By Karla Dial, World Magazine
American Civil Liberties Union was in federal court in October to argue that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must never again contract with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – unless the religious organization checks its faith at the door and changes its policies.
The organization has contracted with HHS since 2006 in its work with sex trafficking victims. However, the government canceled the contract earlier this month, saying it gives “strong preference” to groups willing to make referrals “for the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”
The ACLU noted in a press release that USCCB prohibits subcontractors “from using any federal funds to provide or refer for contraception, condoms and abortion care solely because of USCCB’s religious beliefs.” Even though the contract has already been dropped this year, “the ACLU seeks a judgment to ensure that taxpayer dollars are never misused to impose religious restrictions on vulnerable trafficking victims that receive U.S. aid.”
However, longstanding federal law already prevents the government from discriminating against faith-based groups who don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to support abortion. Legislation currently pending in Congress would strengthen that language, and give groups that feel the government has discriminated against them a method to seek justice.