Has Your Conscience or Religious Freedom Been Violated?
How to File a Conscience Complaint
Filing a complaint is a simple, straightforward proposition: You tell your story of what happened--who, what, when, where.
Maybe as a result of conscience or relgious faith issues, you were:
- pressured to participate in a conscientiously objectionable action or referral;
- denied privileges;
- denied admission to an educational or training program;
- denied tenure;
- subjected to any other form of discrimination based on your conscience and religious convictions.
Even if your story occurred decades ago, you can still report it, since investigating conscience discrimination cases is not legally constrained by a lapse of time.
No need for legalese, no complicated forms. You can file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights--online or via mail, fax, or e-mail. Learn more about how to file a complaint.
- 2008 Conscience Rule (Bush)
- Health Professionals' Comments on Need for 2008 Proposed Rule
- 2011 Conscience Rule* (Obama)
- Freedom2Care Analysis of 2011 Rule
- 2019 Conscience Rule* (Trump)
- Freedom2Care Comment on 2019 Proposed Rule
*2019 Conscience Rule Vacated
Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Content last reviewed on November 8, 2019
On January 26, 2018, the HHS Office for Civil Rights published a notice of proposed rulemaking entitled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority.” After 60 days of public comment, OCR published a final rule on May 21, 2019.
That rule was challenged in federal court. In November 2019, before the rule became effective, a federal court vacated the 2019 final conscience rule. Under court order, the 2019 rule will remain vacated and not in effect unless OCR receives further direction from the courts.
At the same time, OCR can and will continue to receive and investigate complaints under its 2011 conscience rule and HHS’s statutory authority under conscience and religious freedom laws enacted by Congress, to the extent not prohibited by court order. One court stated, “The 2011 Rule, which has governed HHS’s administration of the Conscience Provisions for eight years and is unaffected by this decision, will remain in place, and continue to provide a basis for HHS to enforce these laws” (New York v. HHS, No. 19-cv-4676-PAE doc # 248 (S.D.N.Y. Nov 6, 2019 at *144).
HHS Issues Proposed Rule to Align Grants Regulation with Nondiscrimination Laws
From news release, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), November 1, 2019: "In the proposed rule, HHS would repromulgate most of the provisions of the 2016 rulemaking verbatim. HHS would revise two provisions of the 2016 rulemaking to require grantees to comply with applicable nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law, including legislation ensuring the protection of religious liberty, and to provide that HHS complies with all applicable Supreme Court decisions in administering its grant programs.
"The proposed rule represents the Trump Administration's strong commitment to the rule of law―the Constitution, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions. These require that the federal government not infringe on religious freedom in its operation of HHS grant programs and address the impact of regulatory actions on small entities."
Comments must be submitted on or before [anticipated deadline is December 10, 2019].
ADDRESSES: Comments must be identified by RIN 0991-AC16 and submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov. Follow the “Submit a comment” instructions.
Labor Issues Religious Freedom Protection Rule
News Release: U.S. Department of Labor | August 14, 2019
U.S. Department of Labor Proposes a Rule Clarifying Civil Rights Protections for Religious Organizations
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking intended to clarify the civil rights protections afforded to religious organizations that contract with the federal government. The proposed rule ensures that conscience and religious freedom are given the broadest protection permitted by law. The proposed rule is currently available for public inspection and will be published in the Federal Registertomorrow, August 15, 2019.
The proposed rule is rooted in statute, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a critical, protective exemption for religious organizations. A similar exemption is included in Executive Order 11246 and OFCCP’s regulations, which govern certain employment practices of federal contractors. Recent Supreme Court decisions - Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores - further address the protections afforded religious organizations and individuals under the Constitution and federal law. Executive Orders 13798, Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, and 13831, Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, along with U.S. Department of Justice guidance, likewise instruct federal agencies to protect religious exercise and not impede it.
In keeping with that rich history, the proposed rule would clarify that religious organizations may make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government. The proposal also reaffirms employers’ obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases and does not exempt or excuse a contractor from complying with any other requirements.
“Today’s proposed rule helps to ensure the civil rights of religious employers are protected,” Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella remarked. “As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law.”
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Craig Leen said, “OFCCP is consistently looking for ways to bring clarity and certainty to federal contractors, and this proposal falls squarely within that effort. The rulemaking process allows the public opportunity to comment on the proposal and impact any potential final rule.”
Consistent with the President’s policy to enforce the robust protections for religious freedom found in federal law, the proposed rule states that it should be construed to provide the broadest protection of religious exercise recognized by the Constitution and other laws, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Comments were submitted by September 16, 2019.