When Religious Liberty Becomes Religious Intolerance

By Alex Meyer

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently drew criticism  following his closed speech to the Christian-advocacy organization, ‘Alliance Defending Freedom’. The group, which describes itself as a promoter of religious freedom, is also noteworthy for its fierce opposition to LGBTQ rights. A transcript of the event was eventually released, and shows Sessions appealing to ADF fears about loss of religious freedom.

“We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.”

Sessions’ comments underscore a frightening trend in the American sociopolitical sphere, namely a rise in religious intolerance by hard-line Christian groups. The rhetoric put forward by Sessions and his like-minded colleagues provides the foundation to frame discrimination, such as denial of services to LGBTQ individuals, as ‘religious liberty’. It is a dangerous road, and one that too-often privileges strict Christian principles over secular rights.

The recently released ‘First Amendment Report Card’ reflected similar misgivings, awarding the freedom of religion a ‘C+’ for the Summer 2017 report. The lower grade was attributed to a variety of issues, though key among them, as several contributors noted, are the anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic attitudes prevalent in the US today.

Ultimately, Sessions words ring true, despite his intended meaning. These religious groups who have been and continue to be persecuted, “must be allowed to exercise [their] beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees” – the same as American Christians.

Religious liberty is a crucial component of the First Amendment.  It must not be abused and twisted to allow for discrimination against minorities.

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