Attorney General announces anti-LGBT “Religious Liberty Task Force”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Official photo.

This morning, July 30, in a speech littered with right-wing and conservative religious dog whistles, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a Religious Liberty Task Force.

Sessions said:

“Let’s be frank. A dangerous movement undetected by many but real is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt, it’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated.

“This election - this past election - and much that has flowed from it gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends and to confront them. Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories however but intellectual victories.

“We’ve gotten to the point that 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 target religious groups by labeling them as hate groups.”

His comment about morality as a basis for law reflects his views on the success of LGBT+ activists success over the past several years of overturning discriminatory laws such as the (so-called) Defense of Marriage Act, the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and achieving marriage equality. He believes ‘morality’ supports all these anti-LGBT+ actions by state and federal governments.

His reference to ministers being fearful to “affirm holy writ as they understand it” refers to right-wing pastors quoting Bible verses out of context to condemn LGBT people and rights. The Bible is often used to support anti-LGBT+ rights and has been used similarly to support the oppression of women and the institution of slavery.

He seemed particularly offended by the identification of far-right religious groups such as the American Family Association, Family Research Council and others as hate groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled many of these group as anti-LGBT hate groups.

Sessions has a long history of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric and actions as a U. S. Senator from Alabama. As Attorney General, he issued a directive in October 2017 that subordinates LGBT+ rights to religious protections. (See DOJ directive makes LGBT+ rights subordinate to religious protections.) President Trump had ordered the Department of Justice to come up with such policies, early in his term.

“Sessions said the guidance he issued in October layers out 20 fundamental principles for the executive branch to follow, including the principles that free exercise means a right to act — or to abstain from action — and that government shouldn’t impugn people’s motives or beliefs,” reported The Hill.

‘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,”’ he said, according to his prepared remarks. Sessions said the federal government under the Trump administration is not just reacting, but actively seeking, carefully, thoughtfully and lawfully, to accommodate people of faith. ‘Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought,’ he said.”

The Human Rights Campaign responded immediately by Twitter, saying, “This taxpayer funded Religious Liberty Task Force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“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 the Religious Liberty Task Force is really all about.”

You can view Sessions’ entire speech here.

You can read his full directive on religious protections here.

Copyright The Gayly – July 30, 2018 @ 3:30 p.m. CDT.