Pope Francis Says Even Government Officials Have ‘Human Right’ to Conscientious Objections
Acton Institute Powerblog

Pope Francis Says Even Government Officials Have ‘Human Right’ to Conscientious Objections

Pope Francis talks aboard the papal plane while en route to ItalyWhen Pope Francis gave addresses at the White House, Congress, and the UN, he mentioned the importance of religious freedom. But many people (including me) were rather disappointed that he didn’t speak more specifically about what sorts of religious liberties are under threat.

Once aboard the papal plane, though, it appears the pontiff provided more clarity on the issue. According to Reuters, the pope said government officials have a “human right” to refuse to discharge a duty, such as issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals, if they feel it violates their conscience.

On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licenses to gays.

“Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right,” Francis said.

Earlier this month a city official in the U.S. state of Kentucky, Kim Davis, went to jail because she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple following a Supreme Court decision to make homosexual marriage legal.

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“I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right,” he said, speaking in Italian.

“And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right,” he added.

Francis said conscientious objection had to be respected in legal structures. “Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: ‘This right has merit, this one does not.'”

As with any media reports on Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff comments, there is a chance that the reporters misunderstood or misrepresented his remarks. But let’s hope this report turns out to be true. The rights of conscience need as many defenders as we can muster.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).