Monday, August 06, 2018

Buzzfeed: Jeff Sessions, Justice Department keeping secrets about 'religious liberty' task force

Big props to Buzzfeed and journalist Dominic Holden (an acquaintance of mine) for keeping this issue in the public eye. With all of the chaos going on regarding Trump and Russia, the LGBTQ community should still keep our eyes open regarding the Justice Department's "religious liberty" task force.

As Holden writes it, details about the task force, such as who will be members, remains unknown:

Despite the fanfare, however, Justice Department officials haven’t provided basic information about Sessions’ new task force or what it will actually do. 
Who will be on it? When will it meet? Is there an agenda for its meeting? Will its proceedings be open to the public? 
The Justice Department didn’t answer those questions from BuzzFeed News. A DOJ point person for the task force, Jeffrey Hall, referred inquiries to a DOJ spokesperson, who cited a transcript of Sessions' speech and a memo, which also didn’t provide answers. Follow-up questions went unanswered.

With good reason, spokespeople from religious groups which do not embrace right-wing evangelical Christianity are beginning to ask questions:

“My biggest concerns is the lack of transparency and clarity,” Johnathan Smith, the legal director of Muslim Advocates, told BuzzFeed News about the panel's unclear mandate, membership, and agenda. 
“There is a concern that certain Christian and evangelical communities are being brought to the forefront, and others, particularly Muslim communities, are discriminated against and harassed,” he added. “When you create a religious task force and you don’t have that detail and transparency, it raises a lot of questions about whether all communities will benefit from this government action.” 
Lacking details, the panel could be brushed off as little more than a gesture — a bone thrown to the evangelical right before the midterm elections. 
But given the politicized rollout, the task force may instead prove a new vehicle to enforce Sessions’ hardline agenda, sheltered from oversight because it’s housed entirely inside the Justice Department.