Editor’s Note: The constitutional principle of religious freedom has been undermined like never before under the Trump administration. This year we have seen unprecedented attacks on reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality, and an erosion of church-state separation that threatens religious minorities and the nonreligious in America.
As the new year approaches, we’re taking a look back at the Top 10 church-state separation issues of 2019 – and how AU has led the charge against these blatant violations of our Constitution.
Americans United and our allies scored a major victory when we successfully blocked the Trump administration’s dangerous Denial of Care Rule from going into effect in November.
The rule invited all health care workers to deny care to any patient because of religious beliefs, putting everyone’s health at risk and violating religious freedom. People seeking reproductive health care, LGBTQ people, and religious minorities are the intended targets, but the Denial of Care Rule doesn’t stop there. It is so broad that all of us – including sick children, pregnant women and senior citizens – are at risk.
That’s why, within days of the Department of Health and Human Services issuing the rule last May, Americans United joined allies in filing two lawsuits to challenge this unconstitutional and unlawful rule. Our cases included:
- County of Santa Clara v. HHS, which was filed in California with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal and Santa Clara County, 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.
- Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar, which was filed in Maryland in conjunction with the Baltimore City Solicitor. The case explained that the Baltimore City Health Department has strived to ensure that vulnerable and historically marginalized populations can seek medical care without fear of stigmatization by eradicating the very type of discrimination in health care that the Denial of Care Rule encourages. The rule would endanger not only the health of vulnerable groups but also the public health for the entire city population of about 600,000.
In our Santa Clara case and two others, U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Nov. 19 became the third federal judge to throw out the Denial of Care Rule in its entirety and block it from going into effect. “When a rule is so saturated with error, as here, there is no point in trying to sever the problematic provisions. The whole rule must go,” Alsup wrote.
While the judges have protected patients by preventing the Denial of Care Rule from going into effect, we know the Trump administration is likely to appeal. While our court battles continue, we’re also supporting the Put Patients First Act, which also would block the Denial of Care Rule. This bill was introduced on Nov. 12 by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). It’s more important than ever that Congress enact extra safeguards to protect people’s health and fundamental rights.
Americans United will continue to fight the Trump administration’s Denial of Care Rule and other policies that would misuse our fundamental principle of religious freedom to harm others. Join us!