The decade's most triggering comedy
President Joe Biden’s administration could pull federal funding from a Catholic hospital in Oklahoma — unless the hospital agrees to snuff out a chapel candle known as the “Eternal Flame.”
According to a letter sent to Saint Francis Hospital South, a lone candle that represents the presence of the body of Christ in the Eucharist has been deemed a safety hazard — despite being displayed enclosed in a glass candle holder with a brass top and located in close proximity to fire sprinklers.
#BREAKING: The federal government told an Oklahoma Catholic hospital to either blow out a sanctuary candle or stop serving elderly, disabled, and low-income patients. @BECKETlaw sent a letter to @HHSGov and @CMSGov, reminding them of Saint Francis’ right to religious freedom.… pic.twitter.com/nfNf4UJyUx
— LoriWindham (@LoriWindham1) May 3, 2023
That letter, sent by a hospital accreditation agency known as the Joint Commission, said that failure to snuff out that candle — which has remained in place for 15 years at that particular hospital without any issues — could result in the hospital losing its accreditation. Because Joint Commission accreditation is often tied to federal funding, this could also result in the Saint Francis Health System — the nation’s 12th largest hospital — losing its ability to receive federal funding through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The Joint Commission has denied four waiver requests regarding the candle, prompting the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the law firm Yetter Coleman LLP to take action on the hospital’s behalf.
In a letter dated May 2 and sent to both the Joint Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — along with Oklahoma’s two Senators — the Becket Fund threatened a lawsuit unless the candle was left alone.
“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,” the letter stated in part.
“We are writing to ask you to cease and desist before we file an emergency lawsuit naming you as defendants and seeking emergency relief and substantial damages,” the letter continued. “If we go to court, you will lose. I write in the hope that you will see reason (or at least the law) and we can skip to the easy part.”