You may remember this update from a CV Lunchtime Reader:
Payback? The Obama administration has failed to renew a $19 million grant awarded to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist victims of human trafficking. The grant was first awarded in 2006 by the Migration and Refugee Services and has helped 2,700 victims of human trafficking. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bishops, said she hoped the Bishops’ “position against abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception has not entered into this decision.”
Yesterday, Jerry Markon of the Washington Post filed this report:
On the trafficking contract, senior political appointees at HHS awarded the new grants to the bishops’ competitors despite a recommendation from career staffers that the bishops be funded based on scores by an independent review board, according to federal officials and internal HHS documents.
That prompted a protest from some HHS staffers, who said the process was unfair and politicized, individuals familiar with the matter said. Their concerns have been reported to the HHS inspector general’s office.
Let that sink in: staffers within the HHS are outraged enough about the USCCB being intentionally passed over that they are filing a complaint with the HHS inspector general’s office.
Here’s how George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for HHS’ Administration for Children and Families justified the decision to deny USCCB the grant:
“Ultimately, I felt it was my responsibility — and I’m not trying to get anyone off the hook here — to do what I thought was in the best interests of these victims.’’
… in other words, Sheldon believes it’s not in the best interest of the victims to be cared for by the Catholic Church, even though the independent review board rated their services the highest. Sounds ideological to me.
Part of the background to this is an ACLU lawsuit against allowing the Catholic Church to receive these federal grants to help victims of sex trafficking:
The ACLU lawsuit argued that HHS allowed the Catholic group to impose its beliefs. But in defending the contract on behalf of HHS, Justice Department lawyers argued that the contract was constitutional and that the bishops had been “resoundingly successful in increasing assistance to victims of human trafficking.’’
Then, something happened. Obama’s appointees began to put their ideological bias into action:
This spring, as the contract approached its expiration, HHS political appointees became involved in reshaping the request for proposals, adding a “strong preference” for applicants offering referrals for family planning and the “full range” of “gynecological and obstetric care.’’ That would include abortions and birth control…
The next quote from Sharon Parrott, a top Sebelius aide closely involved with the grant process, is extremely revealing:
“The priority in this case was how to best meet the needs of victims of trafficking so they can take control of their own lives.’’
This is code language for “promoting contraception and abortion.” It’s right out of the Planned Parenthood playbook. And it got the desired result:
The bishops conference says the language [e.g. “strong preference” for awarding grants to groups that offer abortion and contraception] essentially stacked the deck against the group and violated federal laws barring discrimination based on religion. “This was a political decision,’’ [Sister] Walsh said.
There you have it. Obama’s political appointees once again using the power of a federal agency to ensure that Catholics and Catholic-provided services receive second-class treatment.
More follow-up needs to be done on this story, particularly to examine the political backgrounds of the chief architects behind this choice to deny the USCCB its contract renewal.
Is it just me, or is this tendency to deny Catholics and Catholic institutions full access to providing services in the public square becoming a trend? More on that from me, soon.