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Trump launches religious freedom task force to undo another Obama legacy

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to protect the conscience rights of Americans from being violated by government regulations.

"Today I am announcing our next step: the Religious Liberty Task Force, to be co-chaired by the Associate Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy—Jesse and Beth," Sessions said at a Department of Justice Religious Liberty Summit.

"The Task Force will help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that 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.  That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith," he explained.

The formation of this task force follows an October memo from Sessions broadly directing the Department of Justice to make accommodations to protect religious liberty. In his remarks, Sessions warned of "dangerous" anti-religious sentiments in the country threatening the rights protected by First Amendment.

"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 said.

"We have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a 'hate group' on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Sessions cited examples of Americans being forced by government to violate their conscience, notably "nuns ordered to buy contraceptives" — referencing the plight of The Little Sisters of the Poor — and the bigoted anti-Catholic questions asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., of Judge Amy Coney Barrett at her confirmation hearing last September.

He said the Department of Justice will remain in contact with religious groups across the country to continue to improve its policies and respect religious liberty.

"This administration is animated by that same American view that has led us for 242 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square," Sessions said.

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