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.