A summit at the U.S. Justice Department on Monday ostensibly intended to promote religious freedom, including the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force, often highlighted efforts to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
At the summit in the Justice Department’s Great Hall, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of the task force to implement “religious freedom” guidance he issued last year.
“The task force will help the department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components — and we got a lot of components around the country — 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.
According to the Justice Department, Sessions will serve as chair of the task force, which will be co-chaired by Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and Associate Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy Beth Williams.
Sessions said a primary mission of the Religious Liberty Task Force will be ensuring Justice Department employees “know their duty is to accommodate people of faith.”
Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the agenda of the Religious Liberty Task Force “isn’t consistent with religious freedom.”
“Religious freedom protects our right to our beliefs, not a right to discriminate or harm others,” Melling said. “Jeff Session’s Department of Justice is again turning that understanding of religious freedom on its head.”
Lucas Acosta, director of LGBTQ media for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement the task force is “just the latest assault in this administration’s continued campaign against LGBTQ people and our civil rights.”
“By creating this task force, Sessions is establishing a unit dedicated to undermining LGBTQ rights and giving anti-LGBTQ far-right extremists like task force head Jesse Panuccio a taxpayer-funded platform to push their anti-equality agenda,” Acosta said. “Rather than ensuring every person has equal protections and opportunities, Sessions is shamefully doubling down on bigotry.”
But the creation of the Religious Liberty Task Force was just one portion of the summit, which also included the voices of participants who urged a commitment to religious freedom to advance anti-LGBT discrimination. Read more via Washington Blade