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Politico Accuses Catholic HHS Leader Of Being In Evangelical Cabal

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Politico incorrectly accused Roger Severino, a Melkite Catholic, of being part of a “cadre” of evangelicals in HHS who routinely thwart the interests of non-evangelicals.

The Politico story “The Religious Activists On The Rise Inside Trump’s Health Department” named Severino in a group of evangelical leaders within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who are allegedly “steering their offices to support evangelicals at the expense of other voices.” Severino, who the author of the piece characterized as “an anti-abortion lawyer who now runs the Office of Civil Rights,” is actually a Greek Melkite Catholic, making it impossible for him to be an evangelical Christian bent on steering the HHS according to an evangelical agenda.

The piece asserts that Severino and Shannon Royce, Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at HHS, have worked to remove federal protections for transgender people and abortion rights. The Politico piece further argues that Charmaine Yoest, Matthew Bowman, and Valerie Huber join Royce and Severino in the alleged cadre of “anti-abortion, evangelical leaders” that dominate the HHS’ legal strategy and communications.

The piece attributes the pro-life stance, which it characterizes only as “anti-abortion,” and reticence toward federal accommodations for transgender lifestyles exclusively to evangelical Christians, and argues therefore that any effort in line with those stances in HHS is part of a conspiracy orchestrated by an evangelical Christian cabal.

Severino’s actual religious affiliation highlights major flaws in the piece’s argument concerning evangelicals. Catholics, Orthodox Christians, some non-evangelical Protestant groups, Orthodox and Conservative Jews, Mormons, and most Muslims join evangelicals in their opposition to abortion and transgender lifestyles. Recently published data from Marist Polling shows nearly 60 percent of American citizens view abortion as morally wrong and over 75 percent favor outlawing abortion after the first trimester. (Related: How Religious Groups Line Up On Abortion)  

While Severino and Royce’s efforts within HHS are certainly praised by evangelicals, they are not the machinations of a conspiracy, as Politico claims, but are largely welcomed and supported by a variety of religious and nonreligious groups even across party lines.

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