Feds Want the Sanctuary Lamp Extinguished at Catholic Hospital

News: US News
by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 4, 2023   

'Legal firestorm' on the horizon

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UPDATE (5/9/2023): On May 5, the Biden administration backed down and rescinded its threat to freeze funding over St. Francis Health System's sanctuary lamp. 

The vice president and senior counsel at Becket Law, Lori Windham, stated, "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."

She added, "The government knew it was playing with fire — today it announced its decision to allow the living flame so Saint Francis can continue to serve God and its community, as it always has."


WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - President Biden's Department of Health and Human Services is demanding a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma snuff out its sanctuary lamp or lose federal funding for patients treated under the Children's Health Insurance Program as well as under Medicare and Medicaid.

Saint Francis Health System Chapel

HHS and its subagency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, recently gave the ultimatum to Saint Francis Health System, which describes itself as a "not-for-profit health system wholly governed and operated in Tulsa, Oklahoma whose mission is to extend the presence and healing ministry of Christ to all who seek its services."

The reason cited by HHS for its decision is a fire-safety citation.

But on Tuesday, Becket Law, a religious-liberty organization, sent a letter to HHS in defense of SFHS regarding what it called an "impending lawsuit for emergency relief and monetary damages for your violation of Saint Francis Health System's First Amendment rights."

Lori Windham, Becket vice president and senior counsel, called the government's demand "absurd and unlawful." She added, "The government has a simple choice: either stop this attack on Saint Francis's faith or expect a legal firestorm."

Becket Law's Letter to HHS

Becket's letter to HHS begins by explaining how the denial of federal aid would cripple the hospital's operations, causing unreasonable financial losses and jeopardizing services to elderly, disabled and low-income patients.

The letter then highlights the bizarre and arbitrary timing of the demand, stating that "for 15 years, that flame has burned without problem or concern in Saint Francis Hospital South in Tulsa; and for 63 years, the eternal flame has burned at Saint Francis Hospital Yale Campus, the largest hospital in the state of Oklahoma, without problem or concern."

For 15 years, that flame has burned without problem or concern in Saint Francis Hospital.

Becket Law then provides an ultimatum of its own: "We are writing to ask you to cease and desist before we file an emergency lawsuit naming you as defendants and seeking emergency relief and substantial damages."

The letter further explains how the fire-safety citation is illogical and not in violation of any regulations. It points out that the sanctuary lamp is covered with a brass top and situated near sprinklers, far away from any medical equipment.

Negative Reactions

The federal government's demand for SFHS to extinguish its sanctuary lamp is in direct opposition to the Church's Code of Canon Law, pitting Church and State against each other.

"A special lamp which indicates and honors the presence of Christ is to shine continuously before a tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved," states canon 940.

Xavier Becerra

Critics have pointed out the tension this government-created situation leaves between Church and State, particularly given that both the head of HHS, Xavier Becerra, and President Biden claim to be practicing Catholics.

Negative responses on the Fox News website were plentiful. One commenter stated, "They are seriously trending toward policies commonly in effect in China. It's not hard seeing what Joe Biden is about." 

One non-Catholic stated: "Though I am not Catholic I feel this to be a terrible governmental overreach and intrusion. Besides that it is simply ridiculous! You can bet there are other more sinister underlying motives. I would wager that efforts towards disassembly of religion in any manner is a primary motivation here."

A third commentator drew an analogy, saying, "And that's our metaphor. They want to extinguish the flames of our traditions and what we hold sacred. Whether it be religion, our children, our gender, our culture, our country."

Increasing War on Christianity

Under the Biden administration, hostility against Catholics and other Christians has increased among the people and the government. 

According to the Family Research Council's 2023 first-quarter supplemental report,"criminal acts against churches have been steadily on the rise for the past several years, and the first quarter of 2023 has continued the upward trend."

The author of the report, Arielle Del Turco, explains that the increase in secularism coupled with what she calls "secular dogmas" — for example, abortion and so-called same-sex marriage — is making the Left increasingly intolerant of Christian teaching in general and Catholic teaching in particular.

"All of these are increasingly in conflict with core Christian teachings and core Christian beliefs," she stated.

The Vortex: Blowing Up Justice

Del Turco believes that this intolerance towards Christianity is particularly aimed at Catholic teaching.

"[T]he left is getting increasingly intolerant of Christianity for this reason, and I think we're seeing that even being represented physically with these physical attacks on churches," she stated.

The war on Christianity is on the rise.

The federal government's increasing hostility towards Christianity is exacerbating the situation.

For instance, there is its push for anti-Christian policies on topics such as abortion, its support for mutilating children in the name of "transsexualism," its weaponizing of the FBI against Catholics and its failure to prosecute criminal acts of anti-Catholic vandalism and violence.

For example, the Department of Justice failed to take action against a transexual who vandalized a Catholic church and wrote "F*** Catholics" on its walls.

While the war on Christianity is on the rise, Becket Law is confident that in the case of the sanctuary lamp, HHS will lose in court. The firm warned the agency by saying, "If we go to court, you will lose."

--- Campaign 31877 ---


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