On Tuesday evening, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a closed-door event hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ extremist group which the Southern Poverty Law Center says “specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for [LGBTQ] communities in the U.S. and internationally.” The event was ostensibly in celebration of “religious freedom,” a concept that homophobes have been using as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people with increasing frequency.
The Department of Justice initially refused to release the attorney general’s prepared remarks. On Thursday, however, conservative website The Federalist published the full transcript of Sessions’ speech, as confirmed to me by a Department of Justice spokesperson. In it, Sessions attempted to use Martin Luther King as a spokesman for his agenda, and told the audience that new guidelines on federal “protections” for religious freedom are imminent.
You can read the whole thing on The Federalist’s site, but here are just a few key excerpts:
Thank you for the important work that you do every day to uphold and protect the right to religious liberty in this country. This is especially needed today.
Yep, it sure is hard to be a conservative Christian these days, isn’t it?
It was faith that inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to march and strive to make this country stronger yet. His was a religious movement. The faith that truth would overcome. He said that we “must not seek to solve the problem” of segregation merely for political reasons, but “in the final analysis, we must get rid of segregation because it is sinful.” It undermined the promise, as he described it, that “each individual has certain basic rights that are neither derived from nor conferred by the state…they are gifts from the hands of the Almighty God.”
In 1986, Martin Luther King Jr’s widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote a letter to Congress urging them not to confirm Sessions to a federal judgeship. Based on Sessions’ record of alleged racial discrimination, King explained that “I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband’s dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago.”
In all of this litigation and debate, this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned. We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.
Hmm, pretty sure there are plenty of “sincere religious beliefs” that this DOJ is probably just fine with abandoning...
The president has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.
Can’t wait to hear how the DOJ plans to protect the rights of Christian bakers who don’t want to make cakes for same-sex couples—a case, coincidentally, that’s received significant backing from, you guessed it, the Alliance Defending Freedom!
In a brief statement to Rewire.news, a representative for the ADF characterized Sessions’ speech as “a private event attended mostly by people in the legal profession with an interest in religious freedom. Pretty simple.”