The Washington Examiner reports:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has created a religious liberty task force to “protect and promote religious liberty.” Speaking from the Justice Department in Washington, Sessions said the task force, which he will chair, is to help implementation of the religious liberty memo he signed in October.
That 25-page memo outlines 20 guiding principles that federal agencies can use to protect religious liberty in employment, contracting and programming. The task force will facilitate compliance with the October memo, address new or recurring issues with implication of the memo and facilitate interagency coordination regarding the memo.
The full text of Sessions’ remarks has been posted to the DOJ’s website. An excerpt:
A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt. This is no little matter. It must be confronted and defeated. This election, and much that has flowed from it, gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends. Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories, but by intellectual victories.
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.
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. 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 Jack Phillips. Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds are concerned about what this changing cultural climate means for the future of religious liberty in this country.
President Trump heard this concern. I believe this unease is one reason that he was elected. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. He declared we would say “Merry Christmas” again.