Religious organizations are weighing religious liberty concerns in the wake of a new Obama administration rule that says healthcare providers can't discriminate against patients on the basis of gender identity.
Faith-based hospital organizations may push back against the Department of Health and Human Services, which published the "Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities" rule on May 13.
The concern is that the rule would deny federal funding to healthcare providers that refuse sex-specific treatment, like sex reassignment surgery, to transgender patients.
Dr. Ryan Anderson, a religious liberty expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, says religious organizations should be concerned.
"These regulations will penalize medical professionals and healthcare organizations that, as a matter of faith, moral conviction, or professional medical judgement, believe that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases," he said.
A group of faith-based organizations--including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Association of Evangelicals--spoke out against the rule last fall before it went into effect.
They say it would "infringe upon the religious and moral convictions of healthcare providers, insurers and other stakeholders."
In the rule itself the HHS says that "certain protections already exist in federal law with respect to religious beliefs," noting that the rule does not displace conscience laws already in effect.
Jeff Tiamen, chief of staff for the Catholic Health Association of the United States, told CBN News that those conscience protections currently allow Catholic hospitals the ability to refuse to perform abortions or sterilizations and may protect them under the new gender identity discrimination rule.
He said the association is still reviewing it.