Published: Wed, August 01, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces creation of 'religious liberty task force'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces creation of 'religious liberty task force'

During a speech at the Justice Department's Religious Liberty Summit in Washington, D.C., Sessions said the cultural climate in the United States, and the West in general, has become less hospitable to people of faith and that many Americans feel their freedom to openly practice their faith "is under attack".

The memo covered protections for both individuals and organizations, and came on the heels of legal challenges which had brought the concept of "religious liberty" to the forefront of national discourse.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday morning announced the formation of a "Religious Liberty Task Force" meant to implement and enforce anti-LGBTQ Trump policies that would allow people to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

"The establishment of a Religious Liberty Task Force is an historic and positive step by the Trump administration to protect religious freedom and the rights of conscience", said Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver in a statement.

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The task force will follow up on that directive, Mr. Sessions said Monday.

"A unsafe movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom".

Sessions spoke at a Justice Department summit on religious tolerance at a time when courts have been asked how to balance anti-discrimination laws against the First Amendment's religious freedom guarantees.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director of Human Rights Campaign, called the new task force "a brazen campaign to erode and limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion". The senator expressed concern with the judge, who is a Catholic, telling her that "the dogma lives loudly within you".

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The task force arose as a way to implement President Donald Trump's executive order from last May adamantly directing his agencies to protect religious liberty. "That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith", he explained.

The group primarily works to undermine LGBT anti-discrimination protections through a series of court battles, most notably representing baker Jack Phillips - and arguing that religious freedom gives him the right to discriminate against gay customers. "And I believe we need to respect that and affirm it wherever possible".

Sessions is likely just laying the groundwork for all the damage he can do to women and LGBTQ Americans in the event Republicans are able to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The task force will be co-chaired by Associate Attorney General Beth Williams and Jesse Panuccio, a lawyer to fought for the supporters of Proposition 8 in California, a 2008 ballot initiative to ban marriage equality. "All Americans should be free to peacefully live and act consistent with their convictions and faith without threat of government punishment".

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