DOJ Refuses Requests for Text of Speech Jeff Sessions Gave to an Anti-Gay Hate Group (But Here It Is)
Sends Speech to Right Wing Website
The Department of Justice has either ignored or refused requests from media outlets like Buzzfeed, and at least oneÂ progressive advocacy organization, People for the American Way, to hand over the text of a speech Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered in California behind closed doors to a group that appears on theÂ Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of active anti-gay hate groups.
The speech was given by Sessions to the Alliance Defending FreedomÂ on Tuesday. It was published Thursday afernoon by The Federalist, a right wing conservative website. Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden was the first to report Sessions would be delivering the speech. On Thursday Holden published his report on the speech, and via Twitter posted the Freedom of Information (FOIA) request he filed with the DOJ that was ignored.
Sessionsâ€™s office won’t release speech to religious anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom. Hereâ€™s my FOIA request for all the records: pic.twitter.com/5KzFfG9rX8
â€” Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) July 13, 2017
“A person familiar with the situation tells me the Justice Dept DID provide Sessions’s remarks to The Federalist,” Holden reports. It’s unclear why the DOJ chose a small right wing website rather than share the text with all who requested it, or why it did not just post the text on its site as a matter of course.Â
Was Sessions or the DOJ concerned about its content? They have good reason to be.
RELATED:Â DOJ Refuses to Explain Why Jeff Sessions Is Speaking to an Anti-Gay Hate Group Tonight Behind Closed Doors
The DOJ’s refusal to release the text of his remarks has highlighted the group’s extremism, causing some on the right to lambast the hate group label. But the SPLC is clear in the criteria they use to define hate groups, and among them is the repeated spreading of false statements in an effort toÂ marginalize groups of people. The SPLC has produced a 949 word profile of the attacks on LGBT people made by the ADF.
All that said, now we have the text of the Attorney General’s speech, and much of it is of great concern.
Sessions talks about “the Western heritage of faith and reason,” and says, “I propose that in America our understanding of religious freedom can only be understood within that heritage.”
“Heritage” is a dog whistle term, especially concerning when people like Sessions â€“Â who has a long history of racist allegations tailing himÂ â€“ use it.
“So our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people,” Sessions says. But he does, surprisingly, add: “It has protected both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to believe as well.”
Sessions then laments, “the cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief. And in recent years, many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack.Â This feeling is understandable. Just last year, a Harvard Law professor publicly urged judges to ‘take aggressively liberal positionsâ€¦The culture wars are over. They lost; we wonâ€¦Taking a hard line is better than trying to accommodate the losers.'”
It’s clear in his speech that Sessions has taken sides, and is ill-prepared to see all Americans equally. His speech reveals an “us vs. them” approach, and as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, that is chilling.
And he doubles down, in a very partisan manner.
“I believe that this recent election was significantly impacted by this concern and that this motivated many voters. President Trump made a promise that was heard. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. This promise was well received.”
And then, it comes.
“In all of this litigation and debate, this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned,” Sessions says. “We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.”
“We will defend freedom of conscience resolutely. That is inalienable. That is our heritage.”
What does Sessions intend to do when a religious belief contradicts the law?
Well, here’s the answer, a very partisan support ofÂ Donald Trump.
“Since he was elected, President Trump has been an unwavering defender of religious liberty. He has promised that under a Trump Administration, ‘the federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.’ And he is fulfilling that promise. First, President Trump appointed an outstanding Supreme Court justice with a track record of applying the law as written, Neil Gorsuch. I have confidence that he will be faithful to the full meaning of the First Amendment and protect the rights of all Americans.”
And then, what progressives, liberals, LGBT people, women, minorities, and many others should see as a warning. The elevation of theÂ Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“The president has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.”
The guidance will also help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebodyâ€™s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason. That is a demanding standard, and itâ€™s the law of the land. We will follow it just as faithfully as we follow every other federal law. If weâ€™re going to ensure that religious liberty is adequately protected and our country remains free, then we must ensure that RFRA is followed.
Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed. The federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths. The protections enshrined in the Constitution and our laws protect all Americans, including when we work together, speak in the public square, and when we interact with our government. We donâ€™t waive our constitutional rights when we participate fully in public life and civic society.
This administration, and the upcoming guidance, will be animated by that same American view that has led us for 241 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square. It has served this country well, and it has made us not only one of the tolerant countries in the world, it has also helped make us the freeist and most generous. Thank you.
Consider this fair warning.Â
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'DISTURBING SURGE IN VIOLENT THREATS'
Biden Launches Major Initiative to Protect LGBTQ Community Ahead of Massive White House Pride Celebration
The Biden administration is launching a three-pronged plan to protect members of the LGBTQI+ community, including protecting their safety and civil rights, supporting LGBTQI+ children, and protecting students from book bans.
“Over a dozen states have enacted anti-LGBTQI+ laws that violate our most basic values and freedoms as Americans, and are cruel and callous to our kids, our neighbors, and those in our community,” the White House said in a statement Thursday. “The Biden-Harris administration stands with the LGBTQI+ community and has their backs in the face of these attacks.”
The initiative will be announced during President Joe Biden’s Thursday evening Pride event, which Reuters reports will be “the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history.” In a “a deliberate contrast to a cascade of Republican legislation and other attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people,” President Biden will host “thousands” on the White House South Lawn.
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“This year we’re seeing a disturbing surge in violent threats against LGBTQ community organizations,” Biden White House domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden told reporters. “In too many parts of our country, LGBTQ Americans are being targeted for who they are, and that, simply put, is discrimination.”
President Biden has directed three federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “launch the LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership. The Partnership will work hand-in-hand with LGBTQI+ community organizations to provide critical safety resources to ensure these organizations can remain safe spaces for the community,” the White House says. “In acknowledgement of the mistreatment that LGBTQI+ communities have often faced in interactions with law enforcement, the Partnership will also work to build trust between LGBTQI+ organizations and federal law enforcement agencies.”
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, will chair regular meetings with the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s LGBTQI+ Working Group, focused on “issues related to discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community.”
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on Thursday will “issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
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The administration points to the disproportionately large number of LGBTQI+ youth in the child welfare system, and notes that “far too often” they “experience trauma, including being exposed to so-called ‘conversion therapy,'” which Biden has spoken out against before. HHS says it “will issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
The White House also says it is working to “Shield LGBTQI+ kids and families from discrimination,” and “Address LGBTQI+ youth homelessness.” It also points to its efforts on “Protecting Americans from book banning,” and “Uplifting LGBTQI+ communities.”
In December, President Biden signed a law protecting same-sex and interracial marriages.
You can watch the video above or at this link, and read the entire White House announcement on its website.
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House Freedom Caucus Republican: Trump Is Spinning Out of Control
A right-wing GOP lawmaker who has backed Donald Trump through both of his impeachments is sounding the alarm that the former president is becoming increasingly erratic which could put the 2024 general election at risk for his party.
According to a report from Politico, the closer Donald Trump gets to becoming the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee the more some GOP lawmakers are growing worried that not only will they lose their shot at taking back the White House, but he’ll take down-ticket GOP candidates down with him.
The report also notes that the battle between Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis is starting to turn off conservative voters and some are hoping that an alternative will rise from the squabble.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was blunt about the GOP’s prospects as they stand today, telling reporters, “I’m worried about it,” and expressed fears that Trump will keep independent voters at a distance.
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With a wide array of candidates having just appeared over the past weekend in Iowa, Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA) claimed the infighting is turning voters — even Republicans — off.
“We’ll see if the two titans punching each other fires up the base, or if six months from now people are tired of both and ready for a third way,” Nunn explained before making tha blunt observation, “When you talk to Iowans, s–t-talking other candidates will not get you success. We don’t necessarily pick the winner, but we’re pretty good at smelling bulls–t.”
Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie (R), who has sided with DeSantis, is very worried about the possibility of Trump at the top of the ticket.
“I wish Trump were on Twitter. He’s in an echo chamber right now. And people don’t know how far he’s spun out from where he was,” he said in an interview. “The more visibility that we can help Trump get — when he attacks [his former White House press secretary] Kayleigh McEnany, for instance — the better.”
You can read more here.
Image via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Trump Has Been Notified He Is Target of DOJ Investigation – Insists ‘It’s Not True’ He’s Getting Indicted: Reports
Attorneys for Donald Trump reportedly have been notified the ex-president is a target of a criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents. The ex-president denies he is being indicted.
The Guardian Wednesday evening reported federal prosecutors told Trump’s attorneys last week he is a target of the long investigation that is now led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. That investigation, experts believe, could lead to obstruction of justice and Espionage Act charges.
“Trump’s lawyers were notified before they met on Monday with the special counsel Jack Smith leading the Mar-a-Lago documents case and the senior career official in the deputy attorney general’s office and made the case that prosecutors should not indict the former president in the matter,” The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports.
Politico also confirms The Guardian’s reporting, stating: “Federal prosecutors have notified former President Donald Trump in a letter that he is the target of a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
Earlier Wednesday, a conservative website reported federal prosecutors had informed Trump’s attorneys he is a target and likely to be indicted. That website is run by John Solomon, who Trump named as his official representative to the National Archives last year. That move reportedly gave Solomon access to non-public administration records related to Russia, Politico reported.
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Later Wednesday, The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported via Twitter she had been in touch with Trump.
“Trump tells me minutes ago he has NOT been told he’s getting indicted, when contacted. ‘It’s not true,’ he said, adding again he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Haberman tweeted at 2:40 PM.
“When I asked if he had been told he’s a target, he demurred, saying he doesn’t talk directly to prosecutors,” she added.
Haberman says she used the Solomon report as the basis for her conversation with Trump.
Less than one hour after Haberman says she spoke with the ex-president, he again posted an angry rant on his Truth Social platform.
“No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI, starting with the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, the “No Collusion” Mueller Report, Impeachment HOAX #1, Impeachment HOAX #2, the PERFECT Ukraine phone call, and various other SCAMS & WITCH HUNTS,” he rambled.
Trump made clear he expects House Republicans to protect him: “REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS MUST MAKE THIS THEIR # 1 ISSUE!!!”
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