March 2017 Church & State - March 2016

Senate Confirms Trump Nominees Sessions For A.G., Price At HHS Department

  AU admin

The U.S. Senate confirmed two controversial nominees for President Donald Trump’s cabinet last month: U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as Attorney General, and U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Sessions (R-Ala.) faced fierce opposition. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, of which Americans United is a member, 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.”

AU in particular is concerned about Sessions’ lack of respect for religious freedom, shown through his support of government displays of religious symbols, bias against Muslims and references to church-state separation as “a recent thing that is unhistorical and unconstitutional.”

Sessions reinforced AU’s concerns during his confirmation hearing when he was asked whether secular people have the same ability as religious people to understand the truth and he responded, “Well, I’m not sure.”

Price was also a controversial pick to lead the department that oversees the Affordable Care Act because he is an advocate for dismantling that law. AU objected to Price’s nomination due to his troubling support for abusing the concept of religious freedom by allowing employers to deny women access to health insurance that includes birth control that doesn’t comply with the employers’ beliefs.

AU was also troubled by Price’s sponsorship of the misleadingly named First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow individuals, businesses and government employees and contractors to cite religious beliefs as reason to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others. Sessions was confirmed by a vote of 52-47 on Feb. 8, and Price was confirmed by the same vote two days later. 

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