Guest Post By Jennifer Bardi
Yesterday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force, which is being viewed as a follow-up to the previously unenforced May 2017 Executive Order on religious freedom and the supplementary October 2017 Justice Department guidance on that order. This new task force will almost undoubtedly jeopardize the civil rights of countless Americans, especially those with less social power, in order to promote a deeply flawed and discriminatory understanding of religious freedom. I’m deeply disturbed that Jeff Sessions is using the Department of Justice to create special rights for the religious right at the expense of other Americans, including those of minority faiths or no faith at all who understand and honor the establishment clause of the US Constitution.
The twenty points of guidance issued by Sessions in the 2017 memo allow bigotry to be disguised as a religious freedom, and Sessions now seeks to implement these instructions across the federal government through the task force. Throughout his announcement, Sessions referenced a number of cases that ostensibly demonstrate the oppression facing conservative Christians in this country. His claims of “nuns forced to buy contraceptives” is misleading at best, and draws attention to Trump’s October 2017 Executive Order promising employers faith-based exceptions to mandatory provision of healthcare. This promotion of religion at the expense of women’s bodies isn’t the only concerning factor.
Many of Sessions’ twenty points of guidance reference the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and seek to justify government-sanctioned religious bigotry as required by RFRA. This troubling task force will use public, taxpayer funding to distort and manipulate legislature like RFRA to promote discrimination under the guise of religious choice.
The American Humanist Association will continue to monitor and respond to the actions taken by the new Religious Liberty Task Force in an effort to protect the freedom of and freedom from religion for everyone.
Jennifer Bardi is the editor-in-chief of the Humanist magazine,
senior editor of the TheHumanist.com, and recently-appointed
deputy director of the American Humanist Association.
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