Last spring, Texas lawmakers passed — and Gov. Greg Abbott signed — the despicable “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” which allowed providers within Texas’ child welfare system, allowing them to decline services to individuals based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Basically, that means that agencies handling adoption and foster care can still receive state funds even though they refuse to work with LGBT people — or anyone else they don’t like, such as mixed race couples or Muslims — just by claiming that working with those people — whether it be a Jewish couple looking to adopt or, say, a gay teen looking for a foster home, for example — would in some way violate their personal religious beliefs
As nasty as that piece of legislation is, Texas did manage to dodge the bullet of a similar bill that would have allowed those in health care professions to refuse to treat certain people with some characteristic — say, being LGBT — that that health care professional’s personal religious beliefs say is wrong.
But leave it to Donald Trump and his bevy of bigots to leave no stone unturned in their ongoing effort to be as hateful and discriminatory — and unchristian, and un-American — as possible.
This week, on Thursday, Jan. 18, the Trump administration announced the creation of a new conscience and religious freedom division within the Health and Human Services Department that will allow doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to opt out of providing services that violate their moral or religious beliefs.
So much for the Hippocratic Oath.
Right-wingers, of course, were giddy, claiming it protects “people who have objections to participating in abortions,” as David Christensen with the Family Research Council said.
But those on the sane — excuse me, progressive — side of the equation pointed out that this new HHS division puts the health, the very lives of many, many people at risk.
Annise Parker, president and CEO of The Victory Fund, said it has “opened the door to widespread discrimination against LGBT people seeking health services.” She also called out HHS Secretary Roger Severino as an “anti-LGBT activist who has long fought against equality for our community, ignoring science and reality to justify his crusade.”
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, declared, “We are not fooled: The new office … is meant to make it easier for people to discriminate, not to protect people of faith. …
“The overwhelming majority of people of faith support health care access for women and LGBTQ people,” Carey continued. “There is no contradiction between meeting your duty to care for all people and living by your moral and religious conviction. All people deserve access to health care … .”
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, didn’t mince words. “This policy makes a mockery of religious freedom by turning faith into a weapon to discriminate [against] and harm people simply because of who they are or the health care services they need.
“It’s outrageous and dangerous to make care for an LGBT person, a woman or anyone else dependent on the personal beliefs of a doctor or emergency care woman rather than on medical necessity.”
LGBT people have long been urged to “be honest” with our doctors and other caregivers about who we are. The fact that you are a gay man or a lesbian or a trans woman can have significant impact on your health risks and on the kind of treatment or preventative measures you might need.
But when you are worried that your doctor may refuse to treat you — or that the nurse in the ER might refuse to administer that life-saving injection or the paramedic at the scene of the accident might refuse to give you CPR — because their religion says LGBT people are evil, you probably aren’t gonna tell them, now are you?
And that could potentially put your life at risk.
A more likely scenario is that LGBT people will just stop going to the doctor — no more regular checkups, no more doctor visits to see about that odd lump in your breast or some other alarming symptom.
LGBT people — especially lesbians and trans people — are already drastically underserved when it comes to health care. With Trump’s new religious persecution — excuse me, religious freedom — division of the HHS, that’s only going to get worse.
But here’s the thing I really really REALLY don’t get in all this: It seems, for the most part, that the folks driving this discrimination disguised as religious liberty for the most part call themselves Christians. But how — seriously, HOW — can you possibly refuse to help a person in need and still call yourself a Christian?
Like Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”
Bones and filth. That’s what this all comes down to, in the end: Our dead bones and your bloody hands and filthy souls.
Tammye Nash is managing editor of Dallas Voice. She is also a proud member of The Resistance.