WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department is committed to protecting the religious rights of Americans, and will establish a religious liberty task force on the issue.
In a speech Monday at a religious liberty summit, Sessions says there’s a “dangerous movement” to erode protections for Americans to worship and believe as they choose.
“Freedom of religion has been a core American principle from the very beginning of our country — indeed, it is our ‘first freedom.’ 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,” Sessions said.
Sessions says Western culture has become “less hospitable to people of faith.”
He praised a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and said “we’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives” and U.S. senators ask judicial nominees about their religious beliefs. That baker, Jack Phillips, was at the center of a case that reached the Supreme Court this year.
Sessions says that he believes one reason President Donald Trump was elected was because “he said he respected people of faith.”
Sessions, a Methodist and former Republican senator from Alabama, has made protecting religious liberty a cornerstone agenda item of his Justice Department — along with defending freedom of speech on college campuses.
In his speech, the attorney general noted that he had issued guidance last year advising executive branch employees on how to apply religious liberty protections in federal law.
The Justice Department religious liberty summit came just days after the State Department held the first-ever Ministerial Summit on Religious Freedom from July 24-26.
Crux staff contributed to this report.