Attorney General Jeff Sessions Issues Govt-Wide Guidance on Federal Religious Liberty Protections

WASHINGTON — At the instruction of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a memo to all government departments and agencies that provides guidance as to how federal laws pertaining to religious liberty protections should be interpreted.

“Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place,” he wrote. “It also encompasses religious observance and practice. Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.”

Sessions then provided 20 principles pertaining to religious liberty, as well as pertinent case law on the matter. The notations included: “The free exercise of religion includes the right to act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs” (principle 2), “The freedom of religion extends to person and organizations” (principle 3) and “Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square or interacting with the government” (principle 4).

He outlined as examples that religious entities may not be excluded from secular aid programs—in reference to the June U.S. Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer—and may not be prohibited from distributing religious materials simply because of their content.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also may not enforce the Johnson Amendment against churches and religious nonprofits in circumstances where it would not likewise enforce the law against secular nonprofits, Sessions further advised.

He additionally explained that the government cannot compel a person or organization to act contrary to their religion, stating that “a government action that bans an aspect of an adherent’s religious observance or practice, compels an act inconsistent with that observance or practice, will qualify as a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.”

Sessions cited as examples that the Bureau of Prisons cannot prohibit an incarcerated Muslim from growing a beard, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may not require religious employers to cover contraceptives that conflict with their convictions under the threat of fines.

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“[R]eligious organizations may choose to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the organization’s religious precepts,” he outlined. “For example, a Lutheran secondary school may choose to employ only practicing Lutherans, only practicing Christians, or only those willing to adhere to a code of conduct consistent with the precepts of the Lutheran community sponsoring the school.”

The government also may not condition the provision of grant money or contracts on the relinquishment of certain religious characteristics or hiring practices.

“To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, … religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting and programming,” Sessions wrote.

Quoting from the 1952 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Zorach v. Clauson, he concluded, “[Government] follows the best of our traditions … when it respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.”

Read the memorandum in full here.

Faith-based groups and members of Congress alike applauded Sessions’ memo, expressing optimism that his guidance might help correct recent infringements on the religious rights of Americans.

Farris

“This guidance will help protect families like the Vander Boons in Michigan who were threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government. And it is another step toward fulfilling President Trump’s promise to protect a host of Christian colleges, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others from having to choose between violating their consciences and paying crippling fines to the IRS,” said Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

“We have seen public officials criticized for their religious beliefs, elected representatives who have called for a ‘religious test’ for public office, and marketplace discrimination against religious people who own and run businesses according to the dictates of their individual consciences,” noted Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “Yet the Constitution is clear: the freedom to believe and act in accordance with belief is fundamental and non-negotiable for all Americans. I applaud Attorney General Sessions for his commitment to uphold religious liberty throughout all federal agencies and departments.”


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  • meamsane

    Yeah, somebody gets it!

  • james blue

    And non religious entities should not be forced by government to accommodate our faith. If a religious entity should be allowed to only employ people who live by that faith (they should) then a non religious entity should be allowed to exclude people of faith from their employ. It shouldn’t be a one way street.

    “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      yeah … i am good with all that ………..

      • james blue

        One of the few things we agree on.

        Private business and citizens should be able to do or refuse to do business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish.

        • Amos Moses – He>i

          ANY business ………….

          • james blue

            Not sure what you are getting at there, While there are some things that are illegal that shouldn’t be, It is limited to legal trade. This is about WHO you trade with, not WHAT you trade

            Obviously human trafficking or to commit an act of treason or war against etc. wouldn’t be included.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            my qualifier was to private AND public ………

          • james blue

            Now there we disagree. Public entities or those contracted to carry out a government operation should not discriminate and government employees and agents should carry out the duties of their office regardless of their personal beliefs Yon Kim Davis as a government official should issue marriage licenses to all who qualify under the law regardless of her personal beliefs for example.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            Angry Gay Owner Unleashes On Christians Drinking Coffee In His Shop
            Posted By Amber Randall On 3:21 PM 10/06/2017

            A gay Seattle coffee shop owner kicked a group of Christians out of his coffee shop Sunday, after declaring he would “f ck Christ in the ass.”

            The owner heatedly tells the Christians to leave his shop immediately in a video posted to Facebook by Abolish Human Abortion, a Christian group seeking to end the practice of abortion.

            “I’m gay, you have to leave,” the owner tells the group. “This is offensive to me. I own the place. I have the right to be offended.”

            The group tried to explain that they hadn’t placed any in the shop, but the owner repeatedly told them to”shut up.”

            “There’s nothing you can say. This is you and I don’t want these people in this place,” the owner says. The group asks why he can’t tolerate their presence, prompting the owner to ask them if they would watch him have sex with his boyfriend.

            “Can you tolerate my presence? Really? If I go get my boyfriend and f ck him in the a right here you’re going to tolerate that? Are you going to tolerate it?” the owner asked. “Answer my f ing question! No, you’re going to sit right here and f ing watch it! Leave all of you! Tell all your f cking friends don’t come here!”

            The group gets up to leave, as one woman among them says, “just know that Christ can save you from that lifestyle.”

            “Yeah, I like a . I’m not going to be saved by anything. I’d f ck Christ in the a . Okay? He’s hot,” he said.

            According to the Liberator, the Christian group had been handing out pamphlets to Seattle locals on abortion, sin and the Bible. The group entered Bedlam Coffee to take a break and drink coffee when a barista went upstairs to tell the owner that the group was there.

            “They had good coffee,” Caytie Davis, a group member, said. “It’s just too bad the service sucked.

            ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • meamsane

            They should sue for discrimination. We would then see if the government would apply the law equally.
            It would also expose the hypocrisy on the left.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            they are already exposed ………. if that is the way they want to treat customers …… then the market has answer for it …… we do not need their courts to do that ………..

          • meamsane

            I haven’t seen this in the MSM! I’ve seen this only on some conservative websites. The exposure is limited, so far. If Christians want to maintain the religious freedom they have, they have to fight for it. Paul, being a roman citizen did appeal to his rights in a roman court.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            the MSM will never report it ….. Christ never told us to have any confrontation in these matters …… other than to make disciples …… Christ never led any “revolt” of the Roman government ….. Paul did as you say to protect his own life …. but not to change the government ….. and our true citizenship is a heavenly one …. the world is going to act as the world acts ….. our mission is not to demand the world change to our liking …. that will happen soon enough ….. our mission is the great commission …………

          • meamsane

            I am not suggesting a “revolt” or a “dominionist” take over of government here since the bible teaches no such thing. I am suggesting that since God institutes civil government (Romans 13:1-7) that Christians can and should when they think it appropiate to protect their own rights. I absolutely agree with everything you said here.

            Pauls life was at stake in the end, but in Acts 16 he and Silas were beaten and imprisoned and accused of teaching “illegal” customs. Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship and Roman law being beaten and imprisoned without trial.

          • james blue

            There’s hypocrisy aplenty on both sides.

          • james blue

            And?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            and guess what …. he had every right to do so ……….

          • james blue

            Why are you posting that to me? What is it that you think I would disagree with?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            you have already stated your opposition to it …… “Now there we disagree. Public entities or those contracted to carry out a government operation should not discriminate” …… a coffee house is a PUBLIC ENTITY ……….. according to you ……… and whether a bakery or a photog or whatever ….. if they decide not to serve ….. you have stated they have no right to do so ….. but they do ………..

          • james blue

            Public meaning government, like public schools. The coffee shop is a PRIVATE entity, as are the bakers

            As for the rest…. SERIOUSLY??? What part of “Private business and citizens should be able to do or refuse to do business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish.” is confusing you?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            your statement there clarifies your position …. thnx …….

          • james blue

            Didn’t need clarifying, all you had to do is read what I wrote and not make up what my position is..

        • This style 10/6

          No women served here!

          • dansLaRue

            Some Libertarian perspectives would argue “a free market” would eliminate discrimination since discriminating would not make economic sense. Not sure the praxis of that theoretical model has worked out quite like Rothbard and Friedman envisioned.

          • james blue

            I certainly am under no delusions that some business wouldn’t flourish for discriminating and have never claimed “a free market” would eliminate anything. I’ve never claimed it would be pretty either.

          • dansLaRue

            Can’t find where I implied or explicitly stated you’ve claimed anything.

          • james blue

            Was answering as a libertarian who believes private businesses and citizens should be free to do or refuse to do (legal) business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish.

          • dansLaRue

            Murray Rothbard, founder of the American Libertarian party, and Milton Friedman, economist and political theorist each argue discrimination laws are unnecessary as a truly free market would “weed out” discriminatory business practices. Friedman, however, also attempts to argue against professional licensure…the market would cause doctors that kill their patients would fail in the free market. Most that identify as Libertarian don’t fully grasp what that means.

          • james blue

            And I responded to this as a libertarian. Please do not confuse libertarians with a party with “libertarian” in the name.

          • dansLaRue

            How do you plan to effect any change toward your libertarian ideas if not for through the institutions of the American state? Direct action? Are you simply satisfied to issue polemical statements on line, or is there a plan to dismantle the institutions you apparently loathe?

          • james blue

            Are you suggesting I don’t vote?

            What I said was don’t confuse libertarians with a party with “libertarian” in the title. I vote for an individual when I vote, not a party. Generally I find the “party candidates” for the libertarians on the federal level are really big authoritarian government social conservatives who couldn’t get on the republican ticket.

          • Jerome Horwitz

            Relevance?

          • This style 10/6

            James Blue: Private business and citizens should be able to do or refuse to do business with whomever they wish for whatever reason they wish.

            Presumably this would include women, Irish, Seventh Day Adventists, anyone you don’t like.

          • Jerome Horwitz

            No, you said women.

            Again, how is this relevant, unless you are merely trolling?

          • This style 10/6

            If you can’t work it out I can’t help you.

          • Jerome Horwitz

            I had it right the first time: Your comment was not relevant.

  • Cyril Tangham

    At least something worth reading..
    Good

  • Croquet_Player

    Tick, tock. The clock is ticking on Sessions, and all his ilk. It may take a year, it might take fifty years, with the recent hijacking of the Supreme Court, from Garland to Gorsuch. No worries. The truth will out eventually. Gay people are American citizens, and are entitled to all American rights. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Look at the clock.

    • Kirk

      There ain’t no “right” to a cake, bozo.

      Nothing in the Constitution about cakes or gays,
      but “free exercise” of religion IS in there.

      If you homosexuals hate Christians so much, you would AVOID giving them business, so it’s obvious these businesses are being targeted by anti-Christian bigots.

      • james blue

        Should it be legal for an Atheist or non Christian to refuse goods and services to Christians because they disagree with our faith. For example – should a landlord be allowed to refuse to rent to Christians because he doesn’t want Christian prayer on his property?
        If not, why not?

        • Osamao

          Has you Anti-Christian Neurotic Atheist Freakazoids in a tizzy don’t it?

          • james blue

            oh look, a troll

          • Osamao

            Where am I wrong? Educate me.

      • Croquet_Player

        Two erroneous assumptions. One, that I am a gay person. Two, that American citizens may be denied the right to shop at businesses which serve the general public. Tick, tock.

    • Jerome Horwitz

      Your sexual behavior doesn’t entitle you to special treatment.

      Makes me wonder where you’ll be when the pedophiles come out for their “rights.”

  • Kirk

    Well, the Trump admin hasn’t exactly delivered on the border wall or repealing Obamadon’tcare, so it’s high time they came through on one of his promises.

    I like Sessions because liberals hate him so much.

    • That’s what the Russians, the Republicans, and the current Administration wants. “Victory” for them is the misery of the people they don’t like. It’s petty, and only destructive…

      • Osamao

        Funny. That’s why the Democrats lost.

  • Trilemma

    Expect unintended consequences.

    • chronicintel

      Here come the Satanists…

  • jtbdad

    Bigotry wrapped up in a flag and topped with bits of the Constitution.

    • Jerome Horwitz

      Oh? Explain.

  • Good for the AG and good for the country.

  • Did Sharia Law really need to have the red carpet rolled out for it???

    • mikegillespie

      Sharia is Islamic, not Christian.

      Different religions.

      • james blue

        And?

        • mikegillespie

          You people are so ignorant you don’t even know the difference between the world religions. Awesome ignorance.

          • james blue

            “You people”? What people are those that I am apparently one of?

            Upon what do you base this accusation that I (and others) do not know about differences in religions?

          • “You people” is the universal cry of bigots decrying people who are “different” than (inferior to) themselves… 🙂

          • dansLaRue

            You people with the audacity to value critical thought.

      • Do American laws differ depending on one’s religion???

        • mikegillespie

          You are very confused and ignorant.
          Jeff Sessions is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. Christians do not impose Sharia law – Muslims do.

          You can look up different religions on Wikipedia.

          • james blue

            Who said Sessions is a Muslim?
            The comment didn’t suggest Christians impose Sharia law, that’s something you read into it despite the actual words written.
            The point that you are apparently missing is that laws regarding freedom of religion apply to ALL religions, not just Christians, Hence “Ed VanDyke” pointing out the laws of unintended consequences.

          • Was Jeff Sessions speaking for Christians (which he’s not empowered to do)? Or speaking to American laws (which he is empowered to do)??? Whatever standard is established will apply to ALL religious practice in the eyes of the law…Thus, he’s rolled out the carpet for Sharia Law (and its Christian equivalents)…

          • dansLaRue

            Fortunately, the Courts have the final say in how existing law is interpreted, not Mr. Sessions or the Justice Dept.

          • Amen… 🙂

      • dansLaRue

        Different religion, same attitude…as in, if you don’t think and act the appropriate way, you’re going to hell.

    • Jerome Horwitz

      Troll. Flagged.

  • “Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place,” Sessions wrote. “It also encompasses religious observance and practice. Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.”

    Sorry, such was already determined to the contrary in Reynolds v. United States, arguably the most consequential of all Supreme Court decisions:

    “…If we believe the law of WE THE PEOPLE is supreme, then all law that contravenes the Constitution, including Yahweh’s commandments, statutes, and judgments, is null and void. Reynolds v. United States (1879) addressed the Mormon Church’s claim that polygamy was a right afforded them under Amendment 1. Because most Americans find polygamy repugnant, the magnitude of Supreme Court Justice Morrison R. Waite’s decision is lost on them [Note in particular the first and last sentences]:

    ‘Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice?… So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land.’12

    “Contrary to Matthew 7:21-27 and James 1:22-25, the Supreme Court ruled that a man’s actions can be severed and isolated from his faith and judged illegal according to the Constitution and its supplemental edicts. This precedent paved the way for any Christian action based upon a Biblical conviction – such as preaching against sodomy [or refusal to bake wedding cakes for sodomites] – to be arbitrarily outlawed in the same fashion. Had the framers established Yahweh’s immutable law and its predetermined morality as the supreme law of the land, polygamy and human sacrifice (and all other issues) would have fallen under its jurisdiction and thereby determined to be either lawful or unlawful….”

    For more, see online Chapter 9 “Article 6: The Supreme Law of the Land” of “Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.” Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Books page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 9.

    Then find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our 10-question Constitution Survey in the right-hand sidebar and receive a complimentary copy of a book that examines the Constitution by the Bible.

  • Except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.”

    I agree only to the point making laws that force others to abide by anyone’s religious beliefs falls within that “narrowest of circumstances.” Forbidden includes trying to stop people from marrying whom they love, discriminating on the bases of religion in the open marketplace, religious instruction (teaching religion instead of teaching ABOUT religions) and having prayer during official class time in public schools, at football games and any other school function, or having creationism taught in science class.

    Let’s put it this way, Christians should be allowed to practice their religion exactly the same as all other religions are allowed to practice theirs. You don’t want Islam and Islamic beliefs pushed in public schools or in the public square? Then Christianity must not be allowed to do it either either. Under our constitution, regardless of what our racist Attorney General thinks or says, all religions (and non religion) are squarely on a level playing field–they are equal under the law.

    So, practice your religion all you like, but you may not circumvent the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.