HHS Announces Formation of ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’

By Nancy Flory Published on January 18, 2018

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will extend new rights to health care workers. The protections come via the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). HHS announced the new division this morning.

Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

The division allows officials to enforce protecting rights of conscience and religious freedom. As The Stream reported, health care workers won’t have to take part in procedures against their moral or religious beliefs. For instance, abortions or sex change procedures. The division will also protect the security and privacy of people’s health information.

The OCR can now protect workers and punish employers that “don’t allow them to express their religious and moral objections.” This is a big change from the OCR’s former policy. It only enforced federal civil rights and health care privacy laws.

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OCR Director Roger Severino said if laws protecting conscience rights are not enforced, they’re just words on paper. “No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions,” he said.

He added that “for too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection.”

President Trump previously promised to “uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom.”

“That promise is being kept today,” said acting HHS Secretary Hargan. “The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free.”

“OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality,” he added.

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