Trump administration pressed for details of shadowy anti-LGBT ‘religious liberty’ taskforce

The Human Rights Campaign has filed a Freedom of Information Act seeking details on  the Trump administration’s new religious freedom task force, which activists fear will be used to undermine equal rights protections.

Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a “religious freedom task force” at a Religious Liberty Summit hosted by the Justice Department on July 30.

In his speech Sessions affirmed his belief that individuals and business owners should be free to discriminate based on religious beliefs, and announced he is setting up a task force “which will help the department fully implement our religious liberty guidance.”

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Alex Wong/Getty)

However, details of the task force have remained opaque. Despite reports that anti-LGBT hate groups played a role in its creation, the membership and mandate of the task force has not been made public.

The Human Rights Campaign this week sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for the release of all records related to the task force

HRC notes that the DOJ “has not provided details publicly on the activities of the task force, including how much it is spending, what its mandate and scope is, and who is on it.”

HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said: “The American people deserve transparency about how much taxpayer money the DOJ is spending on this discriminatory so-called ‘task force’.

“We also deserve to know: who is on this task force? What is the scope of its mandate? Was this proposed by ADF or other anti-LGBTQ groups?

“It is important that the American people understand the process through which this task force was created and the involvement of anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

It has been alleged that the new body has links to a listed anti-LGBT hate group, Alliance Defending Freedom.

In his speech, Sessions said the panel was the product of “listening sessions… [with] religious groups across America.”

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Win McNamee/Getty)

Media Matters reports that it appears the the Justice Department collaborated with the ADF on the launch, with the ADF breaking the news of the task force’s creation in its press release.

A panel at the event was led by media affairs specialist Kerri Kupec, who worked at ADF for four years before joining DOJ in January this year.

Extremism watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center ascribes the hate group label to the ADF, noting that the group has actively supported the criminalisation of homosexuality in Belize. ADF leaders have previously linked homosexuality and paedophilia.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Alex Wong/Getty)

The ADF primarily works to undermine LGBT anti-discrimination protections through a series of court battles, most notably representing baker Jack Phillips – and arguing that religious freedom gives him the right to discriminate against gay customers.