A proposed federal anti-discrimination rule threatening the religious freedom of health care providers could soon weave its way into Catholic schools and colleges, forcing them to allow students who claim a “gender identity” different than their biological sex to enter restrooms and changing rooms of the opposite sex, and mandating health coverage for abortion and “gender transition” surgeries and therapy, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Jonathan Scruggs told The Cardinal Newman Society.
ADF filed an official comment on Thursday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding its rule proposed in September that reinterprets and expands a federal ban on sex discrimination in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to include a broader ban on “gender identity” discrimination in health programs.
“The bigger concern for schools is that the Department of Education will begin to promulgate its own rules and attempt to rely on the proposed HHS rule as a means to justify the DOE’s misinterpretation of Title IX,” Scruggs told the Newman Society. “And if that happens, then every school would be forced to allow persons who claim one gender identity into the restrooms and changing rooms designated for the opposite sex.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) urged HHS to rethink its proposal. The USCCB noted the rule’s insufficient legislative support and the likelihood that it “would infringe upon the religious and moral convictions of health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders” in comments submitted jointly with nine other organizations, including representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Catholic Bioethics Center, Family Research Council and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, among others.
As it stands, the proposed HHS rule will not immediately affect religious schools and colleges because the rule is implementing a part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” that only regulates health facilities and programs, Scruggs told the Newman Society. But that does not mean that religious institutions are out of the woods yet.
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