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'Religious liberty task force' created to protect religious rights

Jeff Sessions announces the "religious liberty task force."
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At a Monday morning Department of Justice conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "religious liberty task force."

Last year, the department issued the religious liberty guidance and this task force, co-chaired by Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, Beth Williams, will ensure that the guidance will be fully implemented. 

In an effort to support religious liberties, last year President Trump gave an executive order for agencies to protect religious and political speech. 

According to The Hill, Sessions made this latest announcement at the religious liberty summit, saying it will, “ensure 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.”

During his speech, Sessions said that respect for religion in the United States has been on the decline and Americans are feeling their faith, and the freedom to practice it has been under attack.

“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.”

Phillips is the Colorado baker who went all the way to the Supreme Court after he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. 

Sessions also said there are 20 fundamental principles for the executive branch to follow and that free exercise means a right to act or refusal to act, and the government shouldn't deem these motives or beliefs as wrong.  

“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,” he said. 

The attorney general said the administration is seeking to accommodate people of faith. 

“Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought,” he said.