Biden backs down from threatening Catholic hospital over chapel candle

May 8, 2023
Matthew Boose

President Biden will stop harassing a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma that defied federal edict by lighting a candle in its chapel.

The sanctuary candle at St. Francis Hospital South in Tulsa has burned for 15 years without incident, but Biden's health bureaucrats threatened to yank Medicare and Medicaid funding over the "safety hazard" in April.

The administration appears to be backtracking after a religious freedom group, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, threatened to sue.

Biden backs down

The candle became an issue after the accrediting agency for hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, the Joint Commission, claimed the candle was a fire hazard.

An April 20 letter from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) denied the hospital's appeal, citing a surveyor's finding that there was an "open flame burning unattended 24/7.” The administration ordered the hospital to "address this deficiency."

Lawyer Lori Windham, of the Becket Foundation for Religious Liberty, sent the administration a letter earlier this month threatening to sue. Windham said the St. Francis Health System has burned sanctuary candles without issue for more than 60 years, and with the approval of local fire authorities.

"In requiring Saint Francis to extinguish its flame, you are trying to extinguish not just a candle, but the First Amendment rights of Saint Francis Health System, as well as vital healthcare for the elderly, poor, and disabled in Oklahoma," she wrote.

The candle is also fixed to a wall, surrounded by sprinkler heads, and is nowhere near medical patients or equipment, she said.

"Catholic" Biden's petty tyranny

In an apparent face-saving maneuver, CMS now says they will work to accommodate the hospital, but a statement from the agency maintained the candle is a "fire risk."

The agency said they are "working with the hospital’s accrediting organization to develop options to mitigate the potential fire risk and remove the safety finding.”

Barry Steichen, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Saint Francis Health System, said the hospital is "being asked to choose between serving those in need and worshiping God in the chapel," but "they go hand in hand."

"Our work depends upon our faith in the living God, and the sanctuary candle represents this to us.”

It would be hard to think of a pettier and more ghoulish example of anti-religious tyranny than the government bullying a Catholic hospital into snuffing out a sacred candle, and yet "devout Catholic" Biden continues to amaze.

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