Note: This is the first in a weekly series of explanatory posts on the officials and agencies included in the President’s Cabinet.
When Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, the Catholic nuns didn’t expect it would affect their religious liberty. Nor did they suspect that in a few years the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would restrict their freedom of conscience. Yet it was that Cabinet-level government agency that issued a mandate requiring the women to disregard their deeply held convictions by providing health care coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. Even though it would have caused no harm to give the nuns an exemption to the mandate, the federal agency refused to back down until forced to do so by the Supreme Court.
The attempted coercion of the Little Sisters of the Poor was a wake-up call for many Christians. The expansive power of government agencies was being used in an unprecedented manner to control and restrict liberties many Americans had taken for granted. And the case raised even greater concerns: If HHS could threaten religious freedom, what could even more powerful federal agencies do?
Unfortunately, many Americans have only a basic understanding of what the President’s Cabinet even is, much less how it can affect our lives. To increase awareness, this weekly series will explain the functions of Cabinet-level departments, consider how they can expand or restrict liberties, and look at the men and women President-elect Trump has nominated to lead these agencies.
But first, here are answers to some basic questions you might have about the Cabinet.