This Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice is creating a “religious liberty task force” to help the agency fully implement President Trump’s executive order from last year.
The initiative will be co-chaired by Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, Beth Williams.
Sessions said Monday that the task force will “ensure 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.”
According to Sessions, America is growingly hostile to people of faith. Notably absent from Sessions’ comments were U.S. citizens who don’t practice any sort of faith. Also unknown is how the initiative will benefit those who find themselves on the receiving end of people who bring their religious dogma into the public sphere.
“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,” he said, referring to the Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
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
“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 added.
Although Sessions made a passing reference to the Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu religions, it’s clear that the task force will be preoccupied by the compliants leveled by right-wing Christians.
“[Trump] said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith,” Sessions said. “He declared we would say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
While Trump’s evangelical base will likely welcome the task force’s mission, many across social media saw the announcement as just another bone thrown to religious conservatives who play up the persecution narrative.
“The Religious Liberty Task Force is a joke,” The Left founder Adam Best tweeted. “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.”
Shakesville.com editor-in-chief Melissa McEwan said that the theocratic underpinnings of Sessions’ announcement are not blown out of proportion.
“We must be very blunt about the creation of the Religious Liberty Task Force,” she tweeted. “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.”
Similar sentiments were shared widely across Twitter after the announcement:
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
Excellent, I have been more and more concerned about the safety of people attending mosques in my neighborhood. Perhaps this will offer them some more security https://t.co/NjBBmBCXKr
— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) July 30, 2018
Don’t be fooled by the Orwellian-named “Religious Liberty Task Force” and its favorite gimmick #ReligiousFreedom. They are both blandly-branded pushes to hurt #LGBT people, promote a brand of Christianity not on speaking terms with Jesus, and create a theocracy. #UnderHisEye pic.twitter.com/PnPIuYMC4i
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) 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
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
People are always asking me to do futurist prediction so here goes. I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that the new Religious Liberty Task Force WON'T work on hate crimes and the surge in persecution of Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and other religious minorities. OK, somebody pay me.
— N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin) July 30, 2018
Watch video of Session’s announcement below:
Featured image via screen grab