Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to implement the religious liberty guidance that the U.S. Department of Justice has provided. 

“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,” Sessions said during the religious liberty summit at the U.S. Department of Justice last week.

Atheist groups called the new task force “troubling” and said that the “theocratic” task force would “bring down the wall of separation.”

“We are disturbed that Jeff Sessions is using the Department of Justice to create special rights for the Religious Right at the expense of other Americans,” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, said. “This is a continuation of the Trump administration’s pattern of attacks on effective religious freedom, demonstrated by earlier attempts to gut the Johnson Amendment and ban immigrants of specific faiths.”

Matthew Bulger, Legislative Director for the American Humanist Association, stated that “With the creation of this task force, the Trump administration is making clear that it is determined to utilize public funding to promote the discriminatory beliefs of the Religious Right and will distort laws like RFRA to do so.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation labeled the task force ‘theocratic’ and said it endangered the “wall of separation.”  “The ‘religious liberty’ memo that the new task force will be carrying out has the primary goal of exempting Christians and other religionists from the rules and regulations of civil society, especially including rules that prevent discrimination against others,” they wrote in a press release.

Tim Teeman at The Daily Beast wrote that this task force “declares holy war” on LGBT people. He wrote:

However, as evidenced in his speech today, it is clearly Sessions who is behind it, and he appears intent to use the Department of Justice to advance this holy war, and he wants to wage it against trespassers of ‘religious liberty’ across government departments. Church and State have never appeared so poisonously intertwined.


The Trump administration is already winning in its battle to erode the few civil rights that LGBT people have. The Supreme Court, if the Trump administration has its way, soon will be replete with justices to rubberstamp whatever kind of discrimination it chooses to pursue. Loading the dice in this fundamental way apparently isn’t enough for Jeff Sessions.

These claims, of course, are utter nonsense. Those who decry what the Trump Administration has done to protect religious liberty seem to think that there is only one clause in The First Amendment relating to religious liberty, the establishment clause, but there are two. Congress is to pass no law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion either. The Obama Administration and leftists have gone to great lengths to do just that.

All that the Trump Administration has done was correct the previous administration’s excesses. All that laws, like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, does is ensure that those who face government intrusion have a legal pathway. 

The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, not just worship which includes being able to exercise religious conscience. No one should be forced to participate in an activity that violates their conscience. Most, if not all, of Christians business owners targeted by SOGI accommodation laws, had LGBTQ customers, they could not participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony.  LGBTQ activists don’t just want equality, but acceptance of their beliefs.

It is nonsensical to claim that protecting the religious liberty rights of Americans violates the establishment clause when merely upholds the free exercise clause and ensures the Civil Rights Act protects people of faith as well.

6 comments
  1. The right to religious liberty necessarily includes the right to be free from Government Religion in any form. Our founders wrote and ratified our godless Constitution for a reason, and we ignore their wisdom to our detriment. That the words of the Establishment Clause have been ignored by Congress since minute one doesn’t mean that those words have no meaning.

    As James Madison, the AUTHOR of the First Amendment pointed out: “Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. …

    The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship agst the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority. To say nothing of other sects, this is the case with that of Roman Catholics & Quakers who have always had members in one or both of the Legislative branches. Could a Catholic clergyman ever hope to be appointed a Chaplain? To say that his religious principles are obnoxious or that his sect is small, is to lift the evil at once and exhibit in its naked deformity the doctrine that religious truth is to be tested by numbers. or that the major sects have a right to govern the minor.” (http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_religions64.html)

    If religious liberty is to have any meaning at all, it must apply equally to all citizens, regardless of their beliefs or lack thereof. If Jeff Sessions thinks that Christians should be ‘exempt’ from the laws regarding commercial discrimination against gay people, then it is hypocritical for his DOJ to be arresting and imprisoning Rastafarians for violating the laws regarding cannabis. If it’s ok for legislative sessions to start with a prayer to Jesus, then it’s exactly the same level of ok for legislative sessions to start with a prayer to Brahma or Krishna or with an invocation to Buddha or the ‘Four Winds’.

    This recent attempt by the rightwing to change the definition of ‘religious liberty’ to mean that Christians and only Christians are exempt from laws they don’t like is disingenuous bunk, and is harmful to America.
    N_J

      1. No, it’s not.
        Legislative prayers are part of the official government agenda of official government meetings. That’s government religion right there. The fact that we pay clergymen from the public treasury for the performance of religious rituals is anathema to the establishment clause on it’s face – as Madison clearly pointed out. Both Marsh v Chambers and Greece v Galloway were wrongly decided – mere ‘tradition’ doesn’t trump the clear words of the Constitution. The founders created a SECULAR government. And that fact was highly disconcerting to the clergy of the time. Note carefully that neither the words ‘God’, or ‘Jesus’, or ‘Bible’ appear EVEN ONCE in the Constitution for the United States. This was intentional – not an oversight.

        There is no ‘free exercise’ to violate the law – as the Mormons learned the hard way in 1878.
        There are no ‘religious exemptions’ to general criminal laws, and cannot be. As was found in the Reynolds case: “The court considered that if polygamy was allowed, someone might eventually argue that human sacrifice was a necessary part of their religion, and “to permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.” The Court believed the First Amendment forbade Congress from legislating against opinion, but allowed it to legislate against action.”

        Americans are perfectly free to hold whatever damn-fool opinions regarding blacks, Asians, Jews, or gays that they’d like. But they’re still not allowed to violate the LAWS that protect these groups from commercial discrimination. There is no ‘default’ religious exception to any general criminal law. Note that the religious exemptions to the controlled substances act are WRITTEN INTO the legislation itself – allowing members of some religious groups to use DMT or mescaline, despite the fact that non-members of these groups would go to jail for even possessing these substances. Unless such exceptions are written by legislators into the laws themselves, these exceptions do not exist.

  2. No Shane – there is no ‘right to discriminate’.

    The same bs was attempted directly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some guy claimed that serving black people at his restaurant was a violation of his religious beliefs. The courts said, no, sorry, that’s garbage. The same applies to claims that commercial discrimination of gay people is somehow protected under the first amendment. It’s not. For the exact same reasons that bigamy was still illegal for the Mormons, despite their religious beliefs to the contrary. See Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878) for the Mormons case. See Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 941 (D.S.C. 1966) for the clear precedent which discards religious objections to the discrimination laws.

    1st link: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1850-1900/98us145
    2nd link: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/256/941/2349546/

    From the 2nd link we find the following: “Defendant Bessinger further contends that the Act violates his freedom of religion under the First Amendment “since his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” … This court refuses to lend credence or support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishments upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs.”

    The exact same logic applies in all similar cases.
    There is no ‘religious requirement’ to refrain from doing business with people who happen to be gay.
    Would we be ok with a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a couple wherein one of the participants had been married and divorced in the past? Would we countenance discrimination against divorcees on the basis of religious belief? Of course not. No difference though.

    There is none righteous, no, not one.
    N_J

    1. This is not discrimination. There is a difference between not wanting to participate in an event – same-sex wedding – and not providing service. Barronelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips both served LGBT customers. This IS government coercion.

      1. No, this is discrimination. A baker is not ‘participating’ in a wedding. this was a clear case of illegal commercial discrimination.
        If you open your shop to ‘the public’, then you must take ‘the public’ as it comes.
        No exceptions.
        N_J

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