First, Joe Biden’s administration dropped a lawsuit defending a Vermont nurse who said she was tricked into helping abort an unborn baby in violation of her rights.
Now, it appears the administration wants to limit the powers of a federal office tasked with enforcing religious freedom in other cases like the pro-life nurse’s.
Newsmax reports an internal memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for limiting the powers of the HHS Office of Civil Rights.
The memo, which was first reported about at Fox News this week, claims the Trump administration over-expanded the office’s power to enforce religious freedom laws, such as conscience protections for pro-life medical workers.
Office director Lisa Pino wrote the memo to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, a radical pro-abortion Democrat who has fought against religious freedom for nuns and others, according to the report.
Roger Severino, who led the Office of Civil Rights under the Trump administration, expressed concerns about the memo in a statement to Fox News.
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Under the Trump administration, “HHS centralized authority over religious freedom claims because the laws weren’t being enforced and because that’s how we enforce every other civil right,” Severino said. “Without dedicated staff responsible for investigating religious freedom complaints, HHS will return to trampling people’s rights as before — just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor.”
He also pointed out Becerra’s dismal record on religious freedom matters, saying the HHS secretary “was twice found to have violated conscience protection laws.”
Here’s more from Newsmax:
The memo targets two actions related to the First Amendment from earlier this year, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits federal infringements on the free exercise of religion, Fox News said.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 provided executive agencies with guidelines on RFRA, free exercise claims, contraception in insurance plans, and other issues as the Trump administration attempted to strengthen religious liberty protections.
HHS then granted OCR the authority to conduct RFRA compliance reviews and “initiate such other actions as may be necessary to facilitate and ensure compliance with RFRA,” Fox News reported.
In the memo, the Biden administration argues that the change will not stop it from defending religious freedom, according to the report.
“Rescinding the delegation to OCR does not lessen the commitment of the Department to compliance, but ensures that it is not misused by any one agency to enact a broad, proactive agenda,” the memo states.
But many have expressed concerns about the Biden administration’s commitment to religious freedom, especially after it dropped a lawsuit against a taxpayer-funded Vermont hospital that allegedly tricked a pro-life nurse into helping abort an unborn baby.
Under the Trump administration, the Office of Civil Rights investigated hundreds of complaints about civil rights violations such as the Vermont nurse’s case.
In 2019, Severino said the Obama administration did not pay sufficient attention to “these issues, and we’ve signaled a new openness and we’ve been informing and educating the public that these rights have existed for decades.”
He told the Washington Examiner at the time that he believes people are beginning to realize the importance of religious freedom.
“… this is a right that had been under-enforced, [and] people were being discriminated against and felt they had nowhere to turn, and now they have somewhere to turn,” he said. “And it would be a shame if that door ever closed on them again.”
Now, it appears that the Biden administration is trying to do just that.