A newly leaked internal memo from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows just how authorities under the Biden administration want to revise the First Amendment and make changes to religious liberty protections under its rights.
The leaked memo showed the government's plans to "sign delegation of authority on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and religion clause of the First Amendment" to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford showed displeasure on these new developments, claiming that it would endanger Americans' religious liberty protections and disregard the First Amendment.
"I am an outspoken advocate for religious liberty, and I have a very 'negative reaction' to this Administration ignoring the First Amendment and failing to protect Americans of conscience," Sen. Lankford wrote in a statement, as reported by CBN News. "Americans do not support President Biden and his team's absolute lawlessness when it comes to upholding Americans' Constitutional rights-including our right to freely live our faith."
The leaked memo from the HHS was written by OCR director Lisa J. Pino and recognizes the potential backlash the changes to the First Amendment rights and religious protections will create. The memo said, "The action will likely be well-received among civil rights advocates and litigators, as well as groups advocating for the separation of church and state."
The memo also read that groups who were in favor of the Trump administration's "broad view of the application of RFRA" and those who would "interpret this action as an indication that the Department is abdicating its responsibility for compliance with RFRA" will most likely have "strong negative reactions" to the changes.
The memo recognized that among those who will have such reactions are members of Congress who have spoken out against the OCR's conscience and religious freedom activities and those who have challenged the OCR's organizational structure and legal authorities.
The leaked HHS memo called on its Secretary Xavier Becerra to immediately sign it. However, Sec. Becerra claimed he would support religious liberty. When he was narrowly confirmed by the Senate with a 50-49 vote, he pledged to defend religious protections, saying, "I will not only respect the law when it comes to these issues of religious freedom, but I will enforce them as Secretary of HHS within my department."
Sen. Lankford, however, remains doubtful as he not only refused to support Sec. Becerra's confirmation, but also voiced his concern over the secretary's "hostility toward conscience protections and lack of experience to lead the agency." The senator argued that the memo is proof that the OCR no longer has intentions of upholding the civil rights of Americans.
As per Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver, the RFRA is a crucial legal obstacle for the Biden administration, as it hinders them from enforcing the federal COVID vaccine mandate.
According to the Christian Post, the Trump administration's HHS civil rights office leader Roger Severino also expressed disapproval over the leaked memo, taking to Twitter to share that the Biden administration "declared open season on people of faith some time ago, this would make it official."