President-elect Biden has chosen a secretary of Health and Human Services who sued to block a policy that would have exempted nuns from Obamacare's contraception mandate, provoking even more scrutiny over how Biden's Catholic faith influences his political agenda.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order that runs homes for the elderly poor, as they tried to defend the exemption. The case -- State of California v. Little Sisters of the Poor -- made it to the Ninth Circuit but the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the nuns in a similar challenge from Pennsylvania.
As HHS secretary, Becerra would oversee a department that conservatives praised under President Trump for making strides to defend religious liberty and hinder abortion access.
In 2017, Becerra argued that “Donald Trump wants businesses and corporations to control family planning decisions rather than a woman in consultation with her doctor. These anti-women's health regulations prove once again that the Trump Administration is willing to trample on people’s rights."
“What group of Americans will they target next? Will they allow businesses to deny you cancer treatment? Will they exclude you from insurance coverage because of a pre-existing health condition? The California Department of Justice will fight to protect every woman’s right to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare," he said.
On Modnday, a swarm of conservative groups criticized Biden and warned about the impact of his nominating Becerra.
"President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Xavier Becerra to run HHS is a gross insult to Catholics," said Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at the Catholic Association.
"Becerra spent years tormenting the Little Sisters of the Poor in court, trying to force them to pay for things like abortion pills against their consciences. He also led efforts to force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to advertise for abortion," McGuire added.
"Thankfully both of his efforts failed at the Supreme Court. But Becerra is outright hostile to religious liberty and Biden’s choice of someone so openly anti-Catholic is an affront to the faith that he so frequently invoked as part of his campaign."
Biden's team did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. His faith has been a touchy subject during the 2020 election as he's invoked it as a determinative influence on his life. Despite the Church's stance on abortion and traditional marriage, Biden has endorsed public policy that chides those positions.
Becerra too is a Catholic and served as co-chair of the "Catholics for Biden" group along with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
For years, Biden supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding for abortions, with the rationale that religious Americans shouldn't have to pay for procedures they personally oppose. That's why his reversal on the policy last year sent shockwaves through the media. Biden also appeared to flout church teaching at a personal level when he officiated a same-sex wedding ceremony in 2016.
With his choice of Becerra, Catholic health professionals at federally-funded institutions will likely face greater pressure to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their personally held beliefs. As California's attorney general, Becerra sued over the Trump administration's conscience exemptions for medical professionals.