Sessions Issues Sweeping Religious Liberty Guidance to Federal Agencies

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he is reviving a Bush era crime-fighting strategy that emphasizes aggressive prosecution of gun and gang crimes.

The Trump administration wasn't content to just maintain religious freedom when it comes to job placement. The DOJ's new stance "conflicts with years of interpretation from both the U.S. Supreme Court and federal circuit courts", Human Rights Watch's legal director, Sarah Warbelow, said in a statement.

Among other principles outlined in the memo, the Justice Department instructs that religious employers are entitled to employ those whose beliefs and actions align with their own religious beliefs, and also that "Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government".

For several leading LGBT advocates, the new guidance was an alarming effort to undermine sexual orientation discrimination protections, under the guise of affirming religious liberty, that could have far-reaching implications. Since that convening he has done nothing to activate the Civil Rights Division or protect vulnerable populations including the LGBTQ community.

The guidance, an attempt to deliver on President Donald Trump's pledge to his evangelical and other religious supporters, effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.

It also said religious organizations may be exempt from following certain discrimination laws if doing so would conflict with the organization's religious principles. But the 17-page appendix setting forth the DOJ's analysis of federal "religious liberty" law devotes just one short paragraph to the Establishment Clause.

"Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but the attorney general's directive is nothing but a license for businesses to discriminate".

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The memo allows individuals to act, or abstain from acting, in accordance with their religious beliefs and prevents the government from prosecuting people for acting on those beliefs.

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would add 40 prosecutors to 20 USA attorney districts across the country, with instructions to team with local law enforcement to target guns, illegal drugs and the most violent offenders.

"This guidance will help protect families like the Vander Boons in MI who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government".

Sessions quoted President Trump saying his administration "will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore".

It's the latest move by the Trump administration as it enacts its tough-on-crime agenda and a cornerstone of Sessions' promised crackdown on violence. Stipulating that RFRA applies to disputes related to conferring benefits to others is nothing short of the same license to discriminate from Indiana's legislation.

According to the memo's 20 "principles", employers should be able to hire only "persons whose belief and conduct are consistent with the employer's religious precepts". Now, any employer can claim a religious or moral objection and opt out of covering contraception. The memo acknowledges that "Although federal law ... provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se".

When news dropped that the May executive order was coming, it was initially thought that it would be the same order that leaked in February. The Department of Justice today announces the foundation of our plan to reduce crime: "prioritizing Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that has been proven to work". We will fight them every step of the way'.

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