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Justice Department creates religious freedom task force

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced that the Department of Justice has created a Religious Liberty Task Force, led by Sessions, in order to further the DOJ’s work to protect and promote religious liberty as established in the Religious Liberty Memorandum and the Implementation Memorandum.

According to information shared by Liberty Counsel, on October 6, 2017, Attorney General Sessions issued two memoranda. The first, the Memorandum to All Executive Departments and Agencies on Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty (“Religious Liberty Memorandum”), explained twenty key principles of religious liberty in U.S. law and provided direction to agencies in four areas: agencies as employers, rulemaking, enforcement actions, and contracting or grant-making.

Sessions also issued a memorandum within the DOJ instructing components on how to implement the Religious Liberty Memorandum (“Implementation Memorandum”). This Implementation Memorandum called on components to incorporate the Religious Liberty Memorandum in all aspects of the DOJ’s litigation, in advice to other agencies, in department operations, and through its own rulemaking and its interagency rule review. The Implementation Memorandum required components to notify the associate attorney general of all issues that arise which implicate the Religious Liberty Memorandum.

The Religious Liberty Task Force will: (1) facilitate DOJ compliance with the memoranda;( 2) address novel, recurring, or cross-cutting issues in the DOJ’s work implicating the memoranda; (3) facilitate interagency coordination regarding the Religious Liberty Memorandum; (4) engage in outreach to the public, religious communities, and religious liberty organizations to obtain feedback on compliance with the Religious Liberty Memorandum; and (5) develop new strategies, involving litigation, policy, and legislation, to protect and promote religious liberty.

Matt Clark is an attorney for the Montgomery based Foundation for Moral Law.

“We are pleased that the Trump administration is creating a task force to facilitate the implementation of its religious liberty policies,” Clark told the Alabama Political Reporter. “Talk is cheap, but actions speak louder than words. The Trump administration’s actions show that protecting religious liberty is a priority, which will come as a relief to millions of Americans who are concerned about whether they may freely exercise and speak about their religious convictions.”

Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The establishment of a Religious Liberty Task Force is an historic and positive step by the Trump administration to protect religious freedom and the rights of conscience. Today’s announcement by the Department of Justice is encouraging, and the Trump administration is to be commended for making this 180-degree turn from the past administration which used the federal government to violate religious freedom and conscience rather than protecting our first freedom. This task force sends a strong message that there is a commitment to protecting religious freedom.”

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“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,” Sessions said. “That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”

Sessions warned that there is, “A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom,” Sessions said in his speech. “There can be no doubt. This is no little matter. It must be confronted and defeated.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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