Days after Vice President Mike Pence stated that religious liberty is a “top priority” for the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ will be creating a “religious liberty task force” to protect people of faith from being harassed by state and local governments.
According to The Hill, “Sessions said the task force … will help the department fully implement the religious liberty guidance it issued last year.” The task force comes largely as a result of President Trump’s executive order from last year advising government agencies to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech.
In a statement on Monday at the DOJ’s religious liberty summit, Sessions said the task force will “ensure 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.”
Sessions cited the West’s growing hostility toward people of faith as the impetus for the task force’s creation.
Such hostility was readily apparent under the Obama administration with the HHS mandate requiring business and non-profits to distribute contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs despite the businesses’ moral opposition. Most recently, the Supreme Court struck down a law in California requiring crisis pregnancy centers to advertise and refer for abortions. Add to that a litany of lawsuits brought against Christian businesses for refusing to cater same-sex weddings and it’s hard to deny that religious liberty is under assault.
“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives,” said Sessions. “We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma — even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips.”
Jack Phillips, of course, is the Christian baker from Colorado who nearly had his life ruined for refusing to make a same-sex wedding cake due to his moral convictions. The Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling in Phillips’ favor, arguing that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed clear hostility toward his views. The Court has not yet issued a broad ruling on the matter.
“In short, we have not only the freedom to worship — but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements,” Sessions concluded. “Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought.”