Trump Appoints Religious Liberty Defender Roger Severino to Head HHS Office for Civil Rights

religious freedom
Alex Brandon/AP

President Donald Trump has appointed freedom of conscience and religious liberty defender Roger Severino to head the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Severino, the former director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, has been especially known for his criticism of Obamacare’s “nondiscrimination” regulations on the basis of “gender identity.” The guidelines propose to penalize healthcare professionals who are morally and professionally opposed to sex change surgeries and treatments.

Severino and Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, observed in a report in 2016 that Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provides guidelines that “force many physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to participate in sex-reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if it violates their religious beliefs or their best medical judgment.”

“Moreover, because they apply so broadly, the regulations propose to also force employers, individuals, and taxpayers to fund coverage for such procedures even if doing so conflicts with their sincere beliefs,” Severino and Anderson added.

“It’s a super appointment. Roger Severino is a very balanced thinker who is also an experienced litigator,” said Family Research Council senior fellow Ken Blackwell, according to LifeSiteNews. Blackwell added Severino, who also worked as CEO and legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is “associated with some of the best thinkers in the area of civil rights policy.”

LGBT rights advocates criticized Severino’s appointment.

“I could not think of a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and public affairs at the Human Rights Campaign said, according to Yahoo. “Once again, Donald Trump is declaring war against our community by appointing anti-LGBTQ people at all levels of his administration.”

“The Office for Civil Rights at HHS is essential to ensuring that all people can lead healthy lives, free of discriminatory barriers,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, adding, “Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination based on race, sex, disability and age in health programs and activities, is key to achieving this goal. Strong and experienced leadership at OCR committed to fully enforcing Section 1557 is therefore critical. Mr. Severino is not that leader.”

Henderson added Severino’s appointment is “part of a disturbing trend by the Trump administration of naming people who disagree or outright oppose the mission or role of an agency or office to leadership positions within those entities.”

Writing at the Daily Signal last year on the issue of North Carolina’s bathroom privacy policy, Severino asserted, “The radical left is using government power to coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology over and above their right to privacy, safety, and religious freedom.”


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