Discrimination in Name of Religion

The Dangers Of The Denial Of Care Rule Are Very Real

  Rob Boston

On June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old heavily armed man burst into Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that served a mainly LGBTQ clientele, and started shooting. Before police killed Omar Mateen, he had murdered 49 people and injured 53 more in one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

First responders swarmed on the scene and began tending to the wounded. But imagine what would have happened if some of the medical personnel had refused to help, citing their religious objections to homosexuality. More people might have died.

But that could never happen, right? The very idea is absurd, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not. The Denial of Care Rule proposed by the Trump administration invites anyone who works in the medical profession, including dispatchers, ambulance drivers, schedulers and EMTs, to refuse service to people in need based on religious objections.

Writing in the Orlando Sentinel, Christian John Lillis, executive director of the Peggy Lillis Foundation, provides a stark reminder of how the Denial of Care Rule could affect every one of us.  

“Under the denial of care rule, anyone from receptionists and intake nurses to paramedics and emergency-room physicians could simply refuse medical attention to a patient in need by claiming a religious objection,” writes Lillis. “So much for the Hippocratic Oath and its immortal words, ‘first do no harm.’… This trap door in the hospital floor could open under a wide swath of patients based on any employee’s qualm toward an individual or group of people, or a quarrel with a particular medical procedure.”

Lillis adds, “News coverage about the denial-of-care regulation highlights fertility treatment and abortion. But the far-reaching rule also targets people identifying as LGBT, who can become casualties of withheld services by those asserting reluctance based on religion. Imagine victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre going untended or rejected from trauma centers because they were LGBT. Amid rising violence, especially against trans people, protection in federal policy is more urgent than ever.”

As recent events have shown, eruptions of mass violence can occur just about anywhere. When that happens, victims need prompt, professional medical intervention – not refusals to help based on bogus claims of religious freedom.

Americans United is determined to ensure that all Americans get the medical help they need without religious interference. That’s why we, along with our allies, are suing the Trump administration over the Denial of Care Rule.

Thanks to the legal efforts of AU and its allies, the Trump administration has agreed to delay implementation of this dangerous rule at least until November. But a delay is not a rollback, so rest assured that AU will continue to fight to make certain that the health care of all Americans – and indeed their very lives – never hinge on the religious beliefs of a stranger.


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

Join the Fight and Donate Today