The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has revoked certain faith-based exemptions for child welfare agencies as part of a broader move to roll back Trump-era protections on religious liberty.
Last week, Fox News reported on HHS’ interest in rescinding the Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) authority to enforce the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a landmark statute utilized in the former administration’s policies on sexuality and gender. An internal memo showed OCR Director Lisa Pino arguing that the delegation of authority led to improper decisions on those issues.
As of Wednesday, that revocation was noted in the Federal Register, and HHS had removed several waivers for faith-based organizations such as foster care agencies that refuse to work with same-sex couples. HHS said in a press release that the waivers, issued to South Carolina, Texas and Michigan, were overly broad and “inappropriate.”
“Our action ensures we are best prepared to protect every American’s right to be free of discrimination,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release Thursday. “With the large number of discrimination claims before us, we owe it to all who come forward to act, whether to review, investigate or take appropriate measures to protect their rights. At HHS, we treat any violation of civil rights or religious freedoms seriously.”
HHS’ latest move, which applies to groups that receive federal funding, will likely provoke greater congressional scrutiny as members have already criticized Becerra and introduced legislation to block his actions.
“President Biden and Secretary Becerra are ignoring the First Amendment,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said in a statement provided to Fox News. “This action solidifies that Secretary Becerra will not keep the commitment to protect religious freedom for every American that he made during his confirmation hearing.”
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