Attorney General Announces New Religious Liberty Task Force

Attorney General Jeff SessionsThis week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) established a new Religious Liberty Task Force to protect and promote America’s first freedom in the Bill of Rights.

“Just one week after the State Department’s historic ministerial, the creation of this new DOJ task force is yet another powerful testament to the seriousness of the Trump administration as it seeks to defend religious freedom,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of NRB. “I am encouraged by top leaders working to right wrongs against people of faith here in the U.S. and abroad. While such action is common sense to many Americans, it sadly is not to many ‘progressive’ elites.”

Johnson added, “Our government taking proactive steps to honor the Constitution’s guarantee of religious free exercise is a breath of fresh air – one we must not take for granted.”

Per the direction of President Donald Trump in his May 2017 executive order signed on the National Day of Prayer, the DOJ last year issued an extensive guidance for all federal agencies on religious freedom. Following up that powerful document, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week announced, “The Task Force will help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components are upholding that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations.  That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”

The Attorney General said, “This has been a core American principle from the beginning. It is one of the reasons that this country was settled in the first place.”

Sessions recounted many radical challenges to religious liberty in recent years, including attacks from government agents such as the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic nuns to fund abortifacient and contraceptive coverage in health plans and Democrat senators’ multiple attempts to levy religious tests on executive and judicial nominees. “Let us be frank,” he said. “A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt. This is no little matter. It must be confronted and defeated.”

Perhaps the best illustration of his point came from the harsh criticism of potent leftist organizations in reaction to this task force. For example, Planned Parenthood, using scare quotes around the words “religious liberty,” called the task force a platform for “another license to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, communities of color, and so many more.” Moreover, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) linked the announcement to “a brazen campaign to erode and limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion.” Noting the presence of Alliance Defending Freedom advocates and their U.S. Supreme Court-vindicated client, Jack Phillips, at the event, HRC’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said, “The Attorney General standing shoulder-to-shoulder this morning with anti-LGBTQ extremists tells you everything you need to know about what today’s announcement was really all about.”

For his part, Sessions declared his resolve to engage with diverse religious communities and to ensure their fundamental rights of religious free exercise are protected. “We are going to keep going to court,” he said. “And I believe that we’re going to keep winning.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: August 2, 2018


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