Past is prologue for Jeff Sessions: Why did the AG meet with a hate group?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has always been a divisive and controversial figure.
His past in terms of race has always been called into question. Sessions was rejected by the Senate in 1986 because they considered him too racist to be impartial as a federal judge. He allegedly said he was okay with the Ku Klux Klan, a murderous terrorist organization, until he heard they smoked marijuana.
Conversely, he was critical of the NAACP, the organization responsible for school desegregation, that produced Rosa Parks, and that was instrumental to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
To combat these claims, Sessions has professed to have litigated on the side of civil rights. Journalists have found the opposite. He has sued civil rights activists, accusing them of voter fraud.
The activists prevailed in the suit, but those men never thought they would see Sessions become the chief law enforcement officer of the land. It seems that their worst fears have been realized.
Sessions is not only attorney general, he has reportedly given a troubling speech to an organization that many classify as a hate group.
Sessions gave a speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is considered to be a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ADF is anti-LGBTQ, thus it is no surprise that Sessions would support them.
Sessions’ views were so extreme in the Senate that he advocated a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The ADF’s CEO Alan Sears allegedly claimed there was a link between homosexuality and pedophilia, despite evidence to the contrary. However, what is most troubling were Sessions actual comments. Sessions stated that “this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned.”
His statement is as close as a government official can get to tearing down the barrier between church and state one can get.
While the Trump administration wants to build walls between the U.S. and its allies, Thomas Jefferson, himself a deeply morally flawed yet brilliant man, called for a wall between religious institutions and the state.
Sessions’ supporters will claim that he was supporting the First Amendment right of people to practice their religion. However, religious practice is hardly in jeopardy, especially at the hands of gays and lesbians.
What is at stake is the desire to discriminate against people and manipulate the state by claiming religious freedom, as Kim Davis did in Kentucky.
Most upsetting about Sessions speech was his invocation of Dr. Martin Luther King. King’s widow, the legendary Coretta Scott King, was a vocal opponent of Sessions.
Sessions is correct that King led “a religious movement” that was faith-inspired. However, it was a movement about the equality of men (and women). King’s belief in the equality of men regardless of who they loved is evidenced by his business relationship and friendship with Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin was openly gay.
In a 1987 essay, he stated that “my being gay was not a problem for Dr. King”, who along with A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Roy Wilkins voted for him to organize the march.
Sessions’ religious devotion is his personal prerogative and is protected by the Constitution. What is not protected is imposing one’s views on the masses by refusing services to people based on your personal beliefs.
Historically, many used religion as the basis for their support of Jim Crow. Sessions is opening a dangerous legal door, where teachers could refuse to teach gay or transgender students, and they can be refused service at restaurants or be removed from flights because crew members don’t want to serve them.
The attorney general must also understand his religious indignation seems dubious since he was appointed by a president whose moral character has been called into question in a way not seen since the very Civil War.
Jason Nichols is a full time faculty member in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.
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