The Biden administration has begun ramping up its attack on religious freedoms in America with moves that would reverse President Trump’s actions that supported that constitutional right.
A report by Fox News explains the details available so far come from a draft memo the network obtained.
The report describes how Biden’s targets are the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
One of the actions would involve the Department of Health and Human Services rolling back the authority that had been given to the Office of Civil Rights to “prevent violations of religious liberty.”
That department is run by Xavier Becerra, the infamous California politician who has promoted – unrelentingly – abortions for all at any time. He is responsible, along with Kamala Harris, for a criminal case brought against undercover reporters who revealed the abortion industry’s profiting from the sale of the body parts of unborn babies in a series of videos.
One abortionist notoriously explained “I want a Lamborghini” in explaining her requirements for more money.
The Trump administration had beefed up protections for religious liberty, with the president then issuing an executive order and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions giving agencies a list of guidelines on the federal law, free exercise issues and such.
HHS then granted OCR the authority to conduct RFRA compliance reviews and pursue “other actions as may be necessary to facilitate and ensure compliance with RFRA,” the report explained.
Fox News said the HHS internal memo is to be made public soon, but HHS declined to respond to a request for comment.
It claims that the Biden administration is concerned about agencies misusing their authorities.
“Prior to the delegation in 2017, no division was singularly responsible for the Department’s compliance with RFRA or the First Amendment,” the memo states. “That model recognized that all components of HHS had a responsibility for compliance and that OGC [Office of General Counsel] was a central partner in providing key legal advice on RFRA and defending the Department when RFRA claims were raised. 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.”
While Becerra claimed during his Senate confirmation hearing he would protect religious liberty, he’s already, not even a year into Biden’s term, been accused of reneging.
Roger Severino, who held Becerra’s position under Trump, told Fox News, “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. 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.”
Barack Obama’s administration put those Catholic nuns in a bull’s-eye for their rejection of Obamacare requirements they pay for abortifacients for employees, and their dispute essentially has been in the court system since. They’ve won at the Supreme Court but a couple of states have tried to circumvent that ruling.
Severino also told Fox News, “Because Becerra was twice found to have violated conscience protection laws by OCR, he has no business deciding its religious freedom authorities given his massive conflict of interest. Becerra told Congress that he values religious freedom and that nothing will change with OCR concerning enforcement. His actions since then prove that he lied and this move would put an exclamation point on his anti-religious hostility.”
Fox News said another former HHS official spoke on the condition of anonymity that, “In the past, HHS trampled the rights of religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor by forcing them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives against their religious convictions. … Revoking OCR’s authority to enforce RFRA within HHS is another step in dismantling safeguards within the federal government for people of faith.”
Becerra, in fact, was the one who sued the Little Sisters in their fight against Obamacare’s mandates.
Becerra, while a California official, also was found to have violated conscience protections related to abortion in Medicaid and insurance coverage.
But as soon as he was in charge of HHS, Becerra vacated that Medicaid decision by the department.
Further, he’s dropped a fully developed and almost-won legal case over a Vermont nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion.
Fox News warned, “HHS’ recent memo indicates that the new rule would also help reverse Trump-era protections related to gender and sexuality.”
Specifically, the memo cites “equity,” stating: “While nothing in RFRA legally restricts an agency to work proactively to address a complainant’s (or ‘would be’ complainant’s) religious needs or rights, there is a serious concern that such an approach broadens the effect of RFRA in a way that may not be legally required and while causing significant detriment to civil rights and public health protections.”
It specifically cites exemptions to “nondiscrimination requirements” for child welfare agencies.
That issue also was in the news recently, with a ruling from the Supreme Court that demolished a move by the city of Philadelphia to “cancel” Christian foster care agencies that refused city demands to violate their biblical standards and refer children to unmarried or same-sex couples.
That court said those actions and beliefs are protected by the First Amendment.
“The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that ‘Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise’ of religion,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in a dispute that attracted multiple opinions – all ending with the same result.
“As an initial matter, it is plain that the city’s actions have burdened (Catholic Social Services’) religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.”
He said, “Government fails to act neutrally when it proceeds in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature.”
The city had threatened to use its “nondiscrimination” law to discriminate against CSS and cut off its participation in foster care needs, even though the agency had helped the city for more than 50 years already, because it would not refer children to same-sex duos.