Roger Severino

Senior Fellow

Roger Severino is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he directs EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project. He is also at work on a book on how conservatives can harness the power of the administrative state for conservative ends long sought by the American peopleMr. Severino is a national authority on civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, the administrative state, and information privacy, particularly as applied to healthcare law and policy. 

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Roger Severino is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he directs EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project. He is also at work on a book on how conservatives can harness the power of the administrative state for conservative ends long sought by the American peopleMr. Severino is a national authority on civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, the administrative state, and information privacy, particularly as applied to healthcare law and policy. 

Before joining EPPC, Mr. Severino was the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OCR), where he led a team of over 250 staff enforcing our nation’s civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, and health information privacy laws. He served from 2017 to 2021 and was the longest serving OCR Director of the past three decades.  

Prior to joining HHS, Mr. Severino served as Director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation for two years, advocating for life, family, and religious-freedom policies. Before that, he was a trial attorney for seven years in the Department of Justices Civil Rights Division where he enforced the Fair Housing Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and Titles II and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mr. Severino started his legal career at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he was Chief Operations Officer and Legal Counsel and defended the rights of people of all faiths under the First Amendment, RLUIPA, RFRA, and international law. 

Mr. Severino has been profiled in The New York TimesThe AtlanticThe Wall Street Journal, and The Hill and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and PBS, among others. 

Mr. Severino holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a master’s degree in public policy, with highest distinction, from Carnegie Mellon University, and a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern California, where he was a National Merit Scholar. He is a presidentially appointed Council member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and a member of the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia bars.  

As OCR Director, Mr. Severino founded the federal government’s first Division dedicated exclusively to conscience and religious freedom compliance and enforcement. He enforced the Weldon Amendment for the first time against a state (California) after it coerced families and religious organizations into paying for abortion insurance coverage, leading to a $200 million federal funding disallowance. He also enforced laws protecting pro-life pregnancy resource centers from discrimination by states hostile to their message and enforced laws prohibiting forced participation in abortions by medical professionals.  

With respect to civil rights, Mr. Severino protected older persons and people with disabilities, including infants born prematurely, from being denied life-saving care due to discriminatory quality of life judgments, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also achieved a landmark sexual harassment resolution with Michigan State University in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal and protected the rights of non-English speakers to have equal access to health and human services. 

In the area of health privacy, he secured the largest HIPAA monetary settlement in history and achieved the largest number of enforcement resolutions both in a single year and across four yearsHe also facilitated the transformational use of Skype, Zoom, and Facetime for delivery of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond 

His regulatory reform activities resulted in a comprehensive conscience protection regulation and proposed a life-affirming disability rights regulation. He achieved regulatory savings of $3.6 billion in health care industry costs over five years and identified and proposed an additional $3.2 billion in cost savings from the repeal of ineffective and unnecessary regulatory burdens.  

Mr. Severino is also a Spanish speaker who teaches salsa and swing dance in his spare time. 

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Who Has Been Politicizing the HHS Office for Civil Rights?

Roger Severino

Under HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and under the day-to-day direction of a political appointee, the HHS Office for Civil Rights has lost its way and is being politicized beyond all recognition.

Articles

National Review Online / September 18, 2021

DOJ Swings Back at Texas, and Whiffs

Roger Severino

The Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging the Texas Heartbeat Act is so riddled with holes that it will likely lose at the Supreme Court just as Planned Parenthood’s suit did.

Articles

Newsweek / September 16, 2021

Texas’s Absolutely Genius Victory for Life

Roger Severino

The genius of the Texas Heartbeat Act was applying existing legal concepts and frameworks to neutralize the abortion industry’s most potent weapon, the pre-enforcement challenge.

Articles

National Review Online / September 3, 2021

Becerra and Biden Betray Medical Professionals Being Forced to Assist in Abortions

Roger Severino

We now know, if there was ever any doubt, that Biden and Becerra’s first loyalty is not to their proclaimed Catholic faith or to the law, but to abortion, abortion, and more abortion.

Articles

National Review Online / August 3, 2021

How Biden’s COVID-Testing Mandate Violates Civil Rights

Roger Severino

President Biden announced that all federal workers who do not get vaccinated for COVID-19 will face a series of burdens and intrusions designed to raise the costs of not submitting to the shot(s). This is a threat to civil liberties that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Articles

National Review Online / July 31, 2021

Why Unanimity Was So Important in the Fulton Case

Roger Severino

With its 9-0 ruling in favor of the Fulton plaintiffs, the Supreme Court is saying people with sincere faith-informed understandings of social issues that cut against the grain of secularist thought aren’t to be treated as bigots, and government needs to back off.

Articles

National Review Online / June 18, 2021

Breaking: EEOC Chairwoman Unilaterally Issues Gender Guidelines

Roger Severino

Charlotte Burrows, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), posted a guidance document purporting to apply Bostock v. Clayton County, which redefined Title VII’s prohibitions on discrimination “because of sex” to include sexual orientation and transgender status in certain contexts.

Articles

National Review Online / June 15, 2021

Biden’s HHS Chooses Ideology Over Science on Transgender Issues

Roger Severino

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine seem to want to intimidate scientists, health care providers and insurers into bowing to gender identity politics without having to explain their actions to the public.

Articles

Newsweek / May 20, 2021

Justice Thomas Questions Censorship Power of Big Tech

Roger Severino

A concurrence by Justice Thomas leaves us with a tantalizing question: does the First Amendment already apply to Big Tech companies because they now have more power to suppress public speech than government?

Articles

National Review Online / April 5, 2021

INTERVIEW: Trump’s Former Chief of HHS’ Office of Civil Rights Explains His Lawsuit Against the…

Roger Severino

Roger Severino was asked to step down before his term on the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States ended. Now, he has filed a suit against the Biden White House for firing him after he refused to resign.

Articles

National Catholic Register / February 5, 2021