Earlier this year, Donald Trump signed an executive order which promised to protect religious freedom.
Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken the mission a step further, creating a designated ‘religious freedom task force’ which seems destined to mean bad news for the country’s LGBT+ community.
Sessions made the announcement at yesterday’s Religious Liberty Summit, and bookended the news with praise for Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker whose refusal to create a cake for a same-sex couple made international headlines.
Phillips was later sued by the couple, but the Supreme Court eventually ruled in his favour. Since then, a lesbian couple has attracted media attention for similar reasons: despite signing a contract and receiving an invoice, they were refused the services of a wedding videographer as he felt the commission would conflict with his ‘beliefs’.
Technically speaking, and judging by its constitution, the United States is a secular country – its official line is that the country favours no one religion, and that there should be a clear separation between church and state. This appears seems to be changing under Trump’s presidency.
Since being elected, the President has rolled back a series of LGBT+ rights at breakneck speed, often using religion as justification for doing so.
From barring trans soldiers from military service to appearing to allow discrimination under the guise of religious liberty, his conservative policies have attracted widespread criticism from LGBT+ activists – many of whom have underlined his initial, arguably broken promise to protect their rights.
A similar online backlash has ensued following Sessions’ most recent announcement, with many speaking out to condemn the task force and underline its clear implication that religious freedom will take priority over LGBT+ rights.
It’s also worth noting that Christianity seems to be the only religion Trump is interested in protecting; his infamous ‘Muslim ban’ has been cited by many as proof that his intentions to protect are narrow.
Others weighed in to lighten the mood, making jokes to highlight just how ridiculous the ‘task force’ actually sounds.
The announcement even got the meme treatment.
The Internet might be able to poke fun at the news, but the new ruling has renewed fears that LGBT+ rights are actually being stripped across the globe.
Ultimately, all we can do is wait and see how this ‘task force’ plays out.