WASHINGTON – The Department of Health and Human Services has a new powerful branch that's gearing up to vigorously enforce laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.
The announcement of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, made Thursday, is garnering broad support from the pro-life community.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., were two lawmakers to speak at an official announcement ceremony.
"The free exercise of religion seems to be misunderstood by some," said Lankford. "It's not the ability to have a religion and practice it in your place of worship. It's the ability to be able to have a faith and live your faith wherever you are."
The creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division comes as a result of the religious freedom executive order President Trump signed in May.
"I'm grateful to the administration," said Lankford. "I'm grateful to the leadership at HHS for the task that you're taking on."
In his speech, McCarthy also thanked the administration and HHS and spoke of the new direction they're moving in.
"In the past, this department's silent refusal to defend our rights sent a very clear message: 'Now is not the time for freedom. It is time for you to conform.' What a difference one year makes," he said.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., echoed those sentiments.
"A society and citizenry that can live with its conscience is one that is not coerced by an employer or anyone within the government to disregard the framework of faith and the pricking of the human conscience or forced to engage in actions that violate the very core of their being," she said.
Rev. Sammy Rodriguez called the move "powerful," and told CBN News he thinks President Trump is building a "firewall" to protect people of faith.
Mat Staver with the Liberty Counsel called the news "refreshing and exciting," adding that the Trump administration should be commended.
The Alliance Defending Freedom released this statement: "We commend HHS for creating its new Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within its Office of Civil Rights. Over recent years, we have seen the government repeatedly violate constitutionally protected freedoms. Government should serve as freedom’s greatest protector, not its greatest threat."
If you feel like you've faced discrimination as it relates to healthcare, religion and conscience, you can reach out the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints.