The Health and Human Services Department has been Accused of Banning Negative Comments on Policy Supporting Religious Groups
Donna Karan is quoted as saying “delete the negative; accentuate the positive!” The Trump administration is taking this literally. A report by Politico says the Health and Human Services Department is refusing to publish more than 10,000 comments on a proposal that lifts regulations on religious and faith-based groups.
Currently the policy is if a religious or faith-based group provides health services wants to receive money from the federal government it cannot ban transgender patients, nor can it deny abortions, contraceptives, or any health service that may go against their religious beliefs.
The Trump administration, which has taken multiple steps to promote an agenda that gives increasingly favorable policies towards religious organizations, would like to give these groups the freedom to deny services. Their argument is that it puts religious organizations in a bind where they have to deny their religious doctrine in order to continue operating.
Opponents of changing the policy argue this would create government-sponsored discrimination. They also point out this was crafted by Shannon Royce, who has previously worked with Christian conservative groups like the Family Research Council, and this is based on a minority view of health procedures.
This may be why the HHS decided to publish only 80 of the comments that were submitted online, most of them supporting the decision to lift the ban. Only 6 of the comments were disapproving and an insider stated these were done at the last minute to create the appearance of balance. Comments were closed on November 24.
Opponents have claimed the E-Government Act does not allow the selective posting of online comments about a bill. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State made a public statement that this is grounds for a legal challenge to the decision.
This information comes at a time when the HHS is already being criticized for policy changes. Last week the Trump administration was accused of giving the Center for Disease control a list of words it could not use including “transgender” and “fetus.” The HHS, which is in charge of the CDC, responded this was not a ban but constructive feedback on phrasing for appealing to Republicans. Even so, this could sideline policies by the CDC and may reflect a conservative Christian bias in the choices made by the HHS.
The HHS has not commented on the banning of comments.