At a summit in the Department of
Justice's Great Hall on Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
announced the creation of a task force on “religious freedom.”
The task force, which Sessions will
chair, will implement guidance on “religious freedom” the
department issued last year.
“The task force will help the
department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring
that all Justice Department components – and we got a lot of
components around the country – 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.
Sessions said that the task force was
needed because a “dangerous” movement is “challenging and
eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. … It must be
confronted intellectually and politically and defeated.”
In his remarks, Sessions referenced a
case involving a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple.
Colorado found that the baker had discriminated against the couple.
The Supreme Court in June said that the state had shown hostility
toward the baker's religious beliefs. Rather than striking down
Colorado's law, the high court vacated the decision.
Court narrowly sides with baker who refused gay couple.)
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, criticized the announcement,
saying in a statement that the task force was part of a campaign by
the Trump-Pence administration “to license discrimination against
LGBTQ people in the public square.”
“This taxpayer funded task force is
yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions
sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said HRC Legal
Director Sarah Warbelow. “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 today’s announcement was really all about.”
Monday's summit was backed by the
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group that is active in
many cases involving business owners who say their religious beliefs
do not allow them to create custom products such as wedding cakes and
invitation for gay and lesbian couples.