The Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has told a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma to put out a sanctuary candle light, a command they say violates their religious beliefs.
The federal government told Saint Francis Health System’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael J. Lissau that the sanctuary candle on their premises was in violation of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s (CMS) fire safety requirements, the hospital says. The government says that the hospital will no longer be able to accept Medicare and Medicaid funds as long as the flame remains in the chapel. After the hospital requested a waiver, the HHS sent a letter denying the request on April 20. (RELATED: Biden Admin Funds Classes For Transgender ‘Makeup Entrepreneurs’ In Nepal)
Becket Law, a religious liberty defense organization, sent a letter to the HHS on Tuesday disputing the agency’s requirement, arguing that removing the candle in compliance with the guidance would violate the religious hospital’s First Amendment rights.
“Saint Francis cannot do this as a matter of faith,” the letter read. “And so, in twenty-five days, the federal government intends to disaccredit (and thereby effectively shutter) this premier health system, which includes the number one hospital in Oklahoma and the 12th largest hospital in the nation. All because Saint Francis refuses to abandon its religious beliefs and extinguish the sanctuary lamp.”
#BREAKING: The federal government told an Oklahoma Catholic hospital to either blow out a sanctuary candle or stop serving elderly, disabled, and low-income patients. @BECKETlaw sent a letter to @HHSGov and @CMSGov, reminding them of Saint Francis’ right to religious freedom.… pic.twitter.com/nfNf4UJyUx
— LoriWindham (@LoriWindham1) May 3, 2023
The hospital lights the candle, which represents the “living flame” of Christ’s presence, in a hospital chapel which Becket Law says is “far removed” from medical equipment and patients.
Federal regulations require that hospitals have “written fire control plans that contain provisions for prompt reporting of fires; extinguishing fires; protection of patients, personnel and guests; evacuation; and cooperation with fire fighting authorities.”
“The government’s demand is absurd and unlawful — it is targeting Saint Francis’s sincere beliefs without any good reason,” Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a press release provided to the Daily Caller. “The government has a simple choice: either stop this attack on Saint Francis’s faith or expect a legal firestorm.”
The HHS did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.