The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) delivered religious freedom and pro-life wins in three cases announced on Wednesday.
“Regardless of who sits in my chair as Director of the Office for Civil Rights, conscience and religious freedom should no longer be a point of debate. It is not a partisan football. It is a fundamental human right that needs to be respected. And that is what is being communicated by these actions taken today,” OCR Director Roger Severino said.
In the first case, the OCR announced that it secured access for religious clergy in New York’s Mt. Sinai Health System, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resolution followed a religious discrimination complaint from a Jewish organization which claimed that the hospital prohibited spiritual leaders access to patients in both COVID-19 and regular hospital units despite requests for the delivery of kosher food and spiritual comfort.
Following the OCR’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’s intervention, Mt. Sinai clarified its visitation policies to allow clergy visitation rights including exemptions for spiritual leaders who travel from out of state to be with “patients in imminent end-of-life circumstances” and comply with all safety precautions.
“We commend Mt. Sinai Health System for modifying its policy to clarify that patients can receive safe clergy access for religious purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Severino said. “We applaud the hospital for ensuring that it will treat the needs of the body without sacrificing the needs of the soul.”
In the second case involving Joe Biden’s pro-abortion HHS nominee Xavier Becerra, HHS announced that it would refuse California $200 million of federal Medicaid funding for forcing insurance companies and employers, including an order of nuns, to pay for abortion “without exclusion or limitation.”
The state’s decision to remove these exclusions, Severino said, not only violated federal anti-discrimination law preventing institutions from “being forced to provide, pay for, or provide coverage for abortions,” but it also forced “employer groups associated with over 28,000 individuals out of plans” that would not cover elective abortions.
The penalty is set to be enacted in the next quarter and could be raised at $200 million per each quarter that California does not comply.
HHS also detailed a case involving the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC), where a nurse was forced to help perform an abortion against the nurse’s conscience-based objections.
Because UVMMC has not changed its policies to prevent any future coercion, the case was referred to the Department of Justice, who will sue UVMMC for HHS, for enforcement.