U.S. Attorney General, and former Alabama U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a religious liberty task force within the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday, citing a “dangerous movement” to erode religious freedom in America.
“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,”Sessions told attendees of the Department of Justice’s Religious Liberty Summit. “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.”
“Freedom of religion has been a core American principle from the very beginning of our country – indeed, it is our ‘first freedom.’” Sessions continued. “President Trump promised that he would make preserving and protecting our religious liberty the first priority of his administration. The Department of Justice is committed to assisting with that effort.”
The task force will implement “religious liberty guidance” by ensuring all elements of the justice department are holding to the same religious freedom standards in individual cases, policies, regulations and in the operations of the department. Sessions said he will be joined by acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams, as co-chairs of the task force.
In October, Sessions issued two memoranda within the DOJ; the Religious Liberty Memorandum and the Implementation Memorandum both aimed at protecting and implementing religious freedom practices within the department. The new task force will aid the DOJ’s efforts to implement the memoranda.
“As the people in this room know, you have to practice what you preach,” Sessions continued in his speech on Monday. “We are also going to remain in contact with religious groups across America to ensure that their rights are being protected. We have been holding listening sessions and we will continue to host them in the coming weeks.”