Politics

Sessions: ‘This Department of Justice Is Going to Court Across America to Defend the Rights of People of Faith’

rights Trump President elect fair slash spending America rights faith people SessionsOn Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech on religious liberty. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery, about the new task force on religious liberty, the Justice Department fighting for the rights of religious Americans, and what the Trump administration has done to promote religious freedom.

Let us be frank.

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.

This election, and much that has flowed from it, gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends. Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories, but by intellectual victories.

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.

This president and this Department of Justice are determined to protect and even advance this magnificent heritage.

Freedom of religious is indeed our “first freedom”—being the first listed right of our First Amendment. This has been a core American principle from the beginning.

It is one of the reasons that this country was settled in the first place. The promise of freedom of conscience brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth, the Catholics to Maryland, the Quakers to Pennsylvania, the Scot-Presbyterians to the middle colonies, and Roger Williams to Rhode Island. Each one of these groups and others knew what it was like to be hated, persecuted, outnumbered, and discriminated against. Each one knew what it was like to have a majority try to force them to deny their natural right to practice the faith they held dear.

Our Founders gave religious expression a double protection in the First Amendment. Not only do we possess freedom to exercise our beliefs but we also enjoy the freedom of speech.

Our Founders’ understanding of and commitment to religious freedom was truly brilliant as well as historic.

It arose in large part from the principles delineated in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom—and its effective advocates: Madison and Jefferson. These guys were ferocious. This weekend, I was rereading Garry Wills’ fabulous book, “Head and Heart,” in which he quotes extensively from the Jefferson’s Statute, as he refers to it. I commend all of it to you; but one line stood out in particular to me, “That almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain, by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint.”

Of course, this is entirely consistent with another of my favorite Jefferson quotes that you will find at his memorial just across the mall from where we are today: “For I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” This is what our Founders believed. They clearly recognized that an individual’s relationship to God is a natural right and precedes the existence of the state, and is not subject to state control.

These concepts were placed into our Constitution and laws and formed a national consensus that has greatly militated against religious hostility and violence—and has helped us to this day to be one of the world’s most diverse religious people.

There can be no doubt that we are stronger as a nation because of the contribution of religious Americans.

Every day across America, they feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate our young people, and care for the sick. They do so not because the government tells them to, but because they want to. They do these things because of their faith.

Their faith provides something the state can never provide—meaning and purpose and joy in their life.

But in recent years, the cultural climate in this country—and in the West more generally—has become less hospitable to people of faith. Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack.

And it’s easy to see why. 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. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips.

Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds are concerned about what this changing cultural climate means for the future of religious liberty in this country.

President Trump heard this concern.

I believe this unease is one reason that he was elected. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. He declared we would say “Merry Christmas” again.

The Department of Justice has settled 24 civil cases with 90 plaintiffs regarding the previous administration’s wrong application of the contraception mandate to objecting religious employers.

Last month, a district court in Colorado issued a permanent injunction in the case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who serve the elderly poor. This is a permanent injunction and a major victory for the Little Sisters of the Poor and religious freedom.

The government has no business telling the Little Sisters that they must provide an insurance policy that violates their sincere religious beliefs.

And since Day One, this administration has been delivering on that promise.

Soon after taking office, President Trump directed me to issue explicit legal guidance for all executive agencies on how to apply the religious liberty protections in federal law. Our team embraced that challenge. I issued that guidance in October, and it lays out 20 fundamental principles for the executive branch to follow.

Those include the principle that free exercise means a right to act—or to abstain from action. They include the principle that government shouldn’t impugn people’s motives or beliefs.

We don’t give up our rights when we go to work, start a business, talk about politics, or interact with the government. We don’t give up our rights when we assemble or join together. We have religious freedom as individuals and as groups. In short, 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.

Under this administration, the federal government is not just reacting—we are actively seeking, carefully, thoughtfully, and lawfully, to accommodate people of faith. Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought.

We will take potential burdens on one’s conscience into consideration before we issue regulations or new policies.

And this Department of Justice is going to court across America to defend the rights of people of faith.

First of all, we are aggressively and appropriately enforcing our civil rights laws, our hate crimes laws, and laws protecting churches and faith groups.

Since January 2017, we have obtained 11 indictments and seven convictions in cases involving arson or other attacks or threats against houses of worship. Our Civil Rights Division has also obtained 12 indictments in other attacks or threats against people because of their religion.

And we are not slowing down.

Three weeks ago, we obtained a jury verdict against a man who set fire to a mosque in Texas and sentenced for a man from Missouri for threatening to kill members of a mosque.

In addition to protecting the safety of people of faith, we are also protecting them against unjust discrimination. In January, we filed a brief in a Montana court to defend parents who claim that the state barred their children from a private school scholarship program because they attend a religious school. We also filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which was refused advertising space for having a religious message—including “joy to the world” on Merry Christmas.

And, of course, we were proud to file a brief in support of Jack Phillips.

We are taking steps to become even more effective.

In June I announced the Place to Worship Initiative. Under this initiative, the Department of Justice is holding public events across America and improving training for federal prosecutors about legal protections for houses of worship.

When I was in the Senate, we passed a law called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. Under RLUIPA, the Department of Justice can file a civil action in court when religious groups are discriminated against in zoning laws.

Under my tenure as attorney general, we have not hesitated to use this tool when necessary. In June, we filed suit against a town in New Jersey that had refused over and over again—for eight years—to let an Orthodox Jewish congregation buy land for a synagogue. And just last week we filed a brief in federal court supporting the case of a Hindu temple in Maryland that claimed to have suffered discrimination in its attempts to purchase land.

We are going to keep going to court.  And I believe that we’re going to keep winning.

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 [Panuccio] and Beth [Williams].

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.

As the people in this room know, you have to practice what you preach. We are also going to remain in contact with religious groups across America to ensure that their rights are being protected. We have been holding listening sessions and we will continue to host them in the coming weeks.

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. This approach has served this country well. We are perhaps the most religiously developed nation in the world and can take pride in respecting all people as they fully exercise their faiths.

It is clear that these policies have furthered peace, prosperity, freedom, lawfulness, and clarity.

As our nation grows order, we must not let it depart from this magnificent tradition.

Reprinted with permission from - The Daily Signal - by Jeff Sessions

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Doug Stephenson
3 years ago

it is good to finally have a Justice Dept. that does what the constitution says it was designed for. hooray for our President Trump as well. please all people who love this country please vote in this very important mid term.

Felix
3 years ago

I have written many articles that were mysteriously removed while I was writing them to warn the people of not only our Nation but the World. It is not Politics that is disgracing our Government, it is the power of darkness that fears the ruler we happen to live under Who is this ruler? SATAN the DEVIL himself and I might add, all his !DISCiPLES that we have been listening to, especially on MSNBC also others stations. President Trump gave me hope as I was getting weary of my words being removed from warning the people of the plot to UNSEAT GOD by SATAN himself ! Those words the President spoke really comforted me, I believed his intentions were good as we seen many that were fired ! Good or Bad the President has become overwhelmed and perhaps overcome with being unable to grasp the significance of his responsibilities to lead and protect a nation. Of course many have witnessed this by just listening or talking to one of the DEVILS DISCIPLES if you recognized him or her? I fight the DEVIL day after day and as I write this he interferes with all kinds of garbage to disgust me and prevent this message from going out! Yes, the President has FALTERED ! I would rather talk to our MAD DOG GUARDIAN ! Perhaps a secret lays between him and the President ? If the President wants to keep all his marbles together and not lose his family, (especially his wife) he will have to straighten up and fly right! The President can’t foresee any thing before him! That may render us all Dead Fish . Even the world, which will finally include Putin at last ! Our PRESIDENTS made us kiss the Worlds A- -! Eisenhower wanted United Nations, how bad was this!! THEY FORGOT GOD THE FATHER , GOD THE SON, GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, hOW ABOUT MARY ? MOTHER OF GOD ? IF WE LOSE THESE WE LOSE EVERYTHING ! Don’t believe me ? THAT IS WHY THEY WANT US TO GIVE UP OUR LORD GOD JESUS ! HE IS IN US ! DON’T LOSE HIM ! AMERICA WANTS A LEADER! WE THE PEOPLE CAN BE CHANGED EASILY! ALL THAT WE HAVE TO DO IS LISTEN AND BE SERIOUS ! I TRIED NO ONE LISTENS ! NO ONE WILL LISTEN SERIOUSLY ! FIND YOUR LEADER THAT CAN WALK YOU OUT OF THE DARKNESS! LISTEN NOW !!!!!!!

Burton Pauly
3 years ago

This nation was founded on liberty for religions. The founders were smart enough to inculcate all of our rights and freedoms into our constitution. And we the people should always see to it that none of them are taken from us. We have fought, died , sacrificed , and served to insure our freedoms. And we will not allow any despots to take them away. MAGA, and keep the numbnuts out of our federal gov.

Alvin
3 years ago

As a person of faith, I’m thankful to God for the good leadership He’s given us through President Trump. I also applaud the president’s effort to defend the constitutional right of religious liberty of Americans. However, in light of the lawless activities and other shenanigans of the administration of the Department of Justice, including Jeff Sessions, I’m skeptical of the results that may come from people of such low/no moral character.

Brian B
3 years ago

Great speech by Jeff Sessions on religious liberty. Now it’s time for Attorney General Sessions to prosecute those who tried (and succeeded) to deny people of faith their religious liberty under the oppressive Obama administration.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian B

Oh you mean you want Sessions to actually follow-up with real action? Sorry but Jeff Sessions doesn’t do that. At least NOT as AG. He is ALL about giving a speech and then going back to hiding under his desk, as the Obama and Clinton loyalists continue their relentless and unwarranted attack on Trump.

Brian B
3 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

I have no expectations either, PaulE. But hope runs deep. Otherwise Sessions needs to return to his cozy world of denial after he gets a gentle boot out the door of the AG office. What are the chances?

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian B

The second Mueller wraps up his Russian collusion charade, if he ever does which I am not holding my breath waiting for, Trump will fire Sessions, Rosenstein, Wray and a whole lot of others that are part of this national disgrace. I have zero expectations that Sessions will start doing his job at this late stsge. He has been the AG for almost 18 months and done nothing but give a few speeches and little else. Too many years relaxing in the Senate, where the hardest thing they have to do is occasionally vote on a bill most haven’t even read. That is NOT what we need in a AG. We need someone with energy and commitment to actually doing the job of AG.

Ivan Berry
3 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

That ain’t no shiit nor sunni, PaulE. Sessions was and still is a part of the establishment. Remember his take on Civil Asset Forfeiture? A lawyers lawyer, but no A.G. worth a petunia.

Paul W
3 years ago

As a believer in a Supreme Creator as well as peoples’ God given right to practice their faith, I think that’s fantastic. With that being said, I think it’s about time for this AG to start prosecuting those in high level positions that are impeding this president at every turn. If the president fails because of obstruction, we could possibly end up with another far left marxist POTUS and your religious freedom will be toast. Mr. Sessions, for the love of God and this Nation, start multi-tasking. Moreover, rescind your recusal. It was foolhardy and erroneous.

Sheila
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul W

Why didn’t Jeff Sessions do this in the beginning? It would had saved a lot of heartache over this. I am glad to see that he is doing something about religious liberty.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

Hi Shelia,

The only thing he is actually doing for religious liberty was to give that speech. That’s it. Done. He made a public appearance and now it’s back to hiding under his desk. Sessions is NOT cut out for the job of AG. No energy. No drive. No real commitment to enforcing the rule of law on major issues. It’s all show and empty talk with him. Too many years of being a Senator, which they are all used to behaving in the exact same manner. He’s just coasting to retirement while collecting a bug federal paycheck.

Martin Steed
3 years ago

The “problem” we have in our country today is that we do NOT teach the Constitution. People talk about “rights” without knowing what “rights” are. Read the Constitution, read the first ten Ammendments (the Bill of Rights). Notice that none of those “rights” places a burden or requirement on anybody else. You have a “right” to love who or what you want, but you do NOT have a right to make me like it, support it, or even accept it. You have a “right” to say what you want, but you do NOT have a right to make me listen nor to make me agree. It’s really not that hard to understand. Too bad we don’t teach that in schools any more.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Steed

Exactly correct. The left has attempted to hijack the word “rights” to mean they should always get whatever they want and everyone else who doesn’t feel that way should just shut up. Their version of so-called “rights” has little to nothing to do with the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. It is simply to impose their intolerance of anyone opposed to their vision of what they call a “just and progressive America”. Which is a country they envision to be totally opposed to the original founding principles.

Ivan Berry
3 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

To both Martin Steed and PaulE. well stated guys. It’s funny how many miss the fact that what rights and duties the central government had to deal with were listed in the Constitution, all others being reserved to the States or to the people.
Delegated responsibilities that the States relinquished were all that the general government was to be concerned with. It’s been sald that those responsibilities the general government fails to provide should be rescinded, taken back by the States. For instance: failing to provide protection to the States from Invasion, as per illegal immigration.

H R Carter
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Steed

Very good post Martin,I agree, The Constitution and especially The Bill Of Rights,should be taught from a least 5 th grade,forward.I honestly believe that many, many Anericans do not know ,just how free we are,and what it took to gain and maintain that freedom.

Rev. Mark Cannaday
3 years ago

Thank you, General Sessions. This is immediate and important work. The enemies of the expression of Faith are enemies of themselves who, givien victory, would jeopardize their own freedom in the future. It would lead to no expression allowed of any point of view without a challenge by those who do not “believe” in what is said. Freedom of Religion is crucially linked to freedom of speech. Rebellion is inevitable if not protected. The Founders of our Nation understood this.

Wayne Peterkin
3 years ago

Nice. Refreshing and I applaud it. But Jeff Sessions’ transgressions as AG go far beyond this. After the November election, he should be replaced for those transgressions. I highly recommend Gregg Jarrett’s new book “The Russian Hoax” as it is the most honest, detailed, and provably truthful account of our President’s dishonest persecution by the FBI, the DOJ, the Clinton’s, the Democrats, and investigators including Mueller and his cadre of highly partisan predators. I say that Mueller is not on a “witch-hunt” but rather a “snipe-hunt”. The difference is that “snipes” are purely fictional while “witches” abound. My proof is Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, and Maxine Waters to name only three.

PaulE
3 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

Excellent post Wayne.

Ivan Berry
3 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

May I nit pick? Snipes are real birds–but you do not catch them by holding open a tote sack while the country boys chase one into your bag. It’s the snipe-hunt and its method that are fictional. Otherwise, great post and well illustrates your valid position. Jarrett has usually done a great job with the truth. Looking forward to getting his book.
We used to take our city cousins on snipe-hunts in the forties and fifties. But there are just too many progressives in the woods to get them to hold the bag. They would just want us to give them a snipe without any effort on their part, redistribution, you know.

Herb Lieberman
3 years ago

As a Jewish man of faith, I support Our Nations People their right to practice their religion or no religion as they personally choose…And I support the movement to protect these rights….BUT I seriously believe unless the Govt and the AG moves to enforce existing law and prosecute those in Govt that have broken the laws be it in any of the three branches of Govt, we will become a LAWLESS NATION….

Wayne Peterkin
3 years ago
Reply to  Herb Lieberman

While I tend to agree, I would caution that in many ways we have already become that “lawless nation” under Obama and some who preceded him. In fact, every activist judge contributes to that lawlessness by refusing to accept the law as written and intended, preferring to inject their often flawed opinions of what the law should be.

Herb Lieberman
3 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Peterkin

Wayne I fully agree with your comments….We have defaulted to a Two Tier System of “Equal Justice” in our nation…One for those that can afford it and influence it and the second is for the rest of us….shame, Shame, SHAME…

BajaRon
3 years ago

Our nation was founded upon and because of the Word of God (the Bible), the person of Jesus Christ and a steadfast belief in the God of the Bible. Our founding documents were created for the express purpose of making it possible for those of faith to live out their lives in good conscience towards their God and man.

If we lose these ‘Inalienable’ rights. We have lost it all.

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