Responses to Monday’s announcement that the Department of Justice is creating a Religious Liberty Task Force demonstrate this country’s cultural and spiritual divide over First Amendment freedoms.
At a summit hosted by the DOJ, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the task force will help the department implement guidance issued last year and ensure DOJ “employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”
Speakers at the summit featured Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs who recounted stories of discrimination, including Christian baker Jack Phillips, a rabbi who faced opposition to building a synagogue, and a Sikh lawyer who was told he had to remove his turban to receive a job offer.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, which leads the effort to shut down Christian foster care and adoption agencies that refuse to place children with same-sex couples, warned via Twitter: “Reminder: Religious freedom protects our right to our beliefs, not a right to harm others. The Department of Justice has no business licensing discrimination against LGBT people, women, and religious minorities.”
“If the ACLU opposes vigorously upholding the First Amendment, that says a lot more about them than it does about the task force,” Montse Alvarado, vice president of Becket, told me. The legal advocacy organization represents the Jewish panelist, Rabbi Ruvi New, whose congregation has struggled for 10 years against anti-Semitism in Boca Raton, Fla.
In a concluding panel, Emilie Kao, an attorney at The Heritage Foundation, warned that America must avoid “the path of repressive regimes” and guard against sexual revolutionaries’ hostility toward non-conformists.
“In recent years, [religious liberty] has become a highly politicized phrase,” said DOJ media affairs specialists Kerri Kupec. “I have even seen the phrase ‘religious freedom’ housed in scare quotes, as if it is not a real thing, or a bad thing, which is tragic. True religious freedom is a beautiful thing. Religious freedom is our collective identity.” —B.P.