President Trump already has addressed a list of the concerns of evangelical Christians, one of his largest blocs of support.
He’s overturned Obama’s mandates that religious groups fund abortion and that public schools allow boys into girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.
He’s refocused the priority of the refugee program from receiving Muslims from Muslims countries to receiving Christians who are being persecuted in Muslim countries.
He allows Bible studies for his staff, he’s recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and he’s made an issue of using the words “Merry Christmas.”
He’s working on limiting transgenders in the military.
Now he’s going one step further, creating a Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within HHS’ Office of Civil Rights to protect health care providers from being forced to provide services that violate their faith.
The move could lead to new protections for Christian bakers who refuse to violate their faith and promote same-sex “weddings,” venue owners who do the same, faith-based universities caught in “equal protection” cases and pro-life organizations told they must promote abortion.
Michael Adams of SAGE, a team of activists for the homosexual and lesbian lifestyle, said the announcement “allowing healthcare providers to deny LGBT, and especially, transgender patients and others critical care in the name of religion – is a horrifying next step.”
He suggested Christians should be forced to provide services that homosexuals demand.
“Everyone has the freedom, under the First Amendment, to practice their religion, but when deep morals or religious convictions overshadow the responsibility to provide care to sick and dying people, it is dangerous for our nation.”
Rea Carey of the National LGBTQ Task Force echoed the criticism.
“We are not fooled: The new office announced this morning is meant to make it easier for people to discriminate, not to protect people of faith. Health professionals have a duty to care for all their patients regardless of one’s gender identity, sexual orientation, faith, creed, race, political views, gender, or disability, and no one should be denied care for being who they are.”
Likewise, Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights blasted the president.
“Discrimination is not an American value, period. This proposed rule would allow providers to ignore their medical training and guidelines, and instead allow their personal religious beliefs to determine how a patient should be treated.”
On the other side, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom said: “One of the freedoms Americans have cherished most is the freedom to live according to their faith and conscience, free from government coercion. That freedom is what separates America from so many other nations.
“For that reason, we commend HHS for creating its new Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within its Office of Civil Rights. Over recent years, we have seen the government repeatedly violate constitutionally protected freedoms. Government should serve as freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat. This new office will help ensure that HHS acts in accordance with its duty to honor Americans’ freedom of religion and conscience rather than coerce nuns, faith-based universities, Christian-run family businesses, and pro-life organizations to speak and live contrary to their own beliefs”
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council explained: “Religious liberty isn’t found in political proclamations, but in the policies they inspire. Today is another moment in which President Trump’s promises are becoming a reality. The formation of a new HHS division devoted to enforcing civil rights and conscience laws demonstrates that we have a president committed to the Constitution and the values it protects.
“Under President Obama, the federal government failed to enforce federal laws in place to ensure hard working Americans aren’t unfairly punished by the government for simply seeking to live their lives according to their beliefs. This is a freedom that has been a fundamental part of our society since the beginning of our nation and is cemented in federal law.”
He continued: “Healthcare providers and others protected under federal conscience laws should be greatly encouraged that HHS will address any government actions taken against those who have objections to participating in an abortion or purchasing health insurance that includes abortion. Americans should not be forced to choose between their faith and their desire to help patients.”
At the Christian Medical and Dental Association, spokesman David Stevens said, “Our members have been discriminated against and some have even lost positions for speaking out.”
CMDA Vice President Jonathan Imbody explained: “Some today would portray religious freedom as just one of many rights to be balanced with or even subordinated to other factors, especially in cases involving controversial social issues. But our Constitution’s framers wisely recognized that religious freedom must rise above cultural clashes and political debates as a foundational, natural and unalienable right.
“If the government or others can tell us what to believe, prevent us from exercising our core convictions or coerce us into acting against our conscience, what remains of our freedom?”
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said it will provide protections so that healthcare providers cannot be forced to do abortion, for one thing.
Likewise, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Trump “highlighted America’s forgotten men and women, the people who have felt strangely exempted from the promises of the American dream.”
“Too many of our countrymen have watched their industries, schools, and communities wither under policies engineered by an administration that chronically underestimated our people,” Collins said.
As the government announced the move, HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan described a scenario that would need to be addressed.
“For too long, too many health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and moral convictions, leading many of them to wonder what future they have in our medical system. The federal government and state governments have hounded religious hospitals and the men and women who staff them, forcing them to provide or refer for services that violate their consciences, when they only wish to serve according to their religious beliefs,” Hargan said.
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said one of the first issues that should be tackled is the California law that demands pro-life crisis pregnancy centers promote abortion.