U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The announcement took place at HHS headquarters and was livestreamed (video below). Speakers included Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Representative Vicky Hartzler, Senator James Lankford, OCR Director Roger Severino, and special guests.

The press release about the new division follows below:

The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom. OCR is the law enforcement agency within HHS that enforces federal laws protecting civil rights and conscience in health and human services, and the security and privacy of people’s health information. The creation of the new division will provide HHS with the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

OCR already has enforcement authority over federal conscience protection statutes, such as the Church, Coats-Snowe, and Weldon Amendments; Section 1553 of the Affordable Care Act (on assisted suicide); and certain federal nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion in a variety of HHS programs.

OCR Director Severino said, “Laws protecting religious freedom and conscience rights are just empty words on paper if they aren’t enforced. No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice. For too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection, but change is coming and it begins here and now.”

Acting HHS Secretary Hargan said, “President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom. That promise is being kept today. The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free, and OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality.”

More information about the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division can be found on the HHS website here: www.hhs.gov/conscience

WATCH OCR New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division Announcement:

Alisa Williams is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Photo: video still

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8518

I have been staring at this story for several days now, and, after initially browsing it, went on to church political - always guaranteed to get a lot of heat going. So, now I was wondering what is being said here , and still find total silence.

Isn’t anyone, who is worried about being bombarded by Sunday laws, exceedingly happy that won’t happen? Are we silent because this doesn’t follow the SDA narrative? Isn’t the government supposed to be zeroing in on the SDA church by now, seeing that it’s been 174 years since the beginning of the pre-advent judgment?

How about the left-coast contingent of the church - aren’t you happy that freedom of conscience is being reaffirmed? Or, doesn’t this fit your narrative either - Trump, being the irreverent bad-boy in charge of the country, who couldn’t possibly accomplish anything.

Well, I think this is great news.


Well said. I agree with your observations and conclusions regarding the lack of comments on this story.

I think you narrowed in on why there aren’t comments on this to date.

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History only repeats itself because humans repeatedly fail to learn from it. God’s former SDA champion against Sunday Laws in America, Alonzo Jones, was also an avid student of history. He was also an avid student of Christ. So, he would have recognized this latest move to enforce religious liberty for what it is. That is, the beginning of the end of religious liberty in the U.S. because, this is a ‘call it what it ain’t’ world.

Years ago, when an insurance company in my state got caught repeatedly throwing away claims, my republican governor at that time appointed a chief executive of that corporation to be in charge of insurance regulation.

So, Jones would have recognized this apparent ‘ebb’ in opposition to religious liberty as merely the calm before the ‘tide’ rushes back in against it. Bait in the trap. If ‘liberty’ is ‘enforced’, then how does it remain ‘liberty’ ?

Read what Jones told the SDA General Conference in 1895 regarding this principle:

“Now I lay it down as a principle that the aim of Christianity is not to civilize anybody.
Christianity aims alone at Christianizing men.
And it is better, a thousand times, to have one Christian savage,
than to have a whole nation of savage Christians.
This appears paradoxical, I admit.
Therefore allow me to explain, for it is correct. . . .” A.T. Jones, 3rd Angel’s Message #4, 1895

And, from 3rd AM # 5:

“This illustrates the principles which we are studying: That Christianity, if held faithfully by those who profess it, will exert upon those who are not Christianized by it, upon those who make no pretensions to Christianity at all, an influence for good, that will elevate them above savagery and above the base principles and ways of civilized paganism.” {February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.1}

“Macaulay discovered the principle, too, and expressed it in a sentence that is one of the most powerful human statements there is in literature in favor of Christianity. In writing of India, in a certain place he makes this remark: “A man needs not to be a Christian to desire that Christianity should be spread in India.” That tells the whole story. Now a Christian wants Christianity spread in India for Christ’s sake, for the sake of souls who will be Christianized. The man who is not a Christian can well wish for Christianity to be in India, for the sake of the poor heathen that would be elevated, even if they do not become Christians. That is the thought.”
{February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.2}

“But the mischief has always been and it is yet that Christianity is not taken and held for what it is by those who profess it; God is not given large enough place in the profession of it by those who profess it, and by not being given large enough place, He does not have any chance to demonstrate the real power of Christianity in these people who do not give him the place that belongs to him in which He would demonstrate the divinity of Christianity with power that would convince.”
{February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.3}

“Then men finding the loss of that divine power and influence they go about to do by themselves and by human power the things that would be done by the Lord if only they would give him the place that belongs to him in their profession. That is why professed Christians must put themselves forward and propose to legislate or get into office or manage and dictate to those who do legislate or are in office. And all to give things “a Christian mold,” and make it influential in elevating the people and bring cities, states and nations around to the right way. But that is putting themselves in the place of Jesus Christ; that is putting themselves in the place of God. And that is the papacy over again; that is the beast or his image one or the other, as the case may be, wherever you find it.”
{February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.4}

“Let those who name the name of Christ do it in such integrity, in such absolute surrender to God, as will give to God all the place and Him alone all the place that belongs to him. Let the influence all be His; let the power all be His; let Him alone be looked to and depended upon to do all in all. Then Christians will see the power of God so manifest that they would be ashamed to put themselves forward to give mold or shape to the influence of Christianity.”
{February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.5}

“When people do not give the Lord the place which belongs to Him and therefore do not see what they expect to see, it is very natural that they should begin to think that they are better than the Lord and could do better than He does and so they must take hold and do the thing their Christianity fails to do. But that, I say again, and you see it plain enough, is only to leave God out, and put themselves in His place. And by leaving God out, they leave out His power, and by putting themselves in His place, they put into exercise their own power, and that is worldly, earthly, sensual, and at the last devilish.” {February 11, 1895 ATJ, GCB 84.6}

So, no, this is somber news. And no less so because there is a ‘Seventh-day Adventist’, ‘Republican’, and member of ‘The Horatio Alger Society’ serving in the cabinet of the current President of the U.S. . . .
How, then, can SDA’s possibly ‘protest’ against worldly ‘enforcement’ of ‘religious liberty’, now, no matter how anti-Christian and ugly that enforcement may become ?

The trap has sprung.

And the fact that our own SDA General Conference is also attempting to ‘enforce’ Adventist ‘Christianity’ on the organizations and, ultimately, the individuals, of our own church, shows that it chooses for us all to be caught in that trap. . . Double Whammy.

If ever their was a time to study SDA history, and to avoid repeating past mistakes,
it’s ‘yesterday’ !

First there was the ‘Blair Sunday-Rest Bill’ which developed from 1886-1888, or so.

Then there was the adoption of the Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments by Congress during the process of seeking to close the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago on Sundays.

Then from 1993 to today, there were, and are, the continuing efforts of ‘Christian’ organizations to declare the U.S. to be a ‘Christian Nation’ in order to bring in the false ‘Millenium’ before Jesus will return, reversing the Biblical order of events, and ‘leaving behind’ the millions who will ‘buy’ the lie. Christ’s ‘kingdom is’, still, ‘not of this world’, but, ‘within you’.

Jones and Waggoner, both, were in the front lines of Adventism to voice opposition to these repeated attacks on the ‘Kingdom of God’, who rules human actions from the very motives of the heart.
In to out, not out to in.

Then, just before Ellen was exiled to Australia, she got sick and had a vision on the date of the second annual National Religious Liberty Association meeting held in Battle Creek, Nov. 3, 1890.
She was shown ‘conditions existing in Battle Creek’, awoke – all well – the next day, but was unable to remember the vision regarding Battle Creek, except while writing in her diary. On December 7, 1890, at the final meeting of the NRLA, the voices of Jones and Waggoner were effectively silenced in the NRLA’s publication concerning religious liberty – American Sentinel – by the parliamentary maneuvers of their enemies within the SDA church.

By March 8, 1891 during the 29th Session of the SDA General Conference, and after being awakened by an angel, Ellen finally had a clear memory of her ‘Salamanca Vision’, and surprised those attending the early morning minister’s meeting. ‘Surprised’, not only by her presence, but by what she was able to tell them about the ‘secret’ dirty business going on involving compromises being made in the content of American Sentinel in order to appease non-SDAs, and gain their support for ‘religious liberty’ by removing ‘Adventist’, ‘Biblical’ and ‘Sabbath’ rhetoric from that Adventist, Bible-Sabbath-keepers’ publication. And, Ellen was surprised, also, to see A.F. Ballenger hold up the latest edition of the American Sentinal, an edition which she had only ever seen in her vision, 4 months earlier. . . ! ? How does God do that ?

The same way He, Himself, governs from within the ‘hearts’ of His people, outward, just as Waggoner and Jones tried to begin teaching us SDAs. But our GC still refuses to listen, or to teach us that Gospel. Instead, we still look to other churches, and to the ‘world’, for ideas on how to build God’s kingdom from the outside, in.

Under George W. Bush and Chief Justice John Roberts. corporations were given the legal status of ‘persons’. So, if your employer is a ‘corporation’ – which nearly all are – then that incorporated ‘person’ has rights of ‘conscience’, and since money always rules, employees will essentially have no rights to infringe on the conscientious religious freedom of their employers. . . . That’s how far it can go.

For a great documentary education on the diagnosis of corporations as ‘psychopathic’ ‘persons’ – according to World Health Organization criteria – check out the link. The history of the rise of the corporation in the U.S. mirrors the history of the Advent Movement. I believe the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville even warned against the rise of the corporation as the greatest threat to ‘Democracy in America’, also the title of his famous book published in 1835 during the birth of the ‘Advent Movement’. So, when the union of church and state (Oedipus Complex) was rejected, the union of the corporate industrialized economy with science (Electra Complex) simply filled in, until now, the whole incestuous, idolatrous ‘family’ is reuniting to bring ‘famine, sword, and plague’ upon the whole world. In 1982, Southern Missionary College changed its name to Southern College of Seventh-day Adventists, in order to give their graduates a better footing in ‘corporate America’, when the ‘flip side’ of that cultural ‘coin’ is ‘the divine right of kings’ and the ‘papacy’ . . . OOPS !

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Well, I see this news very differently. This strikes me as more of the “Hobby Lobby” and “anti-gay” strategy which allows retailers and employers to deny services and/or healthcare coverage to individuals they believe are violating God’s commandments (I won’t bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding, I won’t pay for healthcare that includes abortion coverage, and so on). How far can this go? Right now employees who keep the Sabbath are protected from punishment for their beliefs, not employers. Employees are not necessarily protected for their beliefs from employers any longer. If I believe there are cases in which abortion is appropriate, or that given the nature of the procedure a woman’s body should not be coopted by government legislation whatever she decides, my beliefs are over ridden. The employer’s beliefs trump the employees. That’s a change which does not bode well for the kind of religious freedom SDA’s have championed. Or am I misreading this?


@JXLB, I’d say you’re reading the situation correctly. The 48-minute YouTube video of the ceremony to announce this new division was quite…interesting.

Oh, could not bear to listen to all that, but maybe I should when I want my blood pressure to skyrocket!


Amen! Well said and this should be applauded.

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