President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently introduced a directive that is raising concerns from a conservative perspective. The HHS has issued new “Gender Identity and Non-Discrimination Guidance,” instructing its employees to address transgender coworkers by their preferred pronouns. This policy, which encompasses approximately 80,000 employees in the United States and abroad, reflects a departure from the conservative belief in adhering to traditional understandings of gender.
The HHS’s email to its employees emphasizes that all workers should be addressed by the names and pronouns they choose to describe themselves, thus endorsing a view of gender that some conservatives argue defies biological reality. HHS Secretary Andrea Palm, in a video posted on YouTube, lauds the policy for enabling colleagues to “show up every day as their whole selves,” emphasizing the value of authenticity regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or disability status.
From a conservative perspective, there are concerns about the implications for religious freedom. The video and email do not clarify how the HHS plans to accommodate or exempt employees with religious objections to recognizing transgender individuals based on their chosen gender identity. Roger Severino, a former director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights during the Trump administration, characterizes the policy as “compelled speech” and alleges that it replaces science and evidence with ideology. Severino suggests that this policy could lead to the targeting of Christian employees and emphasizes the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and religious freedom.
Additionally, the policy permits employees to wear clothing and use restrooms aligning with their gender identity, reflecting a progressive stance on gender inclusivity. The HHS also encourages changes to its IT systems to record employees’ transgender status officially. From a conservative perspective, these developments raise concerns about the impact on workplace dynamics, religious accommodation, and the potential conflicts that may arise when individuals’ deeply held beliefs collide with evolving societal norms.
Catholic News Agency (CNA) reached out to the HHS to inquire about potential disciplinary actions for employees who refuse to adhere to the new policy and whether accommodations or exemptions would be available for religious employees. However, as of the time of publication, CNA had not received a response. Conservatives are closely monitoring how the HHS handles such inquiries, as they fear the policy may not adequately protect the rights and beliefs of those who hold traditional views of gender and identity.