The Department of Justice successfully managed to target the LGBTQ community and civil rights groups when they announced the creation of their religious liberty task force, classifying the move as an excuse to discriminate under the guise of protecting religious freedom.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News, “This task force’s agenda isn’t consistent with religious freedom. Religious freedom protects our right to our beliefs, not a right to discriminate or harm others. Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice is again turning that understanding of religious freedom on its head.” She also added that the task force “encourages private groups to discriminate with government funds.”
Sessions stated that the Justice Department detail was necessary in order to address the increasing cultural and political danger that is being faced by those who practice religion. Supporters of Sessions’ decision were excited that Trump fulfilled his promise to protect Christians. Those who oppose Sessions, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have stated that anyone who isn’t a straight, Christian man is having their freedom threatened.
The task force is said to uphold 20 guiding points that Sessions’ department released in October, put together after Trump issued his executive order that stated government must protect religious liberty.
A memo released by Sessions states the task force would “facilitate department compliance” with the guiding points and “develop new strategies involving litigation, policy and legislation to protect and promote religious liberty.”
Sessions also cited the outcomes which the task force would enforce, referring to “the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case whom the Supreme Court ruled couldn’t be forced to baker a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, spoke out against the “Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda” and claimed the administration “seeks to weave protections for those seeking anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions into the government. Though freedom of religion is a core American value, religious exemptions from adhering to nondiscrimination protections are not.”