Jeff Sessions Has a New, Secret ‘Religious Liberty’ Task Force – and Won’t Answer Questions About It


Sessions' Speech Suggests Task Force Could Go After Pro-LGBT, Pro-Equality, and Anti-Hate Groups

Attorney General Jeff Sessions one week ago announced the creation of a new religious liberty task force within the Dept. of Justice. According to Buzzfeed News, the DOJ has not answered any questions about it, and won't even respond to its questions.

As Buzzfeed's Dominic Holden reports, Attorney General Sessions "had surrounded himself largely with players from the religious right, including anti-LGBT, anti-abortion organizations," and told them the "'dangerous movement' threatening people of faith must be 'confronted intellectually and politically and defeated.'"

There appears to be no public list of who will be on Sessions' Religious Liberty Task Force. No criteria or qualifications have been published. No agenda. Not dates of meetings. And what, exactly, it will do that the DOJ is not doing now has not been made public, other than Sessions suggesting it will ensure continuity in DOJ actions and legal arguments, which is not generally the role of a task force.

And most importantly, will its meetings, actions, and records be public?

Buzzfeed asked the DOJ many of these questions.

The Justice Dept. did not answer. Aside from referring them back to the transcript of Sessions' announcement, the DOJ did not respond.

Casey Brescia, a spokesperson for the Secular Coalition for America, told BuzzFeed News the Justice Department did not reach out to his organization, as the Obama administration did with its religious initiatives. And just as the Constitution protects religious exercise, he noted, it also guarantees that religion cannot be imposed on secular Americans.

“Sessions is twisting the concept of religious liberty and weaponizing, and using it to assert a political agenda that is the exact opposite of what it was intended for,” he said.

Sessions' speech, clips of which MSNBC's Joy Reid played this past weekend on "AM Joy," reveal some of Sessions' intent, as does the transcript of his speech.

For example, it appears Sessions intends to go after groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which the religious right for years has attacked for labeling lie-telling anti-gay organizations like the Family Research Council "hate groups."

"We have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a 'hate group' on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs," Sessions, falsely, claimed in his speech last week.

The Attorney General also bragged about the DOJ's anti-gay stance in cases of Christian bakers refusing to sell wedding cakes to marrying same-sex couples.

"And, of course, we were proud to file a brief in support of Jack Phillips," said Sessions, speaking about the Colorado baker who recently won a very narrow victory at the Supreme Court.

Religious liberty means freedom of religious practice, but also freedom from religious practice.

Under Sessions, its clear the DOJ has no interest in enforcing the latter.


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