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Proposed HHS “Religious Freedom” Complaint Form Lumps Together Victims of Discrimination and Perpetrators

Washington, DC—Last Friday, American Atheists submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to withdraw “confusing” and “overly burdensome” proposed changes to its civil rights complaint form. American Atheists condemns the changes because they conflate discrimination against patients and religiously motivated denial of service by healthcare providers.

“There is a world of difference between being denied healthcare and refusing to provide it,” said Nick Fish, American Atheists’ President. “We know that patients are too-frequently denied care, and this administration’s actions are making the problem worse. HHS should be protecting patients, not enabling healthcare providers to use religion to jeopardize the health and safety of those needing care.”

“HHS’s proposed complaint form compounds its overly broad religious refusal rule. It equates civil rights complaints with complaints from providers who wish to deny care based on their religion,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy. “The administration’s goal is to artificially inflate the number of these complaints in order to justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars to appease the Administration’s Christian extremist base.”

“At a bare minimum, the department should create a new form dedicated specifically to religious refusals,” added Gill. “By including those who are denied needed care with those who would turn away patients, the proposed form discourages complaints and frustrates efforts to analyze and report the data collected.”

“This is more proof of this Administration prioritizing religious supremacy over protecting atheists, women, LGBTQ Americans, and religious minorities from discrimination,” said Fish. “It’s unbelievable that the Administration would lump together victims of real discrimination with the perpetrators of such acts.”

This proposed rule is part of a larger pattern of the Trump administration putting religion ahead of health care. Over the last several months, American Atheists has condemned the administration for other questionable HHS rules including the Denial of Care Rule, which allows religious health care providers to refuse to treat patients they disapprove of, as well as the “domestic gag rule,” which bars many doctors from discussing abortion and diverts Title X funding to religious organizations. The City of San Francisco has already brought a lawsuit to enjoin the new religious refusal rule, and additional suits are expected.

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