Beliefnet News

Jeff_Sessions_official_portraitFreedom of religion has long been enshrined in American culture and is one of the first freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights. The right to not only believe in a specific faith but also to practice it has come under attack in recent years. This has led to the creation of a religious liberty task force charged with implementing Justice Department guidance on respecting and accommodating religious beliefs. According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this task force has become necessary as America becomes increasingly “less hospitable to people of faith.” Though few people seem willing to discuss the issue, it is abundantly clear that American culture is becoming less and less tolerant of free exercise of religion. Faith, it seems to a vocal minority of Americans, is meant to be believed quietly inside a person’s head. When people try and practice it publically, however, that is seen as unacceptable.

The vitriol seems rather disproportionately aimed at Christianity, if one judges by recent events. Sessions referenced some of these events while warning of the “dangerous movement” that worked to erode the protections for religious Americans. The task force is, in part, a response to this movement managing to invade even the highest levels of government. Sessions noted that Congress had begun to question judicial and executive branch nominees about their faith and dogma before supporting an appointment. This flies in the face of both the Bill of Rights and the long upheld idea of separation of church and state. Under both of these, religion cannot be used as a reason to give or deny someone a position. One could also argue that by trying to exclude candidates from certain religions, church and state have been joined once more. People have simply made the state religion atheism.

“A dangerous movement…is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom,” Sessions said. “It’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated…Such a reversal will not just be done with electoral victories, however, but by intellectual victories.” How those victories will be handled and when they will come is still in question, but there is no doubt that something needs to happen soon before the right to exercise one’s faith is swept aside.