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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces creation of 'religious liberty task force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a new "religious liberty task force" in a speech to the DOJ's religious liberty summit on Monday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces creation of 'religious liberty task force

Speaking at the Department of Justice's religious liberty summit on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans for creating a "religious liberty task force."

What's that for?

Sessions said that the purpose of the new entity will be to protect citizens from federal regulations that go against an individual's religious beliefs.

"A dangerous movement, undetected by many, but real, is now challenging and eroding a great tradition of religious freedom," he said of the new task force. "There can be no doubt it's no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated."

Sessions continued to the audience, "We've seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. 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."

In pointing to the guidance he issued for the executive branch in protecting religious liberties last fall, Sessions reiterated, "We have not only the freedom to worship — but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution's protections don't end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements."

The attorney general went on to boast that the Trump administration is taking a proactive stance to defend people of faith, saying "Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought."

Noting that the Justice Department recently won a conviction in the prosecution of a man who set fire to a mosque last year, Sessions said that the DOJ is "aggressively and appropriately enforcing our civil rights laws, our hate crimes laws, and laws protecting churches and faith groups."

Anything else?

As part of the task force's duties, it will assure compliance of the directive issued by Sessions regarding religious freedom protections, while assisting government agencies with coordination and working with religious organizations in developing new policies for defending the rights of people of faith.

While the task force is to be chaired by Sessions and co-chaired by Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, it will also receive support from multiple divisions within the DOJ, including the Civil Rights Division and Office of Legal Counsel.

New lawsuits might also be reviewed by the group if deemed necessary, according to Sessions.



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