Statement on “Religious Freedom” Remarks by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

January 17, 2019

Yesterday, acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker gave remarks to a Heritage Foundation audience in which he claimed that secular Americans have “changed their minds” about supporting religious freedom and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA, passed in 1993, prevents the government from substantially burdening an individual’s exercise of religion unless there is a clear compelling governmental interest at stake and the government acts in the least restrictive means possible.

Whitaker’s remarks are simply wrong. Secular Americans support religious freedom, which is why they stand against efforts by Whitaker, and his allies in the religious right, to impose their narrow interpretation of religion on the rest of society.

“Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s remarks are a classic case of projection – it’s the religious right who has warped the meaning of religious freedom to trample the rights of everyone that they don’t like,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “RFRA was never intended to allow religion to be used to harm people, but the religious right uses it to deny the rights and dignity of nontheists, women, the unmarried, LGBTQ Americans, and others. Unlike the religious right, we support freedom of religion for all people, including the 29 percent of Americans who hold no religious beliefs. ”

Watch Whitaker’s remarks here:

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at