Nov 06, 2019

Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer’s decision today to declare unlawful the Trump administration’s dangerous Denial of Care Rule and to block it from going into effect on Nov. 22.

Judge Engelmayer ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services violated administrative procedures and ignored public comments about the Denial of Care Rule, which the judge also declared conflicts with existing laws.

“We’re thankful Judge Engelmayer blocked President Trump’s dangerous Denial of Care Rule from going into effect. We urge the federal judges reviewing our cases in California and Maryland, as well as the judge in the Washington case, to reach a conclusion as swiftly as possible and send a clear message to the Trump administration that this rule poses an imminent threat to public health,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.

“The Denial of Care Rule is a stark violation of religious freedom – no patient should be denied medical treatment because of someone else’s religious beliefs. The court’s decision today protects both religious freedom and patients’ health,” Laser said.

Decisions are pending in several other cases challenging the Denial of Care Rule, including two brought by Americans United and allies:

  • In the County of Santa Clara v. HHS case, Americans United joined the Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal, the law firm Mayer Brown LLP and Santa Clara County, Calif., which runs an extensive public health and hospital system that serves as a safety-net provider for the county’s 1.9 million Bay Area residents. Other plaintiffs in the case include providers across the country that focus on reproductive and LGBTQ care, plus five doctors and three medical associations. A hearing was held in that case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Oct. 30.
  • In the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar, Americans United joined the Baltimore City Solicitor and the law firm Susman Godfrey LLP to represent the Baltimore City Health Department, which has strived to ensure that vulnerable and historically marginalized people can seek medical care without fear of stigmatization or discrimination. A hearing is scheduled in that case on Nov. 14 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland.

The Denial of Care Rule, which was issued in May by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, invited any health care worker to deny medical care to patients because of personal religious or moral beliefs. Health care facilities risked losing essential federal funding if they did not grant employees carte blanche to deny services. Because the rule was confusing and infeasible to implement, many health care facilities could have been forced to eliminate services such as reproductive and LGBTQ care, leaving millions across the United States without access to critical health care.

Americans United and allies argued that HHS exceeded its authority and arbitrarily and capriciously failed to consider the rule’s potential harm to patients and the health care system, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act. They also argued that the rule was unconstitutional because it advanced specific religious beliefs in violation of the First Amendment; violated patients’ rights to privacy, liberty and equal dignity as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment; and chilled patients’ speech and expression in violation of the First Amendment, all to the detriment of patients’ health and well-being.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom