Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott said Thursday that President Trump is attempting to "legalize discrimination," citing the administration's creation of a religious liberty division in the Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS on Thursday formally announced the office, which will be housed inside the Office of Civil Rights, fulfilling an executive order President Trump signed last year. The new office will help doctors and other providers who do not want to perform services that violate their religious or moral beliefs such as abortions or transgender surgery.
"This announcement must be examined as part of the administration's broader pattern of promoting discrimination," said Scott, D-Va., arguing there was no need for the office because there was no indication that any individual religious rights were being violated.
"These actions make clear that so-called ‘religious liberty’ and moral views are being used as a knife to cut down the rights of others. To be clear — this effort does not represent religious liberty; it is government-sanctioned discrimination."
Administration officials argued it was the other way around. "Too many of these healthcare practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs or moral convictions,” said acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan at an event at HHS in Washington on Thursday, adding that laws already existed to ensure the providers did not have to provide services that would violate their religious or moral beliefs. Hargan said the goal of the office would be to ensure those laws are "vigorously enforced."