WASHINGTON, January 30, 2018: How essential is the protection of rights of conscience and religious freedom to you, your family and/or your faith? In 2018, President Donald Trump and his administration made the decision that the free expression of one’s faith is not a minor or secondary matter to him. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) has created The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division to protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.
Locking away the free expression of Christian faith
Hobby Lobby’s Religious Freedom attacked
During the Obama administration, the former president placed a virtual lock on the free expression of Christian religions and used the power of the Justice Department to attack those freedoms. The best example of this criminalization of rights of conscience and religious freedom occurred when the Obama HHS sought a legal war against Hobby Lobby.
Hobby Lobby had openly opposed the HHS contraceptive and abortifacient drugs employer mandate. Hobby Lobby fought back.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court issued a 5–4 ruling in June 2014 against the administration’s attempt to coerce family-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby to provide abortifacients as a part of their employer health plans. The court based its ruling on The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).
The court ruled, “RFRA prohibits the Government [from] substantially burden[ing] a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person.”
Obamas’ administration kept up its assault upon Americans’ rights of conscience and religious freedom. It refused to grant the order of Catholic Nuns, The Little Sisters of the Poor a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s HHS mandate. The nuns’ ardent argument that the drugs would violate their conscience, because the Catholic Church teaching forbids their use. Their pleas fell on the administration’s deaf ears.
The Religious Freedom of The Little Sisters of the Poor
Fortunately for the Little Sisters of the Poor, the U.S. Supreme Court did listen and heard their pleas. In May 2016 the court vacated the Court of Appeals ruling in Zubik v. Burwell and sent the Little Sisters of the Poor and five other cases which had been consolidated back for reconsideration in their original courts.
That same year, Obama instructed his administration to oppose the Conscience Protection Act of 2016. The law would have amended the “Public Health Service Act to codify the prohibition against the federal government and state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance for health-related activities penalizing or discriminating against a health care provider based on the provider’s refusal to be involved in, or provide coverage for, abortion.”
In 2017, President Trump stood up for the Little Sisters of the Poor and all other organizations, businesses and nonprofits that stood up against the anti-religious freedom animus of the Obama administration. On May 4, 2107 Trump signed an executive order which the IRS not to take “adverse action” against religious organizations for political speech. In addition, he directed HHS to “consider issuing amended regulations” to address “conscience-based objections” to the contraception mandate.
The HHS Conscience and Religious Freedom Division
Finally, In January, President Trump put the last vestiges of the anti-religious freedom assault on Americans to rest with the creation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The mandate of the new office is to restore federal enforcement of the nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom.
Finally, the eight-year-long Obama administration national nightmare attack on rights of conscience and religious freedom can be legally put to rest.