US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 30, 2018, announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force as part of the US Justice Department.
His announcement came during a speech at the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Summit in Washington. Sessions stressed the importance of religious liberty to America’s founding and future.
“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,” Sessions said. “That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”
The attorney general noted that since January 2017, the Justice Department has obtained 11 indictments and seven convictions in cases involving arson or other attacks or threats against houses of worship. The department’s civil rights division also has obtained 12 indictments in other attacks or threats against people because of their religion
“We are also going to remain in contact with religious groups across America to ensure that their rights are being protected,” Sessions continued. “We have been holding listening sessions and we will continue to host them in the coming weeks.
“And just last week we filed a brief in federal court supporting the case of a Hindu temple in Maryland that claimed to have suffered discrimination in its attempts to purchase land. We are going to keep going to court. And I believe that we’re going to keep winning.”
Sessions warned of “a dangerous movement” that is “challenging and eroding” America’s tradition of religious freedom. He said the threat “must be confronted and defeated.”
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.
“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,” Sessions said. “Freedom of religion is indeed our ‘first freedom’—being the first listed right of our First Amendment. This has been a core American principle from the beginning. It is one of the reasons that this country was settled in the first place.”