MergerWatch/ACLU report rebuts key claim in Catholic Church brief to WA Supreme Court

A recent report from MergerWatch and the American Civil Liberties Union shattered the myth of Catholic hospitals providing more charity care than other nonprofit hospitals.  In so doing, it also completely shattered a key claim made earlier this year before Washington’s Supreme Court by Franciscan Health System, a Catholic-Church controlled system that operates several hospitals and medical clinics in Washington State.

In the brief filed in March of 2013 in the Ockletree v. Franciscan case, Franciscan’s lawyers argued that “Non profit facilities shift the costs away from public coffers to provide care to the uninsured because such activity is within their explicit religious mission.”

It went on to state, “In exempting religious nonprofit organizations from [Washington State Law’s] …definition of “employer,” the legislature could have reasoned that the State has a substantial interest in the well-being of religious nonprofit organizations that provide such important public services (emphasis added) and wanted to make sure that these organizations could continue to do so without the burden of potential liability….or increased costs of compliance…”

So what happens when a key assertion made before Washington’s Supreme Court is proven to be a lie?

Franciscan, which is part of Catholic Health Inititiatives, and therefore part of the Catholic Church, made other equally absurd arguments, but in describing Washington’s “religious nonprofit exemption” in the context of antidiscrimination law to be “just one example of a law that reflects the policy decision to foster the good works of religious nonprofit organizations,” they open up the entire question of whether Washington State should ever do anything to “foster the good works of religious nonprofit organizations” and give them special privileges over other nonprofits, especially when the data and evidence make clear that, contrary to myths promoted by the Catholic Church, health-care religious nonprofits don’t actually deliver greater charity care benefits to the community than other health care nonprofits.

As Mother Jones reported, “Catholic hospitals don’t do much for the poor,” and since they don’t do much for the poor and implement policies that clearly undermine women’s health and that result in higher costs (e.g., forcing a woman who undergoes a Cesarian delivery and wants a tubal ligation to undergo separate surgery in a different facility), why does our public policy encourage them to exist at all, much less give them special benefits?

The Washington State Association for Justice Foundation (formerly the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association) filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that the WA State Law which exempts religious nonprofits from Washington’s antidiscrimination laws violates the Washington State Constitution.

No one knows what Washington’s Supreme Court will do in the Ockletree case.  But it’s clear now that a Catholic Church-sponsored entity misrepresented key facts in an important case now being considered by Washington’s Supreme Court.   And the question is:  Who and What should do something about that?


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14 thoughts on “MergerWatch/ACLU report rebuts key claim in Catholic Church brief to WA Supreme Court

  1. KAC

    John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” This must also apply to the modern church-operated hospital system as they falsely claim free public service to justify their financial and ideological self-interest.

  2. Lorie

    Monica, thanks for your succinct comments on the ACLU/MW report. The lack of charity care vs. other non-profits and even for-profit hospitals was something that caught my attention right away also.

    And thank you also for commenting on the State Supreme Court Case- I knew the Ockletree case arguments were supposed be heard last summer, but I didn’t know that a decision still hadn’t been rendered.


  3. Sherman Hu

    Beginning WA State, there is an urgent need to have a legislation that banning G W Bush era so called faith-based initiative. That public funding (Federal and State Grants) should not be used by religious healthcare organizations.

    While State and County Public healthcare department serve the need of communities, they are facing the sharp shortfall of public funding.

    At the same time, the religious healthcare organizations have taken billion dollars’ public grants to advance their religious agenda. That got to be stopped.

  4. Anna

    Thanks for your efforts. Had I known about the religious domination of healthcare in Bellingham, I would never have agreed to retiring here. (Husband’s family lives here so I am stuck.) Even hospice has been taken over by these Catholic devils who seem bent on nothing more than profits for the greater riches of the church. (I have never seen such prices.)

    They requested our advanced directives when I had a heart attack so we thought everything was OK. Thank goodness there was no reason to follow the directives because I now understand my wishes do not matter to these devils.

    However, in contradiction to what is said about Washington, I don’t find the people here in Bellingham to be as concerned about the religious dictatorship that is occurring with more consolidation of absolute power of the church each day.

    1. Sherman Hu

      Hi Anna,

      I appreciated your comment, and totally agree with you about “Catholic devils”.

      There is always the ways for you to move out of “Catholic dominance” (Although they wish to dominant -:)

    2. Keith Comess

      I in my opinion, these comments about “Catholic devils” cross the line from legitimate critique of a particular policy many (including Catholics) disagree. They are, in fact, scurrilous slurs directed against a large and diverse group of people. If that characterization of your comments is not immediately self-evident, try deleting the noun “Catholic” and substituting that of another group; Asians, Blacks, etc. and reconsider the tone and content of your postings in that context.

      Sentiments such as these are unworthy of this blog and, by association, cast aspersions on the motives of those of us who can formulate factual, logical, reasonable and legitimate critiques of religious-directed care, at least as so far as it impacts the general public.

      1. Sherman Hu

        Anna’s words just showed her “shocking” about Catholic healthcare organizations. Do we need to discuss Catholic Scandals one by one in the last 5, 10, and 15 years?

        Suddenly the words of “Asians, Blacks, etc.” showed up, derailed the discussion on Catholic healthcare organization. That only revealed a RACIST’s intent.

        America has become more diverse and progressive, becoming a country supposed to be. Just like our first lady Michelle Obama said she’s proud of being an American, and majority of the White folks also celebrating such a progress.

        America is only going to be more diverse, progressive and prosper. For the religious conservatives/Christian right, they’ve seen it as an end of America.

        Trying their best efforts to deny and avoid the topics of massive murder of Natives, Black slaves, Chinese-American Exclusion Act, Japanese-American intern Camp, they’re further strengthening their effort to institutionalize racial practice by preserving White privileges in workforces and education system.

        That has further proved that they’re a root cause of social injustice, and inequality in our society.

      2. Sherman Hu

        Anna’s comment did NOT cross the line, not against a diverse group of people.

        She evidently disclosed that Catholic healthcare organizations issued directive, which should not, further disclosed those organizations bent on nothing more than profits for the greater rich of the churches.

        No evidence indicated it was a slur in the comment.

        Certain individual in replying her comment brought out “Asians”, “Blacks”, which only evidently proved that certain individual and certain groups angered by the progressiveness of America, continuing to wish to turn back the clock.

    3. catholicwatcher Post author

      Hi Anna,

      I don’t believe in the concept of devils. I do believe the Catholic Church hierarchy has a worldview on reproductive and end-of-life issues that is wildly out of step with the beliefs of most Washingtonians and they will do everything in their power to impose that worldview on others.

      Most Catholics disagree with the Church on reproductive and end-of-life issues, and there are many Church leaders throughout Washington who have weighed in to support the ACLU’s actions in protecting patient rights.

      Our health care system should be evidence-based. Patients should be able to access care that meets their needs and that is consistent with quality and evidence-based standards established by medical professionals.

      I think public officials, voters, and business leaders are waking up to these issues, and we need to keep the focus on how best to disentangle ourselves from a system where three Catholic bishops are imposing their will on millions of Washington patients.


      Monica Harrington, Editor, CatholicWatch

  5. Sherman Hu

    ……………….Anna, it’s alright for the people whom liked to be dominant by the churches in Bellingham.

    The religious healthcare organizations /churches should raise their own money to advance their religious intent, not to access the public founding sources.

    That’s why it’s important to END GW Bush era’s faith-based initiative that allowed the religious healthcare organizations to dip into governmental funding.

  6. Keith Comess

    What evidence can you provide to support your assertion that “the churches in Bellingham” agree with these policies? You are probably making an accurate inference in that regard but perhaps you might stick to the facts so far as they are known and understood: the consolidation of healthcare in Bellingham, Washington and elsewhere in the state and in the country is a product of diverse forces and CHI is simply exploiting avenues our own laws provided them.

    Incidentally and as I have noted before, the canard that these “faith based ” initiatives is an exclusive product of the G.W. Bush administration is inaccurate: the penchant for various government figures to flagrantly pander to the religious right extends back many decades (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton immediately come to mind). G.W. bush may have put a new twist on an old platform, but Obama solidified the program. How else to explain its existence around 6 years after our current Chief Executive took the oath of office (on a Bible)?

      1. catholicwatcher Post author

        Hi Sherman,

        The whole faith-based initiative program is one that bothers me as well because it creates room for faith-based entities to use government funds to promote a religious agenda. I believe firmly in the separation of Church and State. The lines get blurred way too quickly when government funds become available to people who want to pursue a religious agenda first and foremost.

        1. Sherman Hu

          Hi Monica,

          I am so grateful to all of your works, and I will continue to fight along your side. The Catholic watch has opened my eyes.



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