Denver, Colo., May 4, 2023 / 07:43 am
A Catholic hospital system in Oklahoma is contesting federal officials’ demand that it must extinguish an enclosed tabernacle candle in its chapel or lose accreditation and its ability to serve needy patients.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), ordered Saint Francis Health System in Oklahoma to snuff out the candle after one of its contractors responsible for accrediting hospitals deemed that it represented a fire hazard.
“We’re being asked to choose between serving those in need and worshiping God in the chapel, but they go hand in hand,” Barry Steichen, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Saint Francis Health System, said in a May 3 statement. “Our work depends upon our faith in the living God, and the sanctuary candle represents this to us.”
Saint Francis Health System has five hospitals in eastern Oklahoma. It treats almost 400,000 patients per year and has provided over $650 million in free medical care over the last five years.