Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a "religious liberty task force" today, which some say will encourage discrimination against LGBT people and women.

Sessions made the announcement during the Justice Department's "religious liberty summit." He said the task force will implement a guidance he issued last October which included 20 principles for the executive branch to follow, including that free exercise means a right to act, or not act, and that government shouldn’t question people’s motives or beliefs.

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” he said, referring to the Colorado baker who won his Supreme Court case after being found to have violated state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

“In short, we have not only the freedom to worship—but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements,” he said.


Sessions said the goal was to protect religious groups from persecution. But others say it will be a vehicle for persecution under the guise of religious freedom.

"This taxpayer funded Religious Liberty Task Force is yet another example of the Trump-Pence White House and Jeff Sessions sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people," tweeted the Human Rights Campaign on Monday afternoon.

Planned Parenthood Action tweeted: "Let's be real about this "Religious Liberty Task Force." What the administration — which also adopted a Muslim ban — desires isn’t “religious liberty.” It's another license to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, communities of color, and so many more."

Sessions will lead the task force, which will be co-chaired by Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy Beth Williams.