HHS “Conscience Rule” Places Religious Privilege above Patients, says Center for Inquiry

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2019
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

President Trump’s newly announced “conscience rule” granting religious exemptions to taxpayer-funded health care workers and organizations was condemned by the Center for Inquiry today for putting religious privilege over the best interests of patients and green-lighting discrimination against marginalized communities.

“When a patient visits a health care facility, the primary concern should be the welfare of that patient,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. ”This rule subordinates that basic right to the religious whims of the hospital staff, from nurses and doctors to receptionists and directors. Patients’ suffering becomes a concern that is secondary to the religious feelings of anyone in the health care system with whom they happen to come in contact. This so-called ‘conscience rule’ is anything but.”

CFI had previously submitted comments regarding the proposed rule, maintaining that the rights of the patient should be paramount.

“We demand, simply, that health care providers do their jobs without imposing their personal religious judgment,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “A health care worker’s opinions about gay or transgendered patients should have no bearing on whether they are deserving of treatment. We would rightly view a doctor who refused to treat patients because of their race or their religion as a disgrace to their profession.”

“We must acknowledge that there is no place for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and that women deserve a full range of reproductive health services when they need them, rather than dependent on the religious preferences of the provider,” said Little.

CFI raised the obvious politically convenient timing of this rule, which was announced on the National Day of Prayer, which represents an establishment of religion contrary to the First Amendment.

“On a day where the government celebrates religious privilege, deliberately ostracizing the plurality of Americans unaffiliated with religion, President Trump has again handed a gift to the religious right,” said Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “Under this rule, religious belief is once again given a special place, allowing its adherents to ignore the basic principles of fairness and equal treatment that underlie our society. Trump is doling out favors to this community like candy, seeking re-election while ignoring the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, as well as dismissing the concerns of non-believers.”

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.