By Don Byrd, BJC Blogger

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo Oct. 6, providing guidance on religious liberty in federal law. This follows a directive in President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order on religious liberty that was announced May 4 of this year.

The memo, which was sent to all executive departments and agencies, outlines “twenty principles” that are designed to “guide administrative agencies and executive departments” in accommodating “religious observance and practice … in all government activity, including employment, contracting, and programming.”   

BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman said it may create more problems than it would solve. “In large part, the guidance restates much settled law, though with a decided tilt toward concerns of free exercise, giving short shrift to the government’s duty to avoid ‘no establishment’ concerns. In a couple of areas, the guidance will exacerbate controversy,” Hollman said.

“The guidance treats complicated legal issues, such as the definition of ‘substantial burden’ on religious exercise and the interplay between religious autonomy and government funding, in an overly simplistic way.”

According to news reports, an official from the Department of Justice pointed out that the memo “describes rules but does not authorize anyone to discriminate.”

From the September/October 2017 edition of  Report from the Capital. You can also read the digital version of the magazine or view it as a PDF.