Sessions says Trump has directed him to issue guidance on religious liberty protections

Sessions says Trump has directed him to issue guidance on religious liberty protections
© Greg Nash

President Trump has directed Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKey GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum Homeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report MORE to issue new guidance to government agencies for interpreting federal religious liberty protections. 

The attorney general revealed the directive on Tuesday in a speech to the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. The Federalist on Thursday released Sessions' prepared remarks from the event, which members of the press were barred from attending.

"The president has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections," Sessions said. "The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it."

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The fact that Sessions has been directed to issue such guidance fulfills a key provision of Trump's May 4 executive order granting religious organizations and churches greater leeway in their political activities, such as endorsing candidates.

It also offers "regulatory relief" to religious groups that object to the Affordable Care Act's provision mandating that employers offer certain health services to their employees, such as access to contraceptives.

That executive order calls for the attorney general to "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in Federal law."

In the address on Tuesday, Sessions vowed that the Trump administration would stand up for "religious Americans," saying that the "cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief."

"Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed," he said. "The federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths."