On January 16, a day President Donald Trump proclaimed 'Religious Freedom Day', reports emerged that his administration plans to bestow the freedom to discriminate to workers in health care fields, protecting individuals who discriminate against transgender patients, refuse to be involved with abortion services, or refuse any other medical services due to moral or religious objections.
Roger Severino, Trump's highly controversial Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services, reportedly is spearheading a reorganization of the division to enforce compliance and dole out punishments to organizations that might violate the new protections.
Not only would this new office "punish organizations that don’t allow" health care workers "to express their moral objections," but it would "also conduct outreach and technical support to help others who are seeking to strengthen protections for these workers," Politico reports.
What are the practical implications of this move?
[A] taxpayer-funded arm of the federal government might actively partner with, for example, the Family Research Council to help undermine the civil rights of transgender patients or women seeking abortion services. It could be like OSHA but instead of ensuring safe working conditions it would ensure health care workers are allowed to discriminate against transgender people and women seeking abortions.
"Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court," Louise Melling, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification. These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.