Invocation of Holocaust in Announcement of New "Conscience and Religious Freedom" Office is Deeply Offensive and Inappropriate

Invitation for Healthcare Providers to Discriminate Against Women, Trans People, and Others Continues Government's Assault on Civil Rights

New York, NY, January 18, 2018 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) finds remarks by Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today, who invoked the Holocaust in announcing the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, to be deeply offensive and inappropriate. This new unnecessary unit seems designed to make it easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, and others in the name of religion.And invoking the Holocaust to do so, adds insult to injury.

In remarks at a press conference, Severino said:

“There was one photograph in particular, which was an outline that looked like a footprint, and there was writing in Hebrew. And when I looked on the caption, it said it was a cutout of a shoe insole that the Nazis had forced Jews to wear on their shoes, so that every step they took, they will be violating their conscience. I could see the common humanity of why if somebody’s forced to violate their conscience in every step they take, how it’s an attack, really, on their human dignity."

ADL issued the following statement:

"The explicit invocation of the Holocaust today by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Director Roger Severino while announcing the creation of the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom at HHS is inappropriate and deeply offensive.

"This new unnecessary unit seems designed to make it easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, and others in the name of religion. For instance, healthcare providers could reject transgender patients for any kind of treatment simply because they are transgender.

"And to draw a moral equivalence between healthcare professionals who may object to providing critically needed services based on their own religion and the systemic murder of Jews by the Nazis is beyond the pale. HHS should be enforcing non-discrimination protections in federal health programs- not enabling discrimination.”

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all. 

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.