Sessions reveals in closed-door speech new protections for religious liberty on the way

Supreme Court to hear religious liberty case
Supreme Court to hear religious liberty case

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(CNN)At a closed-door event Tuesday evening, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed that new federal guidance to protect "religious liberty" is on the way "soon."

Tuesday's speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom was not open to the press and the Justice Department declined requests to provide Sessions' prepared remarks to the media, but later published the speech on The Federalist Thursday.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order in May entitled, "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty," which directed Sessions to "issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law," but nothing -- at least publicly -- has come of the executive order to date.
"The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it," Sessions said, according to the prepared remarks.
    Sessions also took a swipe at the "inside-the-beltway crowd" who, he said, "has no idea how much good is being done in this country every day by our faith communities," adding that "the value of religion is totally missed by many today."
    "A lot of people are concerned about what this changing cultural climate means for the future of religious liberty in this country," Sessions said. "I believe that this recent election was significantly impacted by this concern and that this motivated many voters."
    Alliance for Defending Freedom is currently involved in a high-profile case that will be heard by the Supreme Court next term. The group is representing a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, claiming that to do so would violate his right to religious liberty under the Constitution.
    LGBTQ rights organizations blasted Sessions for attending the event earlier this week.
    Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-partisan advocacy group, said in a statement to CNN it would examine the new guidance carefully to ensure it doesn't misuse federal law.
    "Religious freedom is a fundamental American value," said Maggie Garrett, the group's legislative director. "Our laws should be a shield to protect religious freedom and not a sword to harm others."