Top U.S. bishops have voiced their support for the Trump administration’s latest move to vacate federal anti-LGBTQ non-discrimination regulations again, this time involving adoption and foster care services and life-saving healthcare programs.
Late last week, Secretary Alex Azar of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a shift in that agency’s policies that would end LGBTQ protections in its grant programs. Under President Barack Obama, sexual orientation and gender identity were included in HHS regulations, but these terms would now be stripped from agency non-discrimination policies. The Washington Post reported:
“The most immediate impact would likely be on the nation’s $7 billion federally funded child-welfare system, including foster care and adoption programs . . . But the proposed rule would also apply to other HHS grants, including those for HIV and sexually transmitted disease prevention, other public health initiatives, health education, prekindergarten programs and more . . . HHS said on Friday it would begin immediate enforcement of the nondiscrimination change.”
In lockstep with the Trump administration, three chairmen at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a joint statement applauding the HHS change. The bishops, Venice’s Frank Dewane for the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Worcester’s Robert McMcManus for the Committee for Religious Liberty, and Lincoln’s James Conley for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, stated, in part:
“We commend the Administration for acting to change a 2016 regulation that threatened to shut out faith-based social service providers, namely adoption and foster care agencies that respect a child’s right to a mother and a father. To restrict faith-based organizations’ work by infringing on religious freedom – as the 2016 rule threatened to do – is unfair and serves no one, especially the children in need of these services. We are alarmed and saddened that state and local government agencies in multiple jurisdictions have already succeeded in shutting down Catholic adoption and foster care agencies as a result of their Catholic beliefs. At a time when over 400,000 children are in foster care, we need to take steps to increase – not decrease – their opportunities to be placed with safe and loving families.”
In a related development, a new HHS rule that allows healthcare providers to deny services to certain patients due to a provider’s religious beliefs goes into effect November 22nd. This rule was likewise applauded by the U.S. bishops in May, as were proposed guidelines at HHS that would prohibit “sex” from being interpreted as inclusive of “gender identity” and thereby erase transgender healthcare protections.
With this latest vacating of protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ advocates are warning of widespread discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services and its programs effect, even if indirectly, the lives of every person in the U.S. This new rule, now in effect, will damage thousands and potentially millions of Americans lives. Children in need of foster or adoptive parents will be deprived of loving homes as their potential parents face discrimination. And some of society’s most vulnerable groups who already struggle, like youth experiencing homelessness, people living with HIV, and those seeking treatment for addiction, will have their sufferings compounded. In aligning themselves with the Trump administration once again, the U.S. bishops have enacted a preferential option that is not for the poor, but harshly against them.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 4, 2019