The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) is considering revoking authority the former Trump administration delegated for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to prevent violations of religious liberty – prompting concerns about conscience protections under Secretary Xavier Becerra.
A draft memo obtained by Fox News targets two actions related to the the First Amendment from earlier this year, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits federal infringements on the free exercise of religion.
The RFRA delegation came on Dec. 7, 2017, in response to the administration’s broader efforts to beef up religious liberty protections. Citing President Trump’s executive order on the issue, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided executive agencies with a long list of guidelines on RFRA, free exercise claims, contraception in insurance plans and other issues.
HHS followed by granting OCR authority to, among other things, conduct RFRA compliance reviews and “initiate such other actions as may be necessary to facilitate and ensure compliance with RFRA.”
HHS’ internal memo is expected to be rolled out this week, according to a source familiar. It argues that the former administration may have over-expanded OCR’s authority and signals intent to repeal Trump-era initiatives.
The memo is addressed to Becerra and comes from OCR Director Lisa Pino, a political appointee announced in September. A former Obama administration official, she was also appointed an executive deputy commissioner at the New York Department of Health.
HHS did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the draft of the internal memo.