HHS Records Regarding Memos Authorized by Roger Severino

This set of documents from the Department of Health and Human Services contains memos and proposals from Office of Civil Rights Director Roger Severino related to the department’s Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD), which had been created in early 2018. 

One memo includes a proposal to cut $420,000 from the Civil Rights Division, $459,000 from the Health Information and Privacy Division, and $770,000 from the Operations and Resources division to account for a $1.6 million for CRFD — a funding shift that closely aligns with Severino’s priorities at HHS. Staffing levels also reflected similar changes, with other divisions losing positions so that CRFD could gain eight. (The Center for American Progress wrote on these shifting priorities in April 2019.) The documents obtained by American Oversight reveal that those eight employees would be career positions, rather than political appointees.

Also included is a memo from Severino and Steven Wagner, the principal deputy assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families, regarding South Carolina’s request for federally funded religious foster care and adoption agencies to be exempted from certain nondiscrimination regulations. The memo was sent on Jan. 23, 2019, the same day HHS allowed those agencies to deny services to same-sex or non-Christian couples.