The Biden administration will allow a Catholic hospital to keep its sanctuary candle after previously demanding its removal for fire safety requirements, the hospital’s lawyers announced Friday.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered Saint Francis Health System’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael J. Lissau in April to remove a candle inside the Catholic hospital’s sanctuary and denied requests for a waiver. Becket Law, a nonprofit law firm representing the hospital, announced Friday that HHS had rescinded its decision after Becket threatened legal action for religious discrimination. (RELATED: School District Reverses Decision To Terminate Contract With Christian University Following Lawsuit)
#BREAKING: The government has seen the light and has abandoned its attempt to force an Oklahoma hospital to blow out a small candle or stop serving elderly, disabled, and low-income patients. @HHSGov has told Saint Francis that it can keep its living flame—a sacred candle housed… pic.twitter.com/1bkpjqi19M
— LoriWindham (@LoriWindham1) May 5, 2023
HHS had initially threatened to prevent the hospital from having access to Medicare and Medicaid funds, claiming that the candle was a fire hazard and violated the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) fire safety requirements. Becket sent a letter on behalf of the hospital on May 2, demanding that the HHS reverse its position and argued that forcing the hospital to comply with the order would amount to religious discrimination under the First Amendment.
“For Catholics, the living flame is a sign of the living presence of Jesus,” Becket wrote in a press release. “The flame, far removed from medical equipment and patients, is shielded by two glass holders, sits on a brass basin, is affixed to a wall and has a brass top covering it, with many sprinkler heads above it.”
In response to the law firm’s letter, the department informed Becket that it would be removing its previous order and allow the candle to remain, according to Windham.
HHS did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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