HHS Orders Employees to Use Trans Pronouns
Reports surfaced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had implemented a policy mandating that employees of the agency must use opposite sex pronouns when referring to individuals who identify as transgender. Experts are warning that the directive could be used to target Christian and other religious employees who affirm that there are only two created biological sexes.
On Wednesday, Roger Severino, a vice president at The Heritage Foundation and a former director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights during the Trump administration, posted a screenshot of an internal HHS email entitled “HHS Gender Non-Discrimination and Inclusion Policy,” which outlines “new guidance” on “employee rights and protections related to gender identity.” Buried in the email’s second paragraph, it states that “all employees should be addressed [by] the names and pronouns they use to describe themselves…”
Notably, the policy runs counter to a series of recent court rulings that have affirmed the free speech rights of individuals to not be forced to use pronouns that do not correspond to a person’s biological sex.
Last week, a Florida judge ruled that a Miami-Dade County teacher was wrongfully fired from her job following a conversation she had with a female student who identified as male. After the student informed Yojary Mundaray that she wanted to be spoken to as a male and that she thinks that “God made a mistake” in creating her female, Mundaray responded simply, “I’m a Christian, and my God made no mistakes.” In his ruling, Judge John Van Laningham wrote, “Given that Mundaray made no attempt to force [the student] to accept, conform to, or even acknowledge any Christian doctrine, the allegation that she imposed her personal religious views on [the student] is untrue.”
In another case earlier this week, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a preliminary injunction against a school district in Iowa that “threatened to suspend or expel students who refused to use transgender pronouns when speaking to gender-confused students.” In the ruling, the panel of judges stated that a “school district cannot violate the strictures of the First Amendment simply because a student’s speech is found to be ‘merely offensive to some listener.’”
Meanwhile, legal experts are pointing out that the new HHS employee speech mandate will likely infringe on the religious freedom rights of believers. In his post on X, Severino noted that “employees who will now be forced to deny biological realities with their own words or face firing. Those with faith objections should immediately request religious accommodation and prepare to fight for your rights.”
It remains unclear if HHS plans to allow any accommodations or exemptions for employees who have religious objections to using transgender pronouns, how the mandate would be enforced, and what disciplinary action employees who violate the policy might face.
In comments to the Catholic News Agency on Thursday, Severino emphasized that the policy “will [lead to targeting Christians] because the [Biden] administration has made it abundantly clear that it prioritizes gender ideology over free speech and religious freedom rights.”
Severino went on to contend that the policy would be in violation of the Constitution. “Under the First Amendment, [the department] cannot compel people to speak falsehoods; it also cannot compel people to adopt as their own a state-approved ideology [and it] cannot require people of faith to deny their faith with their own lips.”
He further urged religious employees at HHS to “be prepared to file lawsuits to indicate their free speech and religious liberty rights and people of faith should flood HHS with religious accommodations requests and be prepared to defend themselves and their faith from this attack.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.