As Christians, it is our duty to do so—as Americans, it is our right to try
By Bob Hunt
I’ve never ventured into politics in this column. I save that for my blog. I mostly try to offer words of encouragement here on living the faith in what can sometimes be a turbulent world. But there are times when politics can make living the faith more challenging, especially if our government is led by people who don’t have much respect for faith traditions or who disparage the principles of Catholic faith and morals because such are opposed to a secular agenda in which they’re invested.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening. Shortly after becoming president, Joe Biden issued an executive order declaring that his administration’s Health and Human Services Department would apply the 2020 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clay County that discrimination based on sex as outlawed by Section 1557 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to gay and transgender people. President Biden’s interpretation of this is that Catholic hospitals and health-care workers must provide gender transition surgery and other therapies to any patient, regardless of any moral or medical objections, and despite the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act that protects churches and religious believers from being forced to act contrary to the principles of their faith. Hospitals and health-care workers who refuse to comply could face charges of discrimination. HHS is also interpreting Bostock as requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
Suits have been filed in district courts in Tennessee, North Dakota, and Texas by Catholic health-care entities and others challenging this mandate, and the courts have ruled in favor of Catholic hospitals. The Biden administration is not giving up, however. HHS has informed the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia of its intention to adopt new regulations that would require hospitals and health-care workers to provide for transgender therapies and abortions, as well as fertility treatments and end-of-life therapies inconsistent with Catholic teaching. A coalition of organizations coordinated by the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights is working with HHS to develop the new regulations.
The Leadership Conference wrote a June 8, 2021, memorandum detailing how HHS should revise the regulations so to negate religious exemptions and permanent injunctions won through litigation by Catholic entities. The Leadership Conference memorandum states: “Religious exemptions have serious and harmful implications. They were thought of as a way to preserve religious freedom and independence. However, they often come at a societal cost that can impact other community members. Impacts of a religious exemption cannot be siloed from other areas of society.” In other words, if your religious liberty gets in the way of someone else’s desire for a particular medical procedure, regardless of its nature or morality, your religious liberty must be sacrificed.
Doug Wilson, CEO of the Catholic Benefits Association, said that if these proposed regulations were implemented, “it would effectively remove all religious considerations from issues around life, family, marriage, the very nature of men and women. . . . There’s no hiding from this.” Mr. Wilson said that the proposed regulations “would place Catholic health-care providers in an untenable position.” Catholic hospitals would be forced to choose between staying open or violating their integrity as Catholic institutions. If the government can mandate how people are to act in society even to the point where they are required by law to act counter to their most deeply held principles and beliefs, then the government is violating religious freedom and is in the business of establishing religion, contrary to the First Amendment.
In this world, Catholics must work to transform our society according to the vision of the Gospel. As Christians, it is our duty to do so. As Americans, it is our right to try. So, let’s try. Contact your senators and representatives and communicate your concerns and find out where they stand. Contact the HHS secretary, Xavier Becerra, and communicate your opposition. Contact your bishop and communicate your support. Pray for President Biden. Pray that judges make the right decisions, and that those on the front lines representing religious liberty in the courts are granted wisdom and insight to argue well and successfully.
But if we lose—and we may—we must not surrender the faith. Regardless of the consequences, we must not abandon what is right, or try to turn wrong into right by moral machinations. We must remain faithful to what is true and holy. Jesus told us straightforwardly, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). The promise is not that Christ will be victorious. The promise is that Christ already is.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.