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Jeff Sessions is installing ‘religious freedom’ czars in every U.S. Attorney’s office

Michelle Bachmann and other religious right leaders meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office
Michelle Bachmann and other religious right leaders meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Photo: Facebook/Michele Bachmann

The Trump administration is continuing its efforts to give a license to discriminate under the guise of “religious liberty,” placing a religious liberty czar throughout the entirety of the U.S. Attorneys offices.

Changes have been quietly made to the policy manuals for U.S. Attorneys’ offices and Department of Justice litigation offices, once again hoisting the concerns of the “religious freedom” crowd. Those offices will now have to assign a member of staff to monitor litigation and inform their political appointee higher-ups when so-called religious freedom comes up in any suit as a part of the complaint or defense.

The change also requires U.S. Attorneys and litigation offices to seek the approval of the Associate Attorney General, Trump appointee Rachel Brand, before they can proceed with any such case.

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“To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, Department components and United States Attorneys’ Offices must reasonably accommodate religious observance and practice in all activities, including litigation,” the policy now reads.

It adds that “the Office of the Associate Attorney General has supervisory responsibility for overseeing the Department’s respect for religious liberty in litigation.”

This follow the administration’s pattern, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions releasing memos instructing U.S. Attorneys and department heads to give more weight to such concerns back in October.

Jeff Sessions
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wikimedia Commons/Shane T. McCoy

The Trump administration also created a new division of the Office of Civil Rights, the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, allowing healthcare workers to deny treatment to LGBTQ people and women seeking abortions if it conflicts with their religious convictions.

“This is a breathtaking expansion of religious privilege in the DOJ,” said American Atheists’ legal and policy director Alison Gill in a statement. “These policy changes significantly undermine the rule of law and favor religious beliefs at the expense of nondiscrimination and equal protection.”

“Requiring the approval of religious political appointees before enforcing the law is something I would expect to see in a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia, but I’m rapidly losing any sense of shock and surprise at the lengths this administration will go to impose the beliefs of religious extremists on all Americans,” David Silverman, president of American Atheists, added.

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