Jan 18, 2018

Today, the Trump administration created a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This new division will enforce the administration’s extreme and harmful interpretations of federal religious freedom laws. In addition, it will enforce a still unreleased rule that will allow health care workers to use religion as a reason to deny services to patients.

Maggie Garrett, legislative director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement:

“Religious freedom is about fairness, but today’s actions show that once again the Trump administration wants to sanction the use of religion to discriminate and deny patients access to health care. HHS should protect patients’ rights and ensure their access to health care, not shield those who want to deny Americans the critical services they need. The Office for Civil Rights should prohibit discrimination, not sanction it.

“Denying patients care is dangerous and discriminatory, plain and simple. Religious freedom protects us all. It is not a sword to harm and discriminate against others. Today is even more proof that under this administration, the rights of LGBTQ people and women hang in the balance.”

Americans United is already suing the Trump administration over its policies restricting women’s access to birth control and banning Muslims from entering the country. Once released, this new rule will likely spark litigation as well, AU said.