On Monday morning, Attorney General Jeff Session announced the creation of a new Justice Department Religious Liberty Task Force, while speaking at a religious liberties summit that is being hosted by the Justice Department.
Last year, Attorney Sessions issued religious liberty guidelines that included 20 legal principles that all federal government agencies should follow. The new Justice Department Religious Liberty Task Force was created in order to help implement these guidelines in a smooth fashion.
Sessions introduced this task force while speaking at the religious liberty summit on Monday morning. He stated that there is currently a “dangerous movement” that is “undetected by many” and is”now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom.”
“There can be no doubt. This is no little matter,” Sessions stated bluntly. “It must be confronted and defeated.”
Sessions spoke in Washington, D.C. at the Robert F. Kennedy Building at the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Summit on July 30, 2018. Sessions added that the task force had other purposes then enforcing freedom of religion.
“Today I am announcing our next step: the Religious Liberty Task Force, to be co-chaired by the Associate Attorney General [Jesse Panuccio] and the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy [Beth Williams]. 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 added.
“As the people in this room know, you have to practice what you preach,” he continued. “We are also going to remain in contact with religious groups across America to ensure that their rights are being protected. We have been holding listening sessions and we will continue to host them in the coming weeks.”
Sessions also brought up the current political culture arguing that people of faith are often attacked, citing the case of Jack Phillips.
“But in recent years, the cultural climate in this country — and in the West more generally —has become less hospitable to people of faith. Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack,” he said. “And it’s easy to see why. We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. 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 [Christian baker] Jack Phillips.”
The announcement of the new task force brought excitement from those on the right, and ridicule from those on the left. Many took to Twitter to express their feelings on the matter. Here were some of the more ridiculous tweets:
"religious liberty task force" pic.twitter.com/JATRL7oFgN
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) July 30, 2018
Jeff Sessions is giving a speech right now about "religious freedom" and it's actually frightening. I hate when religion is discriminated against but I'm afraid of this thing he just announced "Religious Liberty Task Force"
— Nelini Stamp (@NelStamp) July 30, 2018
Jeff Sessions stated he is creating a "Religious Liberty Task Force" to protect people of faith.*
(*Terms and conditions apply. Muslims, Sikhs, atheists, and other non-Christian affiliations are not covered.)
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) July 30, 2018
We must be very blunt about the creation of the Religious Liberty Task Force: It's another huge step forward in the Trump Regime's creation of a regressive Christian white ethnostate.
And if that sounds like hyperbole to you, you're not paying attention.
— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) July 30, 2018
Jeff Sessions just announced they formed a Religious Liberty Task Force to ensure that all religious organizations have rights. Only by all organizations he means Christians, and by rights he means the freedom to impose their beliefs on others.
— Alt Fed Employee (@Alt_FedEmployee) July 30, 2018
The Religious Liberty Task Force is a joke. White Christians are the least discriminated against people in America. There are around 140M of them, so let's not act like they are an oppressed minority. Jeff Sessions is appeasing evangelicals and attacking LGBTQ and women's rights.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) July 30, 2018
As a Christian and LGBTQ person, it sickens me that Jeff Sessions and others are so insecure in their faith that they feel others must be coerced into it for validation. The "Religious Liberty Task Force" is not about religion or liberty. It is about fear and loathing.
— Charlotte Clymer?️? (@cmclymer) July 30, 2018
The guy who chanted “Lock her up” with high school students and instructed the DoJ to use the words “illegal aliens” last week, this week is forming a “religious liberty task force” in a country which celebrates separation of church and state! https://t.co/EjM0wgUU1R
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) July 30, 2018
Jeff Sessions just announced a Religious Liberty Task Force which I assume, based on its name and who announced it, will take on the task of forcing everyone of other religions to convert to Christianity.
— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) July 30, 2018
The summit also included speakers Associate Attorney General of the United State Jesse Panuccio, Williams and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.