Evangelical Right Behind HHS’s New ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’ (Video)

“Religious freedom.”

It doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Who would be opposed to it?

In fact, the First Amendment makes it clear we have a tacit freedom of religion when its states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

There’s a reason it’s the first amendment.

But what if a law or societal practice runs counter to someone else’s religious beliefs?

Should that person be legally exempt from performing his or her duties on religious grounds?

Should a Jewish doctor be able to refuse care to a Palestinian?

Should an evangelical Christian doctor keep a terminally ill patient on life support in spite of the patient’s family’s wishes?

Should an anti-choice employer fire a female employee after he finds out she had an abortion?

Should a science teacher who does not believe in evolution or climate change be exempt from teaching them, or tell his or her students they’re “fake news?”

Should an English teacher be able to refuse to teach a required book because something in it interferes with the teacher’s religious beliefs?

So we should be thankful the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) formed a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, right?

According to the official announcement on the HHS website:

“The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.”

But the devil is in the details, as the saying goes.

The head of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Roger Severino, hopes to increase enforcement of laws that protect workers from being compelled to violate their consciences.

The HHS press release specifically invokes the Church, Coats-Snowe, and Weldon amendments, protecting healthcare employees and providers who refuse to perform, pay for, or train doctors on abortion and sterilization techniques.

According to The Atlantic:

“It also mentions Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act [aka Obamacare], which protects those who object to medically assisted suicide.”

In the press release, Severino said:

“For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection. But change is coming and it begins here and now.”

It’s important to note Severino used to work at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which attacked ACA provisions pertaining to abortion and contraception coverage.

So it’s not actually about allowing people to freely practice their religion unfettered; it’s about allowing them to impose their religious beliefs on others regardless of legal exceptions in situations where their religions should be irrelevant.

And the evangelical Christian right giving Donald Trump a “mulligan” for having sex with porn actress Stormy Daniels is behind it.

So much for “freedom.”

Just get a doctor with your same beliefs and you’re all set.

Image credit: fayette.allongeorgia.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.