The Department of Health and Human Services has rescinded its effective demand that a Catholic hospital snuff out a candle it keeps burning in the chapel, a candle that HHS called a threat to hospital safety.
“The game was simply not worth the candle for HHS,” Lori Windham, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, the religious freedom law firm representing the hospital, told The Daily Signal in a written statement Friday. “It realized it would be playing with fire in court if it stood by its absurd demand, so it chose wisely. We are glad Saint Francis’s can continue to serve those most in need while keeping the faith.”
Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent a letter to the Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa, Oklahoma, recommending that the hospital snuff out the candle to comply with “life safety from fire requirements,” or lose its accreditation.
According to the hospital, the candle is encased in glass and covered on top, and the local government and fire marshal repeatedly have approved the display for fire safety. CMS threatened to revoke Saint Francis’ ability to see patients under Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program if it did not snuff out the candle. The Catholic hospital system asked the federal government for a waiver four times.
“Saint Francis… pointed out that this is a religious liberty issue at length, and they still got a denial. It was after Becket got involved and it became public that they backed down,” she noted. “They knew about the religious liberty problem all along….”
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