Religious conscience objections 10 times as high since HHS launched new division

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More than 300 healthcare workers have complained to the Health and Human Services Department about employers infringing on their religious or conscience rights, a monthly total that increased nearly tenfold.

The spike follows the creation last month of a new division within the HHS Office of Civil Rights that focuses on enforcing religious freedom in the workplace by investigating worker complaints.

The new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division received more than 300 complaints since launching Jan. 18, The Hill reported this week.

That newspaper said similar complaints totaled 34 for the month of November 2016, when President Donald Trump won election.

“We've announced to the world that we're open for business and the public is responding," Roger Severino, the director of the Office of Civil Rights, told The Hill.

The new division is aimed at supporting healthcare workers who would refuse to provide abortion services or other procedures that conflict with their faith. Opponents argue that the protections could become a license to discriminate against women, gay and transgender people, including those who live in the nation's nursing homes.

"No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one's deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice," Severino said in announcing the new division.

Violations can result in a service provider losing government funding.