Sessions moves to protect houses of worship from discrimination

Sessions moves to protect houses of worship from discrimination
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Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Key GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum MORE announced a new Justice Department effort on Wednesday to prevent zoning discrimination against religious groups.

Through the “Place to Worship Initiative,” the Justice Department intends to raise awareness about protections granted to religious institutions against zoning laws, Sessions said during an event in New Jersey.

He added that he expects the campaign will lead the DOJ’s civil rights division to file more cases against municipalities that allegedly discriminate against religious institutions.

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"In recent years, the cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief. Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack," Sessions said, according to prepared remarks.

"This feeling is understandable. Religious Americans have heard themselves called deplorables. They’ve heard themselves called bitter clingers," Sessions added, referencing comments from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonProminent Putin critic: If Trump turns me over, I'm dead Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia Trump tweets old video of Clinton talking up 'a strong Russia' MORE and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEx-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ Trump has the right foreign policy strategy — he just needs to stop talking The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump faces bipartisan criticism over Putin presser, blames media for coverage MORE, respectively to describe certain groups of voters in recent years.

As part of the push against discriminatory zoning laws, Sessions announced a lawsuit against a town in New Jersey for denying approval to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

In addition to the zoning laws, Sessions said Wednesday that the DOJ is reinforcing its fight against hate crimes. He noted the recent uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

"Make no mistake: hate crimes are violent crimes. And reducing violent crime is our top priority," Sessions said.

Numerous Jewish community centers across the country received bomb threats over the course of the last year, prompting concerns about a rise in anti-Semitism.

Sessions' announcement comes as the Trump administration has pushed to prioritize religious freedom laws. The administration hailed a Supreme Court decision earlier this month that determined a Colorado baker could not be compelled to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.