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Senator Lankford Applauds New HHS Civil Rights Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today applauded the creation of the new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division is being established to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom. This Office for Civil Rights does not create new law, but rather enforces current law and investigates complaints of discrimination based on conscience violations.

“Health care providers who are Muslim, Sikh, Orthodox Jewish, or any other faith, deserve the right to provide medical care without violating their deeply held religious beliefs. For a nation as diverse as America, it is important for our civil rights laws to protect our First Amendment rights as much as possible. In America, we have the free exercise of religion—individuals cannot just have a faith, but they can also live out their faith outside of the confines of their home or place of worship. Today’s announcement is a welcomed change and positive step forward, but Congress still needs to do its job as well. We need to pass the Conscience Protection Act to further codify protections in law and ensure that an individual has a legal remedy to defend their constitutional rights.”

In February, Lankford introduced the Conscience Protection Act to protect health care providers, including health care professionals, entities and health insurance plans from government discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions. Lankford joined and spoke at today’s official announcement at HHS, along with Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and OCR Director Roger Severino.