A memo reportedly coming from Director of the Office for Civil Rights, Lisa Pino, appears to suggest that the office will have its delegation as overseer of religious liberty violations rescinded.
In 2017, former president Trump delegated the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to prevent, and oversee complaints regarding, violations of religious liberty. Now with a new director, the office appears to be set to return those duties to the Department of Health and Human Services at large.
"Prior to the delegation in 2017, " the draft memo reads, "no division was singularly responsible for the Department’s compliance with RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) or the First Amendment." It goes on to suggest that under that system, "all components of HHS had a responsibility for compliance."
"Rescinding the delegation to OCR does not lessen the commitment of the Department to compliance," the memo continues, "but ensures that it is not misused by any one agency to enact a broad, proactive agenda."
According to Fox News, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions also gave the OCR authority to "initiate such other actions as may be necessary to facilitate and ensure compliance with RFRA," which Pino argues "broadens the effect of RFRA in a way that may not be legally required and while causing significant detriment to civil rights and public health protections."
Pino says in her memo that via the use of RFRA, the Trump administration discriminated against marginalized groups, by allowing "broad-based exemptions from nondiscrimination requirements to child welfare agencies challenges the ability of children and youth to obtain safe and loving foster and adoptive homes."
She goes on the state that removing the OCR delegation "demonstrates our belief that RFRA is meant to be a shield to protect the freedom of religion, not a sword to impose religious beliefs on others without regard for third party harms, including civil rights."
Religious liberty has long clashed with other civil rights, with some arguing that the former encroach too often on the latter. Others argue, however, that religious liberty is part of the First Amendment, and thus should be upheld no matter the cost.
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