Atheists Denounce Trump Administration’s New “Religious Freedom” Office and Dangerous New Rules Promoting Discrimination

Washington, DC—As part of its continued assault on LGBTQ people and women under the guise of “religious freedom,” the Trump administration has announced the creation of a new “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division” within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The new division would be charged with shielding medical professionals who refuse to treat patients because of religious objections.

In addition, HHS is expected to announce a proposed rule change that would allow healthcare providers to discriminate against patients and deny treatment on the basis of religious objections.

The rule change would roll back Obama-era regulations that provided non-discrimination protections for individuals receiving healthcare services. Prior to these regulations, healthcare providers were able to use “conscience” exceptions to deny access to birth control, treatment for HIV and AIDS, and end-of-life care; discriminate against transgender patients and even deny emergency ambulance services to a woman seeking an abortion.

“The Trump administration seems to define religious freedom as the ability to freely discriminate against LGBTQ people and women,” said Alison Gill, legal and policy director for American Atheists. “I have no doubt that changing this rule will cost people their lives. Medical evidence, not religious dogma, should be deciding medical care.”

So-called “conscience” protections are the latest tactic being used by the Religious Right to undermine civil rights laws and equal protection. In a proclamation for National Religious Freedom Day, the Trump administration said that Americans could pick and choose which laws to follow on the basis of their religious beliefs, a sentiment echoed by Roger Severino, the director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, in a statement announcing the proposed changes.

“These changes fly in the face of established law and court precedent. This new office and the proposed rule don’t protect religious freedom. They merely elevate one particular set of religious views—namely that LGBTQ people are sinful and that abortion is immoral—above all others, and weaponize it against vulnerable people,” added Gill. “The Office for Civil Rights should try focusing on protecting civil rights instead of wasting time and money to undermine them.”

Severino, the chief architect of the proposed HHS rule, has previously worked to expand religious exemptions and undermine basic civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people.

Seven banned words at the CDC: A rationale

Hypothetically speaking, the rationale for the CDC being barred from using the following 7 words/terms may be less nefarious than it appears on the surface:

Evidence-based and science-based: Whose evidence? What science? Perhaps the request is that the science and evidence must be specific and must be good science. In other words, avoiding junk-science or evidence produced by the plague of predatory journals in existence today.

Fetus: The problem here may be that the legal definition of fetus is disputed? The ACLU discusses the terminology of this slippery slope here:

Transgender: A quick review of legal articles reveals transgender issues are “legal heaven.” In other words, the laws are evolving and may differ among states. Perhaps the word is to be avoided for legal reasons until all this is ironed out.

Diversity, Entitlement, Vulnerable: These words mean different things to different groups. The language may just be too non-specific. As we sort out so many social issues at this time in history, it may just be a case of “covering your ass.”