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 SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices 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 ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing 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.