A listed American anti-LGBT hate group – Alliance Defending Freedom – has been linked to the Trump administration’s new religious freedom task force, which activists fear will be used to undermine equal rights protections.
Pink News reports that Trump’s deranged, bat-eared Attorney General Jeff Sessions, above, announced the formation of a “religious freedom task force” at a Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Justice Department on Monday – and that the ADF would be given an influential role in the the running of the force.
Sessions alluded to the ADF in his speech, saying:
Let us be frank. A dangerous movement, undetected by many, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt. This is no little matter. It must be confronted and defeated.
This election, and much that has flowed from it, gives us a rare opportunity to arrest these trends. Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories, but by intellectual victories.
We have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labelling them a ‘hate group’ on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs.
In a press release, the ADF said:
Religious liberty is our most precious gift as humans and our most cherished and protected freedom as Americans.
We highly commend President Trump and Attorney General Sessions for following through on the most vital promises of their public service: the preservation and protection of religious liberty.
Too many of the clients ADF represents are risking their businesses, their life savings, and their safety to follow their conscience. All Americans should be free to peacefully live and act consistent with their convictions and faith without threat of government punishment.
Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to political and cultural whims; they are constitutional guarantees, and we are grateful that this administration recognizes that reality and is taking serious steps to correct injustice and protect the freedom of religion.
In his speech, Sessions said the the task force was the product of:
Listening sessions… [with] religious groups across America.
He went on to affirmed his belief that individuals and business owners should be free to discriminate based on religious beliefs and that the task force:
Will help the department fully implement our religious liberty guidance.
Media Matters reports that it appears the the Justice Department collued with the ADF on the launch, with the ADF breaking the news of the task force’s creation in its press release.
Extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center has labelled the ADF as a “hate group”, noting that it has actively supported the criminalisation of homosexuality in Belize. ADF leaders have previously linked homosexuality and paedophilia.
The group primarily works to undermine LGBT anti-discrimination protections through a series of court battles, most notably representing bigoted baker Jack Phillips, above – and arguing that religious freedom gives him the right to discriminate against gay customers.
Under Sessions, the Justice Department has frequently weighed in on court battles on the side of the ADF, filing a brief to the Supreme Court supporting Phillips.
LGBT activists have expressed fears over the implications of the task force. Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said:
This taxpayer funded task force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Over the last 18 months, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions have engaged in a brazen campaign to erode and limit the rights of LGBTQ people in the name of religion.
The Attorney General standing shoulder-to-shoulder this morning with anti-LGBTQ extremists tells you everything you need to know about what today’s announcement was really all about.
Democratic National Committee LGBTQ Media Director Lucas Acosta said:
From supporting the right to refuse service to same-sex couples to banning military service by transgender individuals to removing mentions of LGBTQ issues from the White House website, Attorney General Sessions’ creation of a Religious Liberty 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.
Rather than ensuring every person has equal protections and opportunities, Sessions is shamefully doubling down on bigotry.
This action is further proof that Republicans continue to push forward an agenda completely out of step with the American people and our values. Democrats will continue to focus on how to improve opportunity for all Americans regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or income.
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD said:
Though freedom of religion is a core American value, religious exemptions from adhering to non-discrimination protections are not.
Sessions’ announcement is yet another example of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda as they seek to weave protections for those seeking anti-LGBTQ religious exemptions into the government.
Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said:
Today’s event by the Justice Department offends the true meaning of religious freedom.
The event was clearly designed to advance the Trump administration’s twisted and dangerous view of religious freedom, one that uses religion to discriminate and harm others.
This event exposed the administration’s real agenda: to preserve the power of Christian fundamentalists.
Michael Adams, CEO of Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders (SAGE), said:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement of a so-called Religious Liberty Task Force at the Department of Justice is one more effort by this Administration to obliterate anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
LGBT elders – who rely on religiously affiliated providers for non-discriminatory care — have played a huge role in the ‘changing cultural climate’ that the Attorney General condemns. They will not go back into the closet so that this Administration can pander to the forces of intolerance and bigotry.