Washington, DC — The Secular Coalition for America released the following statement today following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America
“What we learned from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today is that, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department’s top priority will be to enforce and impose religious privilege. When asked by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) if the Justice Department’s new religious liberty guidelines would allow for federal employees and contractors to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs, Attorney General Sessions did not have an answer. Any serious reading of the Justice Department’s memorandum shows that it clearly allows for federal employees, grant recipients, and contractors to discriminate when providing benefits and in their hiring and firing practices based on completely subjective individual beliefs. The fact that Attorney General Sessions could not answer this question suggests he was either feigning ignorance, genuinely never considered that the guidelines allow for taxpayer-funded discrimination, or frankly, never read it. None of these possibilities is acceptable.”
“When Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked Attorney General Sessions if the guidelines would grant religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act to employers who practiced faith healing or held religious objections to vaccination, Sessions again failed to answer the question. We can answer the question that Sessions could not. The fact is that under the Department of Justice guidelines, in conjunction with the new religious exemption issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, there is no line that can be drawn between religious objections to contraceptives and faith healing.”
“We are grateful to Senators Hirono, Durbin, and Franken, who demonstrated through their questions at today’s hearing that they understand the magnitude of the Attorney General’s actions. While this memo clearly sanctions discrimination against the LGBTQ community and women, it must be understood that the Department of Justice’s actions open the door to as many varieties of discrimination as there are religious beliefs.”
“The Justice Department’s memorandum on religious liberty challenges the very foundation of our secular government. It turns religious belief into a get-out-of-jail-free card and makes our civil rights subordinate to the religious convictions of others. It is all the more appalling that this attack on the rule of law is being led by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Americans of all faiths and none must rally together to oppose this unprecedented assertion of religious privilege. Only by fighting together against religious privilege can we safeguard LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, and true religious freedom.”
Contact: Casey Brescia
Communications Associate and Spokesman
[email protected], (845)-380-6201
The Secular Coalition for America is the nation’s premier advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other nontheists. Its mission is to increase the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. The Secular Coalition represents 18 voting member organizations.