specific details of which faith and what services will be provided could be provided as smaller print.  This is not that difficult: if I have heart problems I look up "Cardiologist" in the phone book, if I have a backache I look up "Chiropractor".  (I also expect that a health-care professional would have sufficient professionalism to refer me to someone else if I have incorrectly diagnosed myself.)

The only persons victimized when "Christian health-care workers" refuse legal medical services are people in need.  The persons who gain are religious professionals who in my opinion violate the 3rd Commandment - "Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the LORD your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name."  Today's English Version or Good News Bible, Copyright 1976, 1992, American Bible Society.

Bryan Bremner
Phone  (509) 775-0162
1 Bremner Lane
Republic, WA  99166