The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) introduced a new division Thursday that will help to ensure religious freedom and conscience protections for individuals and organizations in the healthcare industry. The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will be part of the DHHS Office for Civil Rights, and was “established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.”
“We applaud this administration’s commitment to defending conscience protections and religious liberty across our nation,” said NC Family President John L. Rustin. “The U.S. Constitution clearly stakes out these fundamental rights for all Americans, and the establishment of this new Division within the U.S. Department of Heath & Human Services will help to ensure that these rights are respected and protected, especially in the health care arena.”
Healthcare workers can face situations where they are asked to perform actions, such as abortion or assisted suicide, that go against their religious convictions. There are multiple federal statutes that are designed to protect healthcare workers from discrimination based on these religious convictions, but those statutes and similar constitutional rights have not been properly enforced—and have even been opposed—by government leaders in recent years. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will work to ensure that these laws are enforced and that physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers are not punished for living out their religious convictions.
“Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced,” said Roger Servino, the Director of the Civil Rights Office at DHHS. “ No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming and it begins here and now.”
The Trump Administration is continuing to make good on the President’s pledge to protect and defend religious liberty. First, President Trump issued an Executive Order in May 2017 promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty. Then, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued his October 2017 Memorandum outlining for Executive Branch agencies, all the federal laws and policies that protect religious liberty in our nation. Now the DHHS has announced the establishment of this new Division, and more is likely on its way. All of these bode well for the future of religious freedom in America.