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Data of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has revoked some denominational exemptions for child welfare agencies as part of a larger initiative to reverse Trump-era protections on religious freedom.
Last week Fox News reported on HHS interest in rescinding the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) authority to enforce the law on the Restoration of the First Amendment and Freedom of Religion (RFRA), a landmark law used in the former administration's policies on sexuality and gender. An internal memo showed the directiveice from OCR Lisa Pino arguing that the delegation of authority had led to inappropriate decisions on these issues.
Health and Social Services Secretary Xavier Becerra answers questions during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions hearing to discuss the reopening of schools during the pandemic of Covid-19 at Capitol Hill on September 30, 2021. (Greg Nash-Pool / Images)
Wednesday, thisrevocation was noted in the Federal Register, and HHS had removed several exemptions for faith-based organizations such as fostering agencies that refuse to work with same-sex couples. HHS a said in a press release that the waivers, issued to South Carolina, Texas and Michigan, were too broad and "inappropriate.
THE HHS MEMO SHOWS THE DEPARTMENT ON THE MOVE TO CANCEL THE L 'TRUMP-ERA ACTION TO BETTER PROTECT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
"Our action ensures that we are best prepared to protect the right of every American not to suffer discrimination, "HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release on Thursday. "With the large number of discrimination complaints before us, we owe it to all who come forward to act, whether it is to review, investigate or take appropriate action to protect their rights. At HHS, we deal with everything. violation of civil rights or religious freedoms seriously. "
HHS, which applies to groups that receive federal funding, will likely cause further scrutiny in Congress, as members have previously criticized Becerra and introduced legislation to block its actions.
The exterior of the US Department of Health and Human Services building on August 15, 2006 in Washington, DC (Al ex Wong / Images)
"President Biden and Secretary Becerra ignore First Amendment, " Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., said in a statement provided to Fox News. "This action confirms that Secretary Becerra will not keep the pledge to protect religious freedom for every American he made during his confirmation hearing.
Roger Severino, who led the OCR under Trump and currently serves as a senior researcher at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, told Fox News, "These outrages are the latest in a long line of abuses. attacks on religious freedom that began the day Bidenhas taken office and likely won't end until he and his radical HHS Secretary is no longer in the reins of power. "
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He added that "HHS has free of charge stripped its Civil Rights Office of the power to accept religious freedom complaints, leaving them people with no other option but to sue when HHS inevitably tramples on their rights for lack of internal controls. "
The RFRA delegation arrived on December 7, 2017, in response to the administration 's greater efforts broad to strengthen protections of religious freedom. HHS granted OCR authority for, entre others, conduct RFRA compliance reviews and "initiate any other actions that may be necessary to facilitate and ensure compliance with RFRA. " Becerra has revoked both this delegation and another issued on January 15, 2021.
HHS did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment on Wednesday. Becerra's Federal Register filing echoes her department's note arguing that authority should be dispersed among different HHS agencies.
"Components of the department, in consultation with the OGC [Office of General Counsel], have the responsibility and are in the best position to assess requests for exemptions, waivers and changes to program requirements based on RFRA in the programs they operate or monitor. "indicates the folder.
Severino equalsment underlined the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In that case, the court issued a narrow opinion in favor of a Catholic hospitality agency seeking to challenge Philadelphia's nondiscrimination order requiring it to serve same-sex couples. The case was referred to a lower court and recently settled with Catholic social services now exempt.