Awful Attorney General and slightly worse standup comic Jeff Sessions isn't focused solely on ripping apart immigrant families and snatching weed from your cold, deadhead hands. He also is out to screw queer folks ... figuratively, I mean, though I suppose we don't know much about his personal life.

Today Sessions announced the creation of a "religious liberty task force" that he pledged would "wipe out the Super Friends" ensure the Department of Justice prioritizes "the rights of religious people and groups in its policies and legal battles" by enforcing his mostly toothless "religious liberty" memo issued last fall.

Sessions told a crowd attending the Religious Liberty Summit at the Department of Justice headquarters that there was "a dangerous movement" eroding religious liberties and that "we have gotten to the point where courts have held that morality cannot be a basis for law; where ministers are fearful to affirm, as they understand it, holy writ from the pulpit; and where one group can actively target religious groups by labeling them a 'hate group' on the basis of their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Sessions refers to those liberal bullies the Southern Poverty Law Center, who have branded poor put-upon Christian organizations "hate groups" because they have an established pattern of hating people. Sessions will wrap the protective shroud of white Jesus around the Family Research Council, for instance, which is "pro-marriage" (unless you're gay), "pro-family" (unless it includes a transgender person), and "pro-life" (as long as that life is straight and Christian). According to its Web site's featured image, the organization is also affirmatively "pro-kayak."

How doe the "anti-kayak" SPLC justify its "hate group" classification of the FRC? It simply presents the group's own words as Exhibits "A" and "Bigot."

"Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects."
— Family Research Council website, 2016.

I dunno. I'm not gay, but it sounds like they've confused "homosexual conduct" with cigarette smoking. This could also explain Sessions's irrational opposition to marijuana. He might think it turns you gay.

The "sincerely held religious beliefs" of the FRC also include a pro-bullying stance. That seems strange to me, but I never finished the New Testament. Maybe there was a Book of Wedgie that I skipped in favor of listening to Jesus Christ Superstar.

"The videos are titled 'It Gets Better.' They are aimed at persuading kids that although they'll face struggles and perhaps bullying for 'coming out' as homosexual (or transgendered or some other perversion), life will get better. …It's disgusting. And it's part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle."
— Tony Perkins, FRC fundraising letter, August 2011.

Sessions wanted to make extra sure gay people got the hint when he ceded the floor to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, former head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is terrific on matters of poverty, social justice, environmental racism, and so much more, when it isn't strongly urging gay people to "self master" their gay urges. That apparently doesn't mean mastering "homosexual conduct" but not being gay at all. It's like becoming a "self master" of cooking who lives solely on a liquid diet.

Yeah, I assumed we'd get back to separating families again. Sessions loves that bit. Man, Sessions is so terrible that I actually find myself turning to past Trump tweets about him to cheer myself up.

The timing of this "task force" is curious. Sessions brought up the legal challenge by the Little Sisters of the Poor, who objected to even being in the same room with health insurance plans that covered contraception, but the government bent over backward to accommodate their concerns. He even cited the baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, but they won that one, as well. Where's the fire or even a mild flurry of brimstone?

I guess religious bigots are a lot like Prince's mother: They're never satisfied. Donald Trump recently picked Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh wasn't the darling of the religious right that other potential nominees were, but Trump probably valued his own liberty over "religious liberty." David French wrote in the National Review that he'd have preferred Amy Coney Barrett to the "safe" Kavanaugh. This struck me as a bizarro religious test: It's wrong for liberals to dismiss Barrett because of her somewhat extreme faith, but it's all good for Christian conservatives to become uncomfortably aroused over the potential cage match of "the best of young professional Christians" against "the worst of progressive antireligion bias." It would delight French to see these Christian legal soldiers "prevail on the largest possible stage."

This is arguably what the "religious liberty task force" is all about: Freedom from the religious is not an option. They want a decisive victory against modernity and secularism in our society. Sessions does refer to defending non-Christian faiths but for every guy in Texas who the DOJ prosecutes for burning a mosque, he will put the full force of the Justice Department behind anyone who discriminates against gays because of Jesus.

If there's any upside to all this, I used to fear on some level Trump's possible removal from office because I feared what Mike Pence would do. But this is pretty much it. So, now I'm all for seeing Trump escorted from the White House in striped pajamas. Let's just make sure that whoever is Sessions's boss in 2020, we vote them both out.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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