Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has claimed that Christians have a “fundamental right” to discriminate against gay people.
Sessions this month filed a brief with the Supreme Court which argues that the Constitution protects people and businesses who discriminate against gay people on the basis of “free speech”.
His intervention comes as the Court prepares to consider the case of a baker who refused to serve a gay couple on the grounds of religion. The case, backed by a powerful anti-LGBT lobbying group, threatens to blow a hole in LGBT anti-discrimination protections across the US.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network today, Sessions confirmed that he believes Christians have the “right” to discriminate.
He said:”The matter is in litigation, but I would just say to you that too often we have ignored what the Constitution actually says.
“It says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So the question is, the cake baker has more than just a personal view here.
“He has a religious view and he feels that he is not able to freely exercise his religion by being required to participate in a ceremony in some fashion that he does not believe in.
“So we think that right is a fundamental right and ought to be respected as we work through this process.”
He added: “Of course in the 1990s we passed a religious freedom restoration act that said the government should not constrict a person’s religious belief without a compelling reason to do so.
“So we think that statute has been ignored too often and not respected sufficiently. And so when you consider those two things, then you’re getting not only greater protection for people’s religious beliefs, that I think should be given.”
Sessions has led the Trump administration’s anti-LGBT agenda.
With blessings from Trump and Pence, he has set out to undermine protections for LGBT people across the federal government, in a series of decisions reversing Obama administration guidance.
The Justice Department issued a directive last week protecting “the right to perform or abstain from performing certain physical acts in accordance with one’s beliefs”, granting an unlimited license to discriminate against LGBT people based on religion.
The Trump administration also rolled back civil rights protections for transgender people, and made an uninvited intervention into a discrimination case this year to argue against discrimination protections for gay employees.
The case surrounds skydiving instructor Donald Zarda, who was allegedly fired by his employer Altitude Express for being gay.
But the Justice Department argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act – which outlaws discrimination based on a number of characteristics – does not provide any protections for gay people, despite outlawing sex-based discrimination.
Weighing in on the case, the Trump administration contended that “the essential element of sex discrimination under [civil rights law] Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect”.
It added: “Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination”.
The administration directs: “This Court should reaffirm its precedent holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation.”