Jeff Sessions Providing Watchdogs for the Religious Right within the DOJ, warns Center for Inquiry

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) denounced Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s new Justice Department policy requiring all US Attorney offices across the country to assign a staffer to monitor all litigation involving religious freedom, a policy CFI says privileges the religious right and advances its agenda to make religious belief a license to discriminate.

“Sessions has just created a new job, that of watchdog for the religious right,” noted CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel, Nick Little. “Anyone who has watched this administration bend over backward to pander to evangelical Christians knows precisely what the result of this will be – more government intervention on the side of Christianity, and more protection of the ability of people to discriminate against women, the LGBT community, and other groups in the name of religion.”

According to the new policy, before launching litigation involving religious liberty, career attorneys at the Department of Justice must consult with political appointees, further increasing the likelihood of religious privilege influencing the direction taken by the department tasked with defending the Constitution on behalf of all Americans.

The policy stresses that its expansive view of religious freedom goes beyond individual belief and includes actions and refusals to act by both individuals and corporations. It explicitly allows religious groups to refuse service to people they dislike, whether that be lesbians seeking to adopt children or buy a wedding cake, women seeking reproductive health care such as abortions and contraception, or transgender individuals attempting to find a bathroom.

“While this policy talks about defending the right of the religious to act on their faith, it fails to mention even once the rights of the non-religious, or to discuss the rights of those in society who suffer religious-based discrimination,” said Robyn Blumner, CFI’s President and CEO. “Claims of religious liberty should not be a license to discriminate. But this policy stamps that license ‘Approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.’”

“CFI has always, and will always, stand in favor of religious freedom,” added Nick Little. “But freedom of belief isn’t about harming others. All Americans, including those of all faiths and those of no faith, should be able to rely on fair treatment from the Department of Justice. By this policy, Jeff Sessions has handed the keys to his Department to the religious right.”

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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