On July 30, at the Justice Department’s Religious Liberty Summit — organized by a Christian conservative legal outfit called the Alliance Defending Freedom — US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after consulting with the organization, announced the formation of a new “Religious Liberty Task Force,” one that many critics believe has less to do with broadly dealing with issues of religious freedom, and more to do with promoting the Christian right’s political and social agenda.
Christian Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove described the Alliance as a “legal advocacy and organizing coalition for Christian nationalists that has been aggressive in pushing for a decidedly unequal definition of religious liberty.” With the Alliance and other anti-LGBTQ extremists in attendance, the setting for the announcement of the new task force could not have been more chillingly symbolic.
“By holding the summit under the auspices of the [Department of Justice (DOJ)] and allocating department officials to oversee the task force, Trump is once again telling the religious right that its concerns are his concerns,” said Rob Boston, director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Wilson-Hartgrove agrees, adding that, “When groups like the [Alliance] talk about religious liberty, they are really talking about liberty for one specific religion — Christianity. In this context, the phrase has become a rallying cry for Christian conservatives whose religious and political interests align around issues like reversing Roe v. Wade and rolling back LGBT protections.”
Will this new task force, roundly applauded by conservative Christian organizations, become a haven for right-wing homophobes and Islamophobes, and a safe place for right-wing dog-whistlers?
While mentioning an attack on a mosque in Texas, Sessions made no mention of the increased attacks on Muslims in this country, nor did he talk about racial slurs chanted by neo-Nazis, who in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year were wearing swastikas and screaming, “Jews will not replace us.”