At this point, nonsense policies designed only to appease evangelicals—rather than actually improve American lives—have become the norm. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ newest policy along those lines, however, includes spying on behalf of pet religious causes.
In a new policy not publicly announced but added in January 2018, Session’s office is requiring all United States Attorneys’ offices to create a staff responsibility in which all religious issue affiliated litigation is reported back to the Attorney General’s office. In other words, taxpayer money will now be spent entirely on watching for litigation that could be tied in any way to a religious cause.
This, at first glance, seems rather innocuous—until you consider that the policy also requires Department of Justice officials to consult with political appointees of the Trump administration before considering any civil suits in which religious liberty issues might be considered. Never mind the supposed separation of executive and judicial branches; this is a clear violation of separation of church and state.
As American Atheists note,
“… By doing so, the Trump administration is favoring religious beliefs above all other matters, and is eroding the independence of these offices by allowing a political appointee to overrule the judgment of career DOJ attorneys.”
As American Atheists legal and policy director Allison Gill noted,
“This is a breathtaking expansion of religious privilege in the DOJ…These policy changes significantly undermine the rule of law and favor religious beliefs at the expense of nondiscrimination and equal protection.”
And as American Atheists president David Silverman noted,
“Requiring the approval of religious political appointees before enforcing the law is something I would expect to see in a theocracy like Iran or Saudi Arabia, but I’m rapidly losing any sense of shock and surprise at the lengths this administration will go to impose the beliefs of religious extremists on all Americans.”
Clearly, this is a gift from the Trump Administration—and his puppet in the Attorney General’s office, Jeff Sessions—to the religious right, which in practice tends to get wrong most of both. At this point, none of it is surprising anymore, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong—or any less a clear violation of our Constitutional decree of church-state separation.
Of course, given the way the Trump Adminstration and Republican Party continues to reshape the courts, it’s unlikely that challenges to the policy will go anywhere—yet one more sign of the evangelical conservatives’ expanding role in creating a theocracy.