A generally accepted principle of Christian living is that when people feel confused about the right thing to do, they should prayerfully look for an answer in the Bible. Christians are taught that the Bible is clear enough for a child to understand important teachings, and there is plenty of evidence of this truth. Christians also discover, as they mature in the faith, that there is depth and complexity in the Bible that baffles people with astronomical IQs. There is plenty of evidence of this truth as well. For this reason, Christians learn to look for mentors to help them prayerfully study the Bible and listen for God’s guidance. It all boils down to a problem: people of faith may or may not agree on the right thing to do in every situation.
Recently a pediatrician, Dr. Vesni Roi, in Michigan was faced with a situation in which she was uncertain what to do. Two lesbian women who live together in a union they call a marriage selected her for the care of a child yet to be born. The article that reports the story does not make it quite clear who would give birth to the baby. The articles do report that after reviewing the credentials of numerous pediatricians, the two women decided to ask Dr. Rio to care for the child.
When the time came for the child’s first visit, six days after birth, the women were told that Dr. Roi had decided not to accept the baby as her patient. She referred them to another pediatrician in the same practice. She explained in a handwritten note to the women that her decision was made after considerable prayer. Her expressed reason for the decision was stated in her note: “I feel that I would not be able to develop the normal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.” While the note never mentions the issue of homosexual union, the two women consider the decision to be a rejection of homosexuality, even though as one of them pointed out, it could not be about the sexual orientation of the baby, since the baby was too young to have expressed any sexual orientation. Since all conversation about the care of a newborn would necessarily take place with the adult (or adults) charged with the care of the child, it makes sense to conclude that, when the doctor referred to the “patient doctor relationship” in her note, she was saying that she did not feel she could have the same relationship with the two women that she would normally have with the parents or guardians of a child in her care.
Why would she feel this way?
Dr. Roi’s bio includes earning an undergraduate degree from Livonia’s Madonna College, a private Catholic school, in 1987. While graduation from a Catholic institution does not necessarily mean that she is Catholic, her behavior suggests strong Christian background. Secular thinkers do not pray through moral and ethical decisions. If it is proper to conclude that her concern about the patient doctor relationship is rooted in the homosexual lifestyle of the two women, it seems highly likely that Catholic teaching of Christian principles for life figured in her choice. No reports consulted as background for this post ventured to say one way or the other.
The central issue appears to be whether a person of faith who engages in the normal Christian practice of praying about a decision is justified in acting on the guidance received that way. Can the culture permit people of faith to act on the guidance they receive through prayer? Or, must the culture suppress the free exercise of religion if it hurts someone’s feelings? The uproar surrounding this story makes it clear that some people believe that nobody has the right to do what Dr. Roi did. Some even appear to believe that there should be a law forbidding Dr. Roi to make such a choice.
While secular thinkers leap from Dr. Roi’s action to allegations of discrimination, that is a very simplistic reaction to the story. Dr. Roi is a person of faith who did what people of faith do. Christianity is not the only faith that turns to prayer for guidance in making decisions, but in the US, it is probably the most visible religion that considers prayer vital to faith. Dr. Roi prayed about her decision.
Since secular thinkers reject the existence of God, they have no use for decisions based on communion with God, but among Christians, this practice is, nevertheless, central to the faith. Sermons, books, seminars, devotional guides and discipleship mentors all teach Christians to pray when they do not know what to do in any situation. Dr. Roi demonstrated that she not only believes in prayer, but she also acts on prayer. Many is the Christian who has, on one occasion or another, expressed regret that, having prayed about a matter, he did not act according to the guidance received. Dr. Roi engaged in prayer according to the full definition of prayer; she asked for guidance, and she listened until she received it.
Dr. Roi is living her faith. That is exactly what the First Amendment to the Constitution is written to protect. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To pray and to act on the guidance received is the free exercise of religion. American citizens all should applaud the fact that the Constitution is working exactly as it should in Dr. Roi’s case.
One more point. The two women who wanted Dr. Roi to care for a baby felt hurt by Dr. Roi’s decision. There is no question that such a thing would hurt anyone’s feelings. However, part of being an adult is learning to deal with hurt feelings. Hurt feelings do not justify tyrannizing a nation. In this case, not only are the hurt feelings not justification for tyranny, but there is also a completely satisfactory solution for the problem. Even though the two women do not get exactly what they wanted, they will get what they need. They were referred to a competent doctor, and their disappointment in not getting their first choice does not justify an attempt to deny free exercise of the faith of a citizen.
The important issue in this story is that citizens of the United States of America have the right to live their faith. If Dr. Roi had alleged that God told her to beat the women or kill the child they care for, nobody would believe that she was exercising her faith. It would be an exercise in madness. However, Dr. Roi simply listened to God in prayer and acted responsibly, not leaving the women without care for the baby but actually making a professional referral to a well-qualified colleague, something she is entitled to do for any reason whatsoever.
May God protect and sustain the freedom he has given each citizen in the USA. May it long remain the land of the free.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.
Image: Pediatrician with baby
License: Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License
Photographer not named