Religious Health Providers Deserve Legal Protection, Not False Charges of Discrimination

June 3, 2021

In an article published recently in the National Catholic Register titled, “Religious Health Providers Deserve Legal Protection, Not False Charges of Discrimination” University of Notre Dame law professor and RFI FORIS scholar Richard W. Garnett argues that faith-based hospitals and clinics are increasingly at risk of being subject to onerous regulations that violate their religious freedom. Two days after his op-ed published, Garnett was interviewed on EWTN News Nightly to discuss the same pressing issues. During the interview and op-ed, he focuses on a particularly challenging form of these regulations, nondiscrimination law. At one point in the interview, Garnett draws a key distinction between discrimination and decisions to maintain integrity:

I think as Americans we’re committed to the rule of law, and we believe in equal protection of the laws. So we tend to be worried about discrimination, but these [religious] hospitals and social service agencies are not discriminating. Instead, they have core commitments that preclude them from participating in certain wrongful actions such as an elective abortion. It’s not discrimination. It’s integrity.

Garnett begins his op-ed with a fundamental reminder of what religious hospitals are: 

Faith-based hospitals are more than garden-variety non-profits; they are more than players in the ‘healthcare industry.’ They are institutions animated by a deep sense of mission and inspired by the call to love and care for our neighbors. 

He then comments on the difficult position in which religious health care practitioners and institutions find themselves when their faith tenets are misconstrued as discriminatory. Garnett writes: 

It is not ‘discrimination’ to provide healthcare in a way that is consistent with a faith-based hospital’s understanding of human dignity. The Sierra Club should not be required to support damming a river or drilling for oil in a national park, and a Catholic hospital should not be expected, let alone required, to provide or participate in elective abortions, euthanasia, or sex-reassignment procedures. Faith-based providers do not seek to turn people away; they seek, instead, the freedom to fulfill their caring mission consistently with their character.

Garnett concludes:

Our country needs faith-based hospitals, and millions of low-income people depend on them. It should not be a condition of providing care that such hospitals abandon what inspired their formation and informs their operation. Similarly, religious schools, colleges, and social-welfare efforts may, and should, do their good works in a way that is consistent with their missions.

Read the full article: Religious Health Providers Deserve Legal Protection, Not False Charges of Discrimination.