Tuesday, July 31, 2018

AG Jefferson Beauregard Announces Religious Liberty Task Force


thinkprogress |  On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department has formed a task force to implement religious liberty guidance it introduced last year. Sessions made the announcement during a “Religious Liberty Summit” at Justice Department headquarters.

When the guidance was issued in October, saying that the government can’t punish anyone for acting or not acting “in accordance with one’s religious beliefs,” civil rights organizations worried it could be used to excuse individuals and groups who refuse to provide services to people in the LGBTQ community and people who want reproductive care. Indeed, Sessions specifically mentioned LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights in his announcement of the task force.

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives,” Sessions said on Monday. “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.”

Jack Phillips is the Colorado cake artist who told a same-sex couple he would not make them a wedding cake because it is against his religious beliefs in the U.S. Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In his critique of senators’ questions for judicial and executive branch nominees, Sessions may be referring to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) questioning then HUD Secretary nominee Ben Carson about whether he supported LGBTQ rights or senators asking judicial nominee Wendy Vitter about her past anti-reproductive rights actions.