Give America Religious Liberty...Again ⛪

Alex Brandon/AP

Alex Brandon/AP

Protecting the faithful

On Monday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice’s creation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force”. Announced during the department’s Religious Liberty Summit, the task force will ensure that the DOJ respects the right to religious freedom during cases. Sessions said the task force is in response to an environment that is increasingly “less hospitable to people of faith”.

Icing on the cake

The announcement comes after a May 2017 executive order to protect religious freedoms. In his speech at the summit, Sessions pointed to a group of nuns’ contention with an Obamacare birth control mandate and baker Jack Phillips’ Supreme Court case as examples of ultimately victorious battles that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Those who agree with Sessions laud the task force as a win for religious freedom. They commend it as a gratifying push for religious and family values - something they feel had been systematically ignored by Obama-era policies. Articles from this side also deny claims that the task force is Christian centered, arguing that any denomination can utilize it; as a result, they see the Trump administration as leading a global movement for religious freedom.

Those who criticize Sessions condemn the task force as a threat to civil liberties, particularly to LGBTQ+ rights and women’s access to birth control. They see the task force as an apparatus to a larger, extreme agenda for Christianity that operates under the guise of religious freedom. The left also denounces mixing church and state, arguing that it not only violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause but also risks America’s historic image as a secular state.

A Christian Liberty Task Force?

While Obama’s presidency saw strides for civil liberties groups, social conservatives felt like they lost their religious freedom. The Trump administration, via the Religious Liberty Task Force and Trump’s prior executive order, serves as a clear apparatus for this quest. On the other hand, Trump’s policies that have targeted Muslims, i.e. the travel ban, undermine the promise of the task force to serve all denominations. This distinction highlights the irony in religious freedom: not all groups experience the same definition of “freedom”.



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