February 2017 Church & State - February 2017

AU Joins Civil Rights Groups In Opposing Sessions AG Nomination

  AU admin

Americans United joined more than 400 civil and human rights organizations in opposing the confirmation of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, of which AU is a member, in January sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing concerns about Sessions’ “30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law, and hostility to the protection of civil rights that makes him unfit to serve as the Attorney General of the United States.”

The letter includes four pages of examples of his actions as they relate to voting, women’s and LGBTQ rights, immigration policy, criminal justice reform and other issues.

Of particular concern to AU is Sessions’ ability to ensure U.S. laws enforce religious freedom fairly for everyone and his perspective on church-state separation, which he has called “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.”

The Leadership Conference’s letter continues: “Given Senator Sessions’ record and public statements, the burden should be on him to prove to the Judiciary Committee, the Senate, and the American people – especially to communities of color and immigrant communities – that he can be trusted with the tremendous power of the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our nation’s civil rights and immigration laws with integrity, fairness, and a sense of justice.”

At Church & State’s press time, Sessions (R-Ala.) was completing the hearings before the Senate committee.

During the first day of hearings, Sessions raised a few eyebrows when he asserted that secular people may be less able to understand truth  than religious people.

The comment came after U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked Sessions whether “secular” attorneys working in the federal government would have reason to worry under Sessions’ tenure, and whether they have “just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious.”

To this Sessions replied, “Well, I’m not sure.”

Sessions also said, “We are not a theocracy. Nobody should be required to believe anything … and not demand any kind of religious test for holding office.”

Americans United has also expressed concerns about the nominations of Betsy DeVos to be education secretary and U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a Jan. 9 letter to members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the National Coalition for Public Education, a group AU chairs, asked that DeVos be asked to explain her support for private school vouchers.

“[W]e urge the Committee to thoroughly question Ms. DeVos both about her position on private school vouchers, as well as on what policies she will support to improve our nation’s public schools and ensure all students have access to high-quality and well-rounded educational opportunity that meets their needs,” read the letter. “The taxpayers and students of this country deserve a Secretary who will ensure the Department of Education’s resources and personnel are directed toward improving educational outcomes of the 50 million students who attend public schools.”

As this issue went to press, DeVos’ confirmation hearing had just wrapped up and Price’s was getting under way.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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