On Monday, July 30, 2018, the Trump administration's Department of Justice held a Religious Liberty Summit. Under the guidance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the event hosted the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state's nondiscrimination law.
According to AG Sessions,
Let’s be frank: A dangerous movement, undetected by many, but real, is now challenging and eroding our great tradition of religious freedom. There can be no doubt, it’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically, and defeated."
Sessions followed up with examples of Christians, operating in the secular world, asked to separate their personal beliefs from the execution of their secular jobs. "We've all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips," Sessions remarked highlighting the controversial Colorado baker.
The United States' highest level of law enforcement failed, however, to mention any of the increased incidents of violence and vandalism aimed at Jews, Muslims, Sikhs or any other non-Christian faiths.
Baptist minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove agreed Tuesday that there is a great danger to freedom in the United States regarding religion. But from his perspective, the threat comes from Christians like Sessions and Phillips.
In a piece written for NBC News, Wilson-Hartgrove said:
It’s time for people who care about the future of democratic society to reclaim the concept of religious liberty."
Both religion & liberty are being redefined by the Trump administration to serve an extreme agenda. It’s time for p… https://t.co/O5CNkBOq51— Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (@Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)1533036132.0
He went on:
"Plenty of Americans still value the separation of church and state and, along with it, the establishment clause’s guarantee of freedom of conscience for all people," the Baptist minister continues in his NBC News Hot Take. "Outside the circles of the extreme right, religious liberty has long been a progressive value, celebrated by abolitionists, tax resisters, conscientious objectors and religious minorities alike."
So long as an American respects the legal rights of his neighbor, the Constitution promises him the freedom to obey his own conscience when it comes to matters of religious conviction."
And therein lies the issue with the Trump brand of religious liberty and freedom of religion. As Wilson-Hartgrove explains further.
"But when groups like the ADF talk about religious liberty," the minister explained, "they are really talking about liberty for one specific religion — Christianity. In this context, the phrase has become a rallying cry for Christian conservatives whose religious and political interests align around issues like reversing Roe v. Wade and rolling back LGBT protections."
"Founded in 1994 as the Alliance Defense Fund," Wilson-Hartgrove stated, "the ADF is a legal advocacy and organizing coalition for Christian nationalists that has been aggressive in pushing for a decidedly unequal definition of religious liberty. The ADF believes not only that America was founded as a Christian nation, but also that religious conservatives like themselves must save America from moral decline."
Just think: The people who scream about Sharia Law are forming a government task force based on religion.— Alt Fed Employee (@Alt Fed Employee)1532962044.0
In other words, the ADF and their adherents like Sessions and Pence truly believe they are on a mission from God. And Pastor Wilson-Hartgrove stated this mindset, of Bible over Constitution, of their personal version of faith over others' freedom is the real danger to the United States.
In reality, these arguments boil down to one thing: discrimination. It is not enough for Christian nationalists to freely exercise their vision of a good life. In the name of “liberty,” they want the right to discriminate against those with whom they disagree."
As a Christian minister myself, I’m both offended by this abuse of faith and troubled by the lack of moral outrage against it."
"Whatever our political commitments, the Bible calls Christians to love God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves."
I cannot remain silent while religious leaders try to redefine religious liberty as a tool of discrimination — and enlist government officials to push this agenda on a federal scale. My own free conscience compels me to call their bluff, and I hope others will join me."
@DSchmldt @Alt_FedEmployee @Bab_Blue7 Freedom of religion means ALL RELIGIONS. Our founders stated outright that ou… https://t.co/6VCD1AF26l— McKenna Donovan (@McKenna Donovan)1532971144.0
People on Twitter were skeptical of Sessions's new "task force":
@NBCNews @NBCNewsTHINK Nothing more than a gimmick to get evangelicals to polls in November.— John Gibbs (@John Gibbs)1533048003.0
@SafetyPinDaily It should be called “the force for discrimination against LGBTQ.”— Barbara L. Emmerth (@Barbara L. Emmerth)1533050645.0
And cheered the minister's message:
@wilsonhartgrove @NBCNews Excellent.— Kim Post Watson (@Kim Post Watson)1533045442.0
@wilsonhartgrove True religion according to the New Testament is simply this. Taking care of those in the most need… https://t.co/wLK2Rd5kEM— David Han (@David Han)1533041766.0
Midterm elections are slated for Tuesday, November 6, 2018.