Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel sues Trump admin. over religious exemptions, says America becoming a ‘virtual theocracy’

By: - May 22, 2019 2:17 pm

President Donald J. Trump, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. | Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian via Flickr Public Domain

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today that Michigan is joining a coalition of 22 other state and local governments suing the U.Ss. Department of Health and Human Services over a rule allowing health providers to refuse certain forms of care on religious or moral grounds.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, May 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

The rule from the President Trump administration, published this week and taking effect on July 22, “ensure[s] vigorous enforcement of Federal conscience and anti-discrimination laws applicable to the Department,” making federal funds conditional on health providers allowing expressions of conscience that could include abortion, vaccination or counseling related to such services.

In a statement Wednesday, Nessel said “this display of contempt for the doctrine of separation between church and state is alarming and terrifying.”

“Health care treatment should be dictated by approved medical standards and a patient’s decisions about the type of care he or she wishes to receive, not the religious or personal beliefs of those who hold themselves out as medical professionals,” Nessel wrote.

“The imposition of this rule catapults our nation one step further toward America devolving into a virtual theocracy.”

India Ampah holds her son, Keon Lockhart, 12 months old, as pediatrician Amanda Porro M.D. administers a measles vaccination on June 02, 2014 in Miami, Florida. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The rule and lawsuit come amid Michigan’s worst measles outbreak since the early 1990s. That outbreak has mainly hit Oakland County, which has one of the highest rates of non-medical measles exemptions in the nation. Last week, state Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) introduced a bill that would require schools with high vaccine exemption rates to post that information publicly.

The other parties to the complaint are the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the cities of New York and Chicago and Cook County, Ill.

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Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson

Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.