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How the Biden Administration Is Using Regulations to Erode Religious Freedom

The Biden administration has implemented or is seeking to implement multiple regulations that would severely restrict religious freedom.
Matt Bowman
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The Biden administration has implemented or is seeking to implement multiple regulations that would severely restrict religious freedom.

The federal government seems to grow larger every year. Not just through trillions in spending, but in how it regulates our daily lives.

Agency “regulations,” although they are not laws, have significant effects on the way Americans conduct business or live their lives.

The Biden administration has done little to hide the fact that its own regulations—and efforts to undo President Trump’s reforms—are aimed at advancing an aggressive cultural agenda many Americans disagree with.

Below is a snapshot of seven regulations expected anytime now, and the chilling effect they will have on those who live and work according to their deeply held beliefs.


Section 1557 of Obamacare

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services

Shortly after he took office, President Biden issued an executive order instructing his administration to reinterpret “sex” in federal laws to mean “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

This new interpretation also affects the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Section 1557 of that law bans sex discrimination, but the regulation would expand that to create a scenario in which doctors and other health care professionals could be forced to act against their medical judgment, religious beliefs, and conscience in performing controversial and often medically dangerous abortions or “gender transition” interventions on patients—including children.

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed suit in federal court against HHS on behalf of the American College of Pediatricians, the Catholic Medical Association, and an OB-GYN doctor who specializes in caring for adolescents.


Contraceptive Mandate (Abortion Pill Mandate)

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services

In another Obamacare rule, the Obama administration infamously tried to force businesses and even nuns to cover early abortifacient drugs and contraception in their employee health plans. President Trump fixed that, issuing regulations that take those religious and moral burdens away, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his rules in July 2020.

But President Biden has promised to eliminate President Trump’s broad exemptions and reimpose this mandate, regardless of Supreme Court decisions going the other way—a blatant targeting of religious and moral objectors.


Title IX

Issued by the Department of Education

The Biden administration’s reinterpretation of sex also has grave effects on schools at every level.

A Department of Education regulation would force women to compete against males in athletics, and even to share private spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, and dorm rooms with males. The redefinition of sex also has free speech implications since those who refuse to address an individual with their “chosen pronoun” could become a target for discrimination claims.

ADF attorneys are representing a female athlete at West Virginia State University who intervened in a federal lawsuit to defend the state’s Save Women’s Sports Act.


HHS Grants Rule

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services

A Christian foster care and adoption agency in Tennessee is challenging a rule that requires it to violate its religious beliefs or lose critical funding. ADF represents Holston United Methodist Home for Children in a federal lawsuit.

Even though Holston Home is a nationally accredited Christian nonprofit that cares for abused and neglected children, the Biden administration has revived an Obama-era rule that requires faith-based agencies to violate their beliefs by placing children in homes that do not align with the Christian faith.

All of this comes despite a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 2021 that found the City of Philadelphia cannot exclude Catholic Social Services from its foster care referrals due to its religious beliefs.


Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry Rule

Issued by the Department of Education

Public universities should not dictate how student organizations select their leaders.

A Trump-era rule relieved the burden that public universities impose on student organizations, to ensure they can be free from school interference, but the Biden administration is seeking to repeal that rule to reimpose this burden. ADF attorneys representing Ratio Christi, a nationwide apologetics organization, have asked to intervene in a lawsuit in order to help defend religious freedom for student clubs.


Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations

Issued by nine federal agencies, led by the Department of Justice

Another Trump-era rule that relieved federal burdens on religious organizations in the crosshairs of the Biden administration. The “Equal Treatment” rule ensures that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally when applying for federal funding.

It also clarifies that religious organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities. Losing this protection, as the Biden administration will propose, could mean that faith-based organizations would be forced to violate their beliefs in hiring practices or abandon funding they deliver to the most needy of Americans.


Conscience Rule

Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services

Religious freedom does not stop at the door to a doctor’s office or health insurance plan.

A rule from the Trump administration was enacted to enforce federal law and relieve the burden on medical professionals and employers when they are forced to participate in or pay for abortions or other procedures that violate their conscience. But President Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to repeal that rule, and has already taken several actions refusing to enforce these health care conscience laws in the face of blatant violations.

ADF attorneys are representing a church in California that is being illegally forced by the state to cover abortions in its health insurance plan. The Biden administration decided in 2021 to fund California even though its coercive policy violates federal law.

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Matt Bowman
Senior Counsel
Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family.