Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today (30 July) the United States Justice Department is establishing a so-called ‘religious liberty task force’.
The purpose of the task force is to ensure and implement last year’s broad guidelines for religious liberty. LGBTI discrimination, and other civil rights violations, often uses religious liberty as justification.
Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, Beth Williams, are running the task force.
In the announcement, made during the DOJ’s summit on religious liberty, Sessions spoke about an increasing intolerance for faith.
‘We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office,’ he said.
Watch his comments below.
Sessions also mentioned the ‘ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips’.
Phillips was the baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding in Colorado. In June, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of him.
A warring of sides
Sessions claimed that religious Americans would ‘no longer be an afterthought’.
‘In short, we have not only the freedom to worship—but the right to exercise our faith,’ he continued. ‘The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements.’
Others, however, warned of the ways religion can be used to weaponize and defend discrimination.
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: ‘This taxpayer funded task force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people.
‘Over the last 18 months, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions have engaged in a brazen campaign to erode and limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion. 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.’
Present at the announcement were Phillips and members of the anti-LGBTI legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.