WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.”

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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.

“[T]he rule could apply to hospitals or programs run by universities, like a Catholic hospital,” he suggested.

Under the proposed regulations, an employer involved in health services who also receives financial aid could be required to “cover some services related to gender transition in the health plan that it offers to its own employees” or even violate a nursing home patient’s privacy by forcing them to “share a bedroom with a member of the opposite sex to whom they are not married,” according to the USCCB comments.

However, ADF explained in their comment to HHS that only Congress, not an agency of “unelected administrators,” has the power to reinterpret and expand Obamacare, and the proposed rule will not hold up in court:

HHS provides no bases [sic] for changing Title IX’s long-standing and well-accepted meaning, especially when that change will violate people’s constitutional right to privacy and to religious freedom. The proposed rule, therefore, will lead to unnecessary lawsuits … and will waste taxpayer dollars in the process. This comment … proposes that HHS follow a better course for its proposed rule — actually follow what Title IX says.

In Canada, Catholic schools are already grappling with transgender and gender identity policies forced upon them by the government, potentially foreshadowing the struggles for U.S. Catholic schools down the road.

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One priest in the Diocese of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, told the Newman Society last week that policies or programs embracing gender identity in Catholic schools will “inevitably hurt students who are trying to live the Catholic faith.”

Authored by Justin Petrisek
Originally published here by Catholic Education Daily, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society

Published with permission