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Biden Admin Stopped Threatening OK Catholic Hospital System Over the Chapel’s Sanctuary Lamp

Biden Admin Stopped Threatening OK Catholic Hospital System Over the Chapel’s Sanctuary Lamp

The Department of Health & Human Services told the system “it would lose its ability to accept Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)” if it did not remove the candle from the chapel.

Catholic churches have a candle burning at all times (except Good Friday and relit on Easter), usually in a red holder. We place it by the Tabernacle, which holds the Eucharist. We keep it burning to symbolize the presence of Jesus Christ.

Our devout Catholic president’s administration threatened the Saint Francis Health System in Oklahoma over its sanctuary candle, the eternal flame.

The Department of Health & Human Services told the system “it would lose its ability to accept Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)” if it did not remove the candle from the chapel.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the law firm Yetter Coleman LLP told the Biden administration to back off because where has the government been for 15 years:

You have threatened to deny accreditation because Saint Francis keeps a candle— an eternal flame—in its hospital sanctuary. 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. From the moment Saint Francis opened its doors in 1960, this flame has been maintained without interruption. In requiring Saint Francis to extinguish its flame, you are trying to extinguish not just a candle, but the First Amendment rights of Saint Francis Health System, as well as vital healthcare for the elderly, poor, and disabled in Oklahoma.

Now, you put not just Saint Francis Health System in peril but the entire State of Oklahoma and any person in need of Saint Francis Health System’s preeminent care, all because Saint Francis maintains a single, enclosed, and reverently kept eternal flame in its chapels. Two months ago, and for the first time since Saint Francis’s founding in 1960, a surveyor from one of the federal government’s official hospital accreditors took issue with the sanctuary candle and issued a fire-safety citation demanding that it be snuffed out. Saint Francis cannot do this as a matter of faith. And so, in twenty-five days, the federal government intends to disaccredit (and thereby effectively shutter) this premier health system, which includes the number one hospital in Oklahoma and the 12th largest hospital in the nation. All because Saint Francis refuses to abandon its religious beliefs and extinguish the sanctuary lamp.

HHS told the Saint Francis Health System it’s no longer going after it over the candle and can keep it lit:

The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) informed Saint Francis Health System on Friday that it was backing down from its prior threats and that it was free to keep the sanctuary candle lit, according to The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm representing the hospital system.

“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,” said Lori Windham, a vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “[HHS] has told Saint Francis that it can keep its living flame—a sacred candle housed in the hospital chapels.”

“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,” Windham added.

I am so tired of the federal government targeting Christians, especially us Catholics.

Every Catholic chapel has an eternal flame. Are you really going to go after every single one and put people at risk?


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But the eternal flame is so – Catholic! Not religion without mysteries and traditions, as too many busy-bodies think Catholics should just be more like “secular Christians”. (I am a Catholic).

Dad used to call such chicken$h!tedness the “hall monitor complex” …

Elsewhere in the news “there are 241 known coal mine fires currently burning across the United States, 38 of which are in Pennsylvania.”

E Howard Hunt | May 5, 2023 at 4:31 pm

I hope their eucharists are gluten free.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to E Howard Hunt. | May 5, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    They use Necco wafers.

      SeiteiSouther in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | May 5, 2023 at 5:25 pm

      Necco wafers would actually taste better.

      Speaking as a Catholic.

      henrybowman in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | May 5, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      MIT grads who are old enough remember the sheer joy of exiting the main doors at 77 Mass Ave, only to be hit in both nostrils with a rush of fragrant candy dust from the Necco factory three doors up the road. I would have gone to communion every day.

        The Gentle Grizzly in reply to henrybowman. | May 6, 2023 at 6:44 am

        I remember NECCO “Canada Mints”.

        My paternal grandmother thought Canada Mintz was the welter weight champion from Ottawa.


henrybowman | May 5, 2023 at 4:31 pm

“I see ONE light.”

It really feels like Obama’s third term (as it should given that many of his former team are running things now). Remember when the Obama admin banned Bibles and Christmas carols from military and VA hospitals? And anything religious (i.e. Judeo-Christian) in HUD housing?

The Gentle Grizzly | May 5, 2023 at 4:41 pm

Would Biden back off if they switched to electric?

thad_the_man | May 5, 2023 at 4:49 pm

This from the so-called Catholic President?

PS: I guess he is the so called President too.

E Howard Hunt | May 5, 2023 at 4:51 pm

Next they will mandate lifeguards at traditional baptisms.

thad_the_man | May 5, 2023 at 4:53 pm

“I am so tired of the federal government targeting Catholics, especially us Catholics.”

This sentence makes no sense.

It’s not like the government doesn’t operate its own eternal flame.

“The government has seen the light … knew it was playing with fire … ”

Well-played, Becket Fund, well-played.

This has to be one of the dumbest, pettiest things ever

    Petty is right … company fire marshal came through the office and said I couldn’t have the 4 cup Mr. Coffee pot and would have to use the community machine in the break room … he said it was a fire hazard and that I was wasting company electricity with my own. On the other 3 employee desks in the cubicle, were a meditation waterfall, radio / clock, and fan, all using company electricity 40-168 hours per week. My coffee pot? 2 hours a day. I moved it to the file drawer and concealed the cord. Still – why was the Mr. Coffee pot a hazard but not the community machine?

    Sometimes, I think the theory of natural selection has it backwards – because the Karen’s and hall monitors are multiplying at an astonishing rate. You’d think an alpha here and there would dispatch them forthwith.

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to MrE. | May 6, 2023 at 6:50 am

      We had a Karen in a place I worked. She had a personal heater, and one of those fast-boil kettles for making tea.

      She was definitely overloading the circuit that led to her desk. The breaker was tripping constantly, or her outlet strip would overheat and melt. She was told to take her appliances home. Karen, be in the car, and that she was, got all upset, and was throwing around the patriarchy nonsense. Her boss, also a woman, gave her two warnings. The third time that she did this and tripped the breaker, she was fired.

      Dathurtz in reply to MrE. | May 6, 2023 at 10:00 am

      …it only works that way if you are willing to dispatch them and reproduce with their females.

Old Navy Doc | May 5, 2023 at 7:45 pm

“ Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber”- Plato

I wish I were surprised by the eternal pettiness of the bureaucratic “mind”..

I’m so tired of the obnoxious intolerance and anti-Christian bigotry from the vile Dumb-o-crats.

VaGentleman | May 5, 2023 at 11:28 pm

The Biden’s are deeply religious. Joe is a devout Catholic, and Hunter is a practicing Crystal Methodist.

I am getting very annoyed at the fact that the names of government employees who are at the heart of these attacks on religion are never named. This would never happen to Muslims. Perhaps Christians should start to get medieval on these people. It is not the agency at fault. It is the people in the agency who must be held accountable. For a start, name names, not agencies.

    Lucifer Morningstar in reply to kjon. | May 6, 2023 at 10:22 am

    Well, you could start with the person whose name is at the bottom of the letter . . .

    Scott J. Cooper, MMSc, PA-C
    Division of Continuing & Acute Care Providers


    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to kjon. | May 6, 2023 at 10:57 am

    “ This would never happen to Muslims. Perhaps Christians should start to get medieval on these people. ”

    I say essentially the same thing about white males, Christian or not. Stop whining. Stop holding it in. Some demonstrations, marching on the personnel Human Resources Office, occupying the Dean’s office… all of this has worked for others.

    In short: SACK UP!!!!

Suburban Farm Guy | May 6, 2023 at 8:17 am

The candle is a fire hazard? More likely, it’s causing Glowbull Waaaarrrrming!

I wish for just one time these freaks could see how bone-deep stupid their preposterous idiot-child policies truly are. But they have no shame, no sense, no self-awareness.

BierceAmbrose | May 6, 2023 at 2:19 pm

Don’t take the cheap concession and drop it. They’ll just try again, looking for a spot with less push-back.

— Make a stink. Make it public. Make a record.

— Push back on the “We won’t pay you is not coercion, honest,” BS.

— I think an administrative, personnel, and policy audit is in order. Hey, they didn this thing they shouldn’t have. What’s the root cause? (Finding and fixing the root cause is a good thing. With this kind of over-reach on the D-L, the real payoffs are smacking back at the fascists, and discovery, which can be so much fun.)

As much as the last few Administrations have made me want to paint with a very large, very cynical brush, I’d like to know why HHS backed down. As head of the Executive, Biden’s proper job is to manage the bureaucracy. I want to know if the Admin saw the optics and truly backed down, or if somebody higher up the food chain stepped in as a matter of normal management and told the regional flunkies to knock this shit off.

But overall I’m a bit disappointed they did back down. That inspector doesn’t make policy. Assuming this person was not untrained for the role, it follows that somewhere, somebody wrote a law or a rule that enables this. It’s hard to hold to the maxim about this being a nation under the rule of law if we need unelected bureaucrats to make judgment calls on whether or not policy is enforced. I feel like the metaphorical “they” need to see their capricious policymaking play out, and have their noses rubbed in the consequences.