Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote on the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as U.S. Attorney General. In anticipation of that vote, Americans United today joined nearly 200 other organizations on a letter organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights that urges the committee to question Sessions on his role in developing executive orders and proposals advanced by Pres. Donald Trump this month.
Most notably is the executive order Trump signed Friday that at least temporarily bars immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries and all refugees from entering the United States. Americans United denounced Trump’s decree as un-American and contrary to the country’s commitment to religious freedom, and we think it’s important to know Sessions’ involvement in crafting it.
“As you know, in his first hearing, Senator Sessions testified, ‘I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States,’” the coalition letter states. “Committee members are entitled to know whether Senator Sessions will be involved in implementing this order and whether he believes it to be consistent with his first claim to the committee.”
AU has been sounding the alarm about Sessions’ past comments and actions regarding Muslims, LGBTQ rights, church-state separation and other issues since Trump nominated him back in November, and in early January we sent a letter to the Senate committee to oppose his confirmation.
“Our opposition is based on actions Sen. Sessions has taken and statements he has made throughout his career that contravene the dearly held constitutional guarantee of religious freedom,” we wrote.
Sen. Jeff Sessions should be asked about Pres. Trump's executive orders. (photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)
In addition to Sessions’ views of Muslims, our concerns include:
* Sessions has incorrectly said the wall of separation is an “extra-constitutional doctrine” and “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional” – a view that was reflected in his support for official prayer in public schools and the display of religious symbols in public spaces.
* Sessions did not allay our concerns on the church-state separation front during his first hearing before the Senate committee. Referencing Sessions’ past disdain for “secular” attorneys at the Department of Justice, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked Sessions if secular people could understand truth as well as religious people. Stunningly, Sessions replied, “Well, I’m not sure.” (You can watch video of this exchange here.)
* Sessions has a troubling record on LGBTQ rights. He co-sponsored legislation that would sanction discrimination against LGBTQ people in the name of religion. He supported a constitutional amendment barring marriage for same-sex couples and later called the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld marriage equality “unconstitutional.”
While Sessions claimed during the hearing to be a “great believer” in religious freedom, other statements he made then and throughout his career indicate otherwise. The U.S. Attorney General is America’s chief law enforcement officer and is tasked with upholding all laws, including those respecting religious freedom and civil rights. We’re skeptical Sessions is up to the task.
Join us in opposing Sessions for attorney general by contacting your senators today and urging them to oppose his confirmation.