Time and again the Biden Administration has used the power of the administrative state to infringe on the First Amendment rights of Christians. The latest attack came recently, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) threatened to strip Medicare funding from a Catholic hospital for merely following Catholic teachings. Thankfully, public outcry staved off disaster, but it is critical that we hold the Administration’s feet to the fire to prevent the trampling of religious liberties in the future. To that end, ACLJ Action strongly supported a bicameral letter led by Senator Lankford and Representative Hern to hold HHS accountable for this egregious overreach. Our friends at the American Center for Law and Justice are also submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for additional documents detailing HHS’ and CMS’ attempted subversion of our First Amendment rights.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regularly evaluate hospitals’ suitability for participating in Medicare. This process is supposed to be objective; a CMS determination that a hospital should be terminated from Medicare participation is a serious and rare penalty that often results in hospital closure. Yet instead of using this as an opportunity to ensure that hospitals meet adequate benchmarks for patients’ health, safety, and standard of care, Biden’s CMS abused this authority to attack religious freedom once again.
Following a recent evaluation of a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma, the Biden Administration threatened to terminate the hospital’s decade-and-a-half participation in Medicare. Why? Because the Catholic hospital displayed a lit sanctuary candle in the hospital’s chapel, as required by Catholic Canon Law. A permanently lit flame that indicates and honors the presence of God was suddenly deemed too dangerous, even though a candle has been burning for more than fifteen years with the continuous approval of federal administrators. ACLJ Action proudly stands with this Catholic hospital, as well as all religiously affiliated hospitals who believe in the importance of providing patients and families places to pray and practice their faith. While HHS and CMS backtracked on their threats to terminate the hospital’s Medicare funding due to public pressure for now, it is important that likeminded supporters of religious liberty remain unrelenting in their defense of faithful healthcare institutions and uprooting bureaucratic misuses of power.
Religious liberty is a fundamental human right. The First Amendment is a necessary component of a free society that promotes human dignity, protects conscience, and ensures Americans can live and worship peacefully and without coercion. The Biden Administration cannot be allowed to wield significant authority to run roughshod over fundamental beliefs, especially when those beliefs ultimately inspire and create important societal institutions that allow people to better help and serve each other. The right to live out one’s faith free from government intrusion is an essential element of our constitutional republic, and it will remain that way for as long as people are willing to fight for it.
ACLJ Action applauds the Members of Congress and Senators who have chosen to fight back against these unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. The Senators and Members of Congress who signed the letter asked important questions regarding CMS policies concerning similar threats issued to other religious health care organizations, CMS’ internal process for appeals and enforcement, and how to prevent religious organizations from facing undue hardship or discrimination moving forward. We look forward to prompt and clear responses from relevant HHS and CMS officials.
ACLJ Action remains rightly concerned about whether appropriate safeguards are provided for faith-based hospitals and health care organizations in the evaluation, appeals, and adjudication processes for Medicare certification. If federal healthcare policies have been officially changed to discriminate against religious hospitals and institutions, rest assured that ACLJ Action will be on the frontlines defending these faithful health care providers from government tyranny in the days to come.