Freedom From Religion Foundation Pledges to Challenge Religion-Based Health Care Providers

In a recent press release, the Freedom From Religion Foundation made it crystal clear that they’re willing to fight to keep medical care equitable and secular — particularly in Washington State, where several once-secular hospitals have entered into mergers with Catholic care providers.

The press release details the fundamental reason why FFRF has gotten involved:

Catholic hospitals refuse to give patients the medical treatment they need if the treatment does not conform to their interpretation of a 2,000-year-old holy book. Women are denied abortions; transgender people are denied the resources they need to transition; the sick and elderly are denied end-of-life treatment; and nobody will be given proper access to birth control. Hospitals plagued by Catholic dogma will also potentially discriminate against people because of their marital status and sexual orientation.

To kick off their fight against the growing problem, FFRF contacted Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health, asking for an intervention in the matter. You can read FFRF’s letter here (PDF).

Catholic hospital networks are required to follow a list of Ethical and Religious Directives released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, regardless of the religious beliefs or preferences expressed by doctors and patients. When only 16% of Washington residents are Roman Catholic, according to FFRF’s figures, the recent increases in the number of Catholic hospitals has the practical consequence of forcing Catholic dogma on a largely un-Catholic population. (That’s to say nothing of the many practicing Catholics who quietly ignore official Church teachings on a wide range of relevant subjects, like birth control or acceptance of LGBT families.)

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel may have said it best: “Do not endanger patients by putting religious beliefs before providing the best possible medical care.”

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • pRinzler

    FFRF’s letter to the governor was incredibly well researched and documented, but it had one glaring fault: the request that FFRF made in the letter to its addressees was either not clear or was not well defined. The letter merely said that it urged a hard look at the hospitals, and similar verbiage.

    I came away from the letter unclear as to why it was addressed to the governor and the dept of health. Do they get to deny a hospital becoming Catholic? If so, the letter should have made a plain and clear request for such a denial. If not, why send the letter to the governor?

    I’m willing to be talked down on this, but it seemed like the letter didn’t close the sale, despite everything else in the letter that was excellent.

  • Keyra

    These jokers and the FFRF are getting more & more desperate

  • moother

    When a dear friend of mine found out (at a youthful 40 years of age) that he would be dead within the year we discussed the option of euthanasia and the practical medical conditions involved.

    We were told by an exceptionally humane doctor that doctors are under oath to prolong life…, not to prolong death.

    In these modern and exceptionally advanced times, doctors CAN make a terminal diagnosis so there is no need to hang on hoping for a miracle. Rather, we have the option to provide terminal patients with a dignified and solemn exit.

    Any religion that speaks against this is immoral.

  • Sven2547

    Women are dying of treatable ailments because superstition-bound hospitals are refusing to do the right thing. Patients are being put SECOND instead of FIRST. Everyone should be desperately trying to right this horrible wrong.

  • TCC

    Shouldn’t you be off guarding your bridge from three billy goats?

  • Jasper

    Take the problem of all pharmacies within range refusing to sell contraceptives/plan B… now take that, and put it on steroids, and you have this.

  • Carpinions

    In any field that is remotely related to science, or uses/is adopting scientific process to inform/govern itself – as mine is – quantifiable data and its results are most often the test of whether certain practices are worth keeping, or dumping. Proper medicine has been based on this same principle over the last century or so, and increasingly uses it to improve care for more and more people as superstitions and baseless shamanism shrivel. The problem with Catholic hospitals is that they are fine with using proper practice when they see fit, but the religion remains supreme, and in cases where the science is the real truth, the religion will take over, often with ghastly results for someone involved, patient or otherwise.

    The theist will say that the problem with relying on science and hard facts is that life and society will become antiseptic, acting on nothing but spreadsheets and the coldness of the process and what a number says. While a valid concern, humanity has proven a multiplicity of times that it consistently finds ways to subvert that process to suit its creativity. The true problem for religion is that the taking of hard opinions and traditions presents ultimately the same sort of antiseptic, uncaring force impelling our fellow persons. But the key difference with science is that the data can actually tell a story in an objective way, whereas dogma is baseless and subjective.

    In a life-or-death field such as medicine, Religion expressly does not adhere to concrete evidence-based guidelines. It intentionally and knowingly sets itself apart, based on the verifiably false pedestal it has tried to retain for so long, that the religion adds the humanity back in. This is where religion seeks to make itself synonymous with the essence of humanity, and this is where it should first and foremost be excised from. Religion is a construct of humanity, NOT vice versa.

    I very much support FFRF’s move here, and hope it takes hold elsewhere as well, for any hospital with religion at its core. The standard should be striving for 100% quality patient care, not ensuring that the practitioner’s religious compass – always governed by non-medical bodies answerable to nobody – still points north at the end of the day.

  • Mario Strada

    I think it’s the Catholic Church that is getting more desperate. Unable to impose their beliefs politically they are angling to impose them by monopolizing Health Care dispensing points.

    That’s where the desperation lays. And I understand it. You spend several centuries carrying the biggest stick in town and telling everyone what to do in public and in private and all of a sudden, no one is listening to you anymore.

    This is going to be the next battleground.

  • Holytape

    Citation please.

  • Mario Strada

    Let’s not forget that these people are close allies of the same groups that screamed “Communism!” at the single payer system on the grounds that “You don’t want the state between you and your doctor”.

    The mental midgets pushing that policy, never quite explained to me how we should deal with the HMOs that are routinely between my doctor and I. And now,m where are they when a frigging minority faith is trying to wedge itself between patient and doctor? Where is the outrage?

    Fucking hypocrites!

  • Jasper

    If anything, they’re becoming increasingly successful. Many issues don’t even go to court. Once the problem is explained, many culprits rectify the situation.

    The Christian Privilege has been at least semi-disabused of the notion that their godly attempts at theocratic rule won’t go unchallenged.

  • Savoy47

    The church requires that the hospital let a pregnant woman die instead of using a legal medical procedure to save her life if needed. Since when does religious liberty allow you to let someone else intentionally die for what you believe?

    FFRF and every other secular rights organization need to join in on this case and put an end to this practice. We’re not talking about a prayer banner or religious monuments on public property here this is life and death. We the rank and file secularist can’t just sit on the sidelines and cheer for our side, we must get involved.

  • Nate Frein

    There seems to be this attitude that “maybe a miracle will happen”.

    And, yes. We don’t fully understand the body and sometimes very unexpected recoveries do occur. Just…very rarely.

    It’s like anti-choice people saying “but you might end up like this person who made it big despite [insert hard life of poverty here]“. Because that’s one person. Out of millions of people born into hard circumstances who simply get eaten up and regurgitated by the system no matter how hard they try.

    Sure, I might win the lottery, but I’m not basing my financial situation on that chance. I might make a very unexpected recovery from a terminal disease, but it’s my choice to go through that expense and pain hoping for that one in a million chance. No one should have the right to force that choice on me.

  • C Peterson

    FFRF is, without doubt, the best and most effective organization supporting the beliefs that many of us feel strongly about.

    It isn’t overtly atheist, while at the same time being very supportive of atheism. It is out front in challenging First Amendment violations and all manner of legal Christian privilege. It is intelligent and civil. It is the only “atheist” organization I feel good supporting. Keep up the good work!

  • Jasper

    Maybe if they’re asked how willing they would be to bank their future on the Muslim bronze-age mythology… maybe they’d get the point? Maybe?

  • Tobias2772

    I am not very sure about the actual situation in Washington, but it seems to me that the letter is a bit vague because what the government can do is a bit vague. To a large extent, these are private business decisions. I am not sure how mant different ways might be available to either of these government officials to ameliorate the negative impacts of this situation. Perhaps that is why FFRF was not more concrete in their directives.

  • Tobias2772

    If I may put it more simple, doctors follow the damn science !!

  • Tobias2772

    Yeah, I was wondering whatever happened to the Hypocratic Oath.

  • jferris

    Sven, if you haven’t noticed, Keyra is a troll. Repeated popping in to make comments that are vague, and never backed up with fact, citation, anything. However… are not providing a defense with your comment “Women are dying of treatable ailments…” You, too, should provide a citation, even though it is understandable the frustration, you do not beat trolls by lowering yourself to their level. Mark Twain said “Never argue with a stupid person. They lower you to their level and beat you with experience”.

  • Sven2547

    However… are not providing a defense with your comment “Women are dying of treatable ailments…” You, too, should provide a citation

    That’s fair. My citations are the deaths of Savita Halappanavar and Lori Stodghill. Do you want specific links?

  • Feminerd

    Also the near-death of an unnamed woman in Arizona. She was allowed to get an abortion because the nun on the medical ethics committee voted yes for it; the nun was excommunicated for daring to put the life of the woman above the life of her (going to die if the mom dies) fetus.

  • mikespeir

    Good. Very, very good.

  • flyb

    I agree with your original post that patients should be put ahead of religious beliefs. But it looks like, after a quick web search, that only Halappanavar died at a hospital due to the staff not performing necessary procedures that might have saved her. Stodghill died at a Catholic hospital but I couldn’t find anything to indicate she died because hospital staff refused procedures for religious reasons. It looks more like a doctor that failed to act/respond in time. However, the Catholic hospital certainly looked like hypocritical idiots during the wrongful death suit by claiming the unborn twins were not real people because they weren’t born yet.

  • Sven2547

    Whooooops you’re completely right. I confused Ms. Stodghill with someone else!

  • Tiny Tim

    Not ovetly atheist! Bahahaha!!!!!!!!!

    They put up billboards saying “There is No God”.

    In the meantime, what this about fair and equitable medicine. Health care costs have destroyed my familiy, at SECULAR hosptitals.

    Obama care is a scam.

    Who ya kiddin, bitches?

  • Tiny Tim

    Immoral? Whats this immoral shit?

    Whatever is, is. I love it when Moral Relativists cry about what’s “moral” while they justify abortion and the like.

    To all the mamas who want to kill their bablies


  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Your mini-rant falls on deaf ears. Or rather, it’s pointless, because you’re in an environment where quite a lot of people agree that Obamacare is not even half decent.

    But anyway, do you want to be just broke, or unable to get good medical care too?

  • Feminerd

    What does the PPACA have to do with Catholic hospitals failing at providing health care? There’s a massive disconnect going on there.

    If you want to argue the PPACA isn’t sufficient, you’re right. It’s a step in the right direction, but single-payer would be far superior. It also hadn’t gone into effect fully yet, and won’t until 2014 (2015 for employer penalties for not providing health insurance). Any medical costs you’ve incurred to date are not due to Obamacare.

  • TCC

    Remind me again how Obamacare works differently with religious vs. secular hospitals?

  • Michael W Busch

    Abortion has nothing to do with babies.

    Abortion concerns zygotes, embryos, and non-viable fetuses. If there is any significant probability of a fetus surviving as a healthy neonate, the standard of care is delivery, not abortion.

    And that is irrelevant to the morality of abortion. Forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy when she does not want to do so is equivalent to forcing you to repeatedly donate bone marrow over several months. Both are wrong.

    And it is quite disappointing that that has to be explained to you.

  • kaydenpat

    Good for FFRF.

  • smrnda

    The increasing number of Catholic hospitals demonstrates 2 problems – the first problem is that if health care is provided by private sector entities rather than the state, they’re not so easily forced to do things in the interests of the public, rather than doing what’s in the interests of profitability or bronze-age religious beliefs.

    The other thing this demonstrates is that the market, rather than making health care better, can make it worse. The Catholic church is buying up a bigger market share so they can limit consumer choice, so the argument that the market gives consumers what they want is shown to be false at least for health care.

    I just wish i knew where there were getting all this $$$ from.

  • Alan Bloor

    Their pope sits on a golden throne… They hardly lack money…

  • wombat

    To be fair, Muslim mythology is Iron Age to post-Iron Age. Not that it makes it better, but it is more recent.

  • TCC

    To all the mamas who want to kill their bablies


  • UWIR

    I take it in your world, anyone who disagrees with your morality is a “Moral Relativist”?

  • RobMcCune

    Moral relativism is something he bablies on and on about.

  • Robster

    This is an attempt to exert influence by stealth. Careful, these people are evil and on a mission. They won’t stop ’till we all believe the wine and crackers really are tasty bits of the baby jesus (ugh) or fall in love with that strange old fellow keeping the vatican warm.

  • moother

    Definition of morality for god-botherers: any shit they make up at the dinner table and/or any contrived interpretation of the worst book ever written.

    Definition of morality for humanists: compassionate and empathetic concern with and for the well-being of sentient beings and the particular circumstances in which they find themselves.

    One is just hearsay and made-up codswallop that is often damaging to people and the environment while the other is a reasoned and calculated attempt to make the world a slightly better place.

  • smrnda

    Gods seem like the ultimate moral relativists. Killing is bad, except when it isn’t seems the first rule of most gods.

  • Amanda Barker

    Every time I find myself comparing my college caseload to the requirements for immigrating to New Zealand, FFRF does something that makes me think we may not all be damned to suffer under the oppression of someone else’s religion.

    Then I read the rest of the news.

  • Matt Davis

    If a woman has an ectopic pregnancy and the hospital removes her Fallopian tube, if it can be shown that pills or a simple procedure would have done the job without jeopardising her fertility, does she have a potential lawsuit? I think a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive rights and health care before religion is in order. Here’s an example:

    That’s expired and it wouldn’t prevent them from removing the Fallopian tube, but a similar amendment including a bit about not imposing dogma on non-adherents might really help. I’m sure it’d get a lot of support.

  • Ryan

    Obamacare merely forces people into the private insurance market. Insurance companies are scams, not Obamacare. Obamacare at least prevents some of the rampant insurance abuses, like lifetime caps. It’s not perfect, but less people will die. Besides, according to a 2009 Harvard study, 78% of people who went bankrupt because of medical costs had insurance.

    Your problem is with insurance companies; you’re just incredibly confused. In short, you’re misinformed and need to shut up.

  • Ryan

    Yes, an organization with ever-increasing membership and victory after victory is getting desperate. Old religious people are getting desperate. Enjoy your alternate reality.