Hern, Lankford lead letter to CMS on religious liberties for hospitals participating in Medicare
Washington, June 21, 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) and Senator James Lankford (OK) led 31 Members of the House and Senate on a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and The Joint Commission President Jonathan Perlin regarding religious liberties for hospitals participating in the Medicare program.
Recent threats to the Medicare status of a faith-based hospital in Oklahoma have raised concerns that CMS is unfairly targeting institutions with religious affiliations. These threats echo the rise in discrimination against faith-based organizations across the country. This letter asks how CMS handles the evaluation of religiously affiliated health care organizations, as well as how CMS has changed its policies under the Biden Administration. It is critical that this process protects the health and safety of the patients seeking care at CMS-approved facilities and does not reflect political or religious bias. “Many of the health care institutions in our nation have roots in the church,” said Rep. Hern. “Religious organizations have long played a key role in the care of their communities, something that should be encouraged and celebrated. Recent moves from the Biden Administration to target and threaten hospitals and health care facilities because of their religious affiliations threatens the medical care that millions of Americans depend on. We need answers from the Biden Administration. I’m glad my colleagues are joining Senator Lankford and me in this important effort.”
Senator Lankford said, “CMS inexplicably threatened to revoke Saint Francis Hospital’s accreditation because of a religious eternal flame, which is unrelated to healthcare. St. Francis is a Catholic hospital seeking to serve all who need care in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the surrounding region. This was a violation of religious freedom—a bedrock of our nation’s founding. Our Oklahoma Delegation immediately worked to stop this injustice and was thankfully successful. The sight of an eternal flame is to give hope—we will not allow any federal agency to extinguish Oklahomans’ right to exercise their freedom of religion—especially in a time of need. We are continuing the work to ensure this doesn’t happen anywhere or to anyone else.”
Signers of the letter include Senators Markwayne Mullin (OK-01), JD Vance (OH), Mike Lee (UT), Steve Daines (MT), Rick Scott (FL), Marco Rubio (FL), Katie Britt (AL), Ted Cruz (TX), Kevin Cramer (ND), and Mike Braun (IN) and Representatives Josh Brecheen (OK-02), Stephanie Bice (OK-05), Daniel Webster (FL-11), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Austin Scott (GA-08), Gary Palmer (AL-06), Rick Allen (GA-12), Brian Babin (TX-36), Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Jake LaTurner (KS-02), Bill Huizenga (MI-04), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Brad Wenstrup (OH-02), Greg Murphy (NC-03), Dan Bishop (NC-08), Randy Weber (TX-14), Tim Walberg (MI-05), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Mike Kelly (PA-16), and Ronny Jackson (TX-13).
The text of the letter can be found here.
Statements of Support from Outside Groups
“The Biden Administration has reached a new low by simultaneously violating religious liberties while threatening the health and safety of Oklahomans. We applaud Chairman Hern’s efforts to hold the Biden Administration accountable for their despicable weaponization of our medical system against institutions of faith." – ACLJ Action
“Tragically, this recent incident with a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma as well as other HHS regulatory actions increasingly suggest that HHS is willing to violate the religious freedom rights of Catholic health care even if it undermines health care access for vulnerable Americans. The civil right of religious freedom and health care access that Catholic hospitals provide is not a partisan issue or merely a Catholic issue; it is an American issue that impacts millions of poor and vulnerable patients from all faiths and backgrounds who benefit from the life affirming dignified care that Catholic hospitals provide. We hope that this Congressional inquiry into this matter will shed light on whether HHS is unjustly discriminating against Catholic hospitals who serve some of the most vulnerable members of our society across the country.” – Christ Medicus Foundation
“Religious Liberty is a fundamental right that must be protected in all spaces of society. The ERLC supports this effort to urge CMS to actively protect, and not interfere with, the religious liberty rights of medical providers and institutions.” – ERLC
"Religious liberty is a natural right that is constitutionally protected, and the agency's targeting of St. Francis Hospital South is in complete opposition to American principles. I applaud Congressman Hern for courageously leading this letter in response to the anti-religious bias by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. Denying a religious hospital funding because of a longstanding religious practice would be a grave disservice to vulnerable patients, families, and friends." – EPPC
"Catholic hospitals have an unmatched legacy of providing health care in America. The same faith that inspires Catholic hospitals to care for the poor and vulnerable guides them in providing resources for spiritual care. The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid should respect the faith and culture of Catholic health care." – National Catholic Bioethics Center