Jeff Sessions announces 'religious freedom' task force
Wed. August 1, 2018 4:42 AM by Carlos Santoscoy
The task force, which Sessions will chair, will implement guidance on "religious freedom" the department issued last year.
"The task force will help the department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components – and we got a lot of components around the country – 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," Sessions said.
Sessions said that the task force was needed because a "dangerous" movement is "challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. ...It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated."
In his remarks, Sessions referenced a case involving a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple. Colorado found that the baker had discriminated against the couple. The Supreme Court in June said that the state had shown hostility toward the baker's religious beliefs. Rather than striking down Colorado's law, the high court vacated the decision.
(Related: Supreme Court narrowly sides with baker who refused gay couple.)
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, criticized the announcement, saying in a statement that the task force was part of a campaign by the Trump-Pence administration "to license discrimination against LGBTQ people in the public square."
"This taxpayer funded task force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. "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."
Monday's summit was backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group that is active in many cases involving business owners who say their religious beliefs do not allow them to create custom products such as wedding cakes and invitation for gay and lesbian couples.
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