Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) must really miss the days of Barack Obama, when faith-based groups were treated like second-class citizens when it came to government programs. Every time a member of the president's team rolls back a rule and levels the playing field, the northwest Democrats kick and scream. For people who talk about equality so much, Senate liberals sure don't understand it.
Nothing really sums up the Left better than the first line of their protest letter to Secretary Alex Azar. "We write to strongly oppose the Department of Health and Human Services' proposed rule, 'Ensuring Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations." In other words, what they support is the unequal treatment of faith-based organizations -- something the last administration had become quite good at. The pair of senators tries to argue that Trump's policy reinstating religious freedom is actually a secret attack on it -- a suggestion that would be funny if it weren't so outrageous.
"The proposed rule -- developed under the guise of religious liberty -- is actually... yet another step taken by President Trump to greenlight federally-funded discrimination," their letter claims. No one is quite sure how, since the whole point of the regulation is to make sure every organization -- religious or not -- is treated the same. What Obama's team liked to do was burden religious groups with special reporting or referral requirements, creating ridiculous hoops that no secular organization had to jump through. Of course, the idea was to persuade faith-based groups it was too much trouble -- or worse, too steep a compromise, to comply.
The new rule, just posted last month, guarantees that every qualified government organization has a seat at the table -- no matter what they believe. It appears by the words of Murray and Wyden not everyone believes in that kind of neutrality. They want religious groups to be disqualified from any government interaction before it starts! "We demand the Department put the American people first and withdraw the proposed rule," they write. But putting the American people first means engaging all of the diverse options for health care, education, adoption, and disaster relief. If the Trump administration listened to those on the Left, it would be jeopardizing billions of dollars in social services.
The Catholic Church spent roughly $97 billion in 2010 alone on health care networks, about $47 billion on colleges, and $4.6 billion on "national charitable activities. Does the government really want to pick up that slack? And, more importantly, where would they find the resources to try? Faith-based groups carry the load in this country for humanitarian work -- feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, housing the poor. Do Democrats really want to be responsible for elbowing out a sizeable chunk of our drug rehabilitation programs, prison work, adoption placements, and foster care?
On top of that, HHS is actually bringing its department in line with the Supreme Court's insistence that "The Free Exercise Clause 'protect[s] religious observers against unequal treatment' and subjects to the strictest scrutiny laws that target the religious for 'special disabilities' based on their 'religious status.'"
Just because a group is operating in the government's domain doesn't mean it has to give up its convictions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those on the Left -- including three presidential candidates -- don't agree.