Liberties Reporting on First Amendment freedoms

Fall in line or get out of medicine?

Religious Liberty | White House expands medical conscience protections while pro-abortion lobby tries to roll them back
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 5/28/19, 06:11 pm

As the Trump administration works to expand medical workers’ religious liberty protections, states across the country are pushing back by trying to force doctors and nurses to fall in line with modern sexual ethics.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday it was removing “gender identity” as a component of sex discrimination in healthcare. The old policy, instituted by President Barack Obama, forced insurance companies and healthcare providers receiving federal funds to cover “gender transition services,” effectively requiring Christian healthcare workers to support or perform sex change operations. A federal judge temporarily stopped the rule from taking effect in December 2016 while the courts considered challenges to it.

Friday’s announcement builds on another rule President Donald Trump unveiled on the National Day of Prayer earlier this month that protects doctors and nurses who object to participating in abortion, assisted suicide, or sterilization.

“The Trump administration is right to issue a proposed rule that affirms the government’s long-standing interpretation of ‘sex,’” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Kellie Fiedorek said in a statement. “Replacing the objective concept of sex with subjective gender identity, as some courts and the prior administration have tried to do, has far-reaching consequences.”

Just hours after Trump announced the expanded protections for pro-life healthcare workers, the city of San Francisco filed a lawsuit to block them. Since then, the state of California has filed a separate lawsuit arguing there was no evidence that the government considered the effect of the rule on patients. The California lawsuit also complained that the exemption applies too broadly to any individual, entity, or provider who has moral objections to life-ending procedures.

Last week, another lawsuit filed in federal court in New York City asked a judge to declare the rule unconstitutional, saying it was passed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Two dozen states and municipalities joined the New York suit, including Chicago, Cook County, and the state of Illinois; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; the District of Columbia; Hawaii; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Nevada; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York City and New York state; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia; and Wisconsin.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said the lawsuit is meant to stop the federal government from “giving healthcare providers free license to openly discriminate and refuse care to patients.”

But discrimination is exactly why the Trump administration thought the new rules were necessary. HHS said previous conscience protections didn’t do enough to safeguard healthcare workers with moral and ethical objections. The possibility of religious-based discrimination isn’t hypothetical. Illinois nurse Sandra Rojas, for example, lost her job with the Winnebago County Health Department in 2015 for objecting to providing abortifacients and making referrals for abortions. The new rules give the HHS Office of Civil Rights the authority to investigate cases like Rojas’ and withhold federal funds if discrimination has occurred.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member said on his podcast The Briefing that the medical field is “under enormous pressure” to bow to cultural norms surrounding gender and the “new understanding of medical ethics.”

He pointed to a recent op-ed in The New York Times that essentially argued that students who object to performing abortions should not go into obstetrics or gynecology. “We want people to enter the medical specializations of obstetrics and gynecology in order to save the lives of babies, not to kill them in the womb,” he said.

Many people join the medical profession out of a desire to protect life. But if the pro-abortion, euthanasia, and the LGBT lobby continue take a “my way or the highway” stance in medicine, Christian healthcare workers may find themselves pushed out of the field.

First Liberty First Liberty The Evergreens at Smith Run apartment complex

Senior living community bars religion

A retired pastor and his wife sued their apartment complex in Fredericksburg, Va., claiming that the management of the facility for seniors banned them from praying before meals or having a Bible study anywhere on the premises.

Ken and Liv Hauge—both in their mid-80s—contend that the Community Realty Company (CRC) and the management at Evergreens at Smith Run enacted the ban on religious activity, threatening eviction if the ban was violated, due to the anti-religious hostility of some residents. While some neighbors at Evergreens requested that the Hauges begin the Bible study, other residents subjected them to harassment and threats. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits religious discrimination in housing practices.

“The management company’s hostility to religious residents violates federal law and taints Virginia’s long history of religious freedom,” said Lea Patterson, associate counsel for First Liberty, which is representing the Hagues. Last October, First Liberty also asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate CRC.

Despite the controversy, Ken Hauge is calm. “For my wife and I, it's sort of like resting in the eye of a hurricane,” he told CBN News. “In the eye of the hurricane, it’s peaceful and quiet, just don’t get up against the walls.” —Steve West A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Indianapolis

Fast-food freedoms

The so-called Texas “Chick-fil-A” bill, which would protect businesses’ rights to support religious organizations, is headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this week after passing in the state legislature.

State lawmakers drafted the measure in response to the San Antonio City Council prohibiting Paradies Lagadère, a concessions operator for the city’s airport, from including Chick-fil-A in its food service plan, citing a “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, a Christian, has expressed his support for traditional marriage, and the restaurant’s foundation has donated to organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which supports a Biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Chick-fil-A told NBC News in a statement that it had nothing to do with the legislation: “We are grateful for all our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. We welcome and embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.” —S.W.

(Another) day in court

At the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week, the Little Sisters of the Poor continued to defend its right to object to providing contraceptives and abortifacients in their employee health plans.

The Catholic organization already won an injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court against the Obamacare mandate that businesses pay for the drugs. The 2016 ruling in Zubik v. Burwell sent the question back to the lower courts and essentially told the opposing parties to work it out. When the Trump administration in October 2017 signed off on regulations that protected the religious liberty of nonprofit groups that object to providing contraceptive and abortifacient coverage, it seemed the fight was finally over. But California and Pennsylvania immediately sued to end the exception.

U.S. District Courts in both states ruled against the nuns. The 9th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s rule, and a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit heard oral arguments in the case last week. A decision is expected this summer. —S.W.

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Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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  • RC
    Posted: Wed, 05/29/2019 10:17 am

    Hey Ms. James get a dictionary and use it.  The word “care” is defined as, “the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.”  Any medical provider who says, I care enough to not help a patient commit murder, is someone who cares.