Sessions running for Senate on 'religious freedom' — after trying to ban Muslims

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Jeff Sessions, former U.S. senator and attorney general, now says Democrats want to 'gut our religious freedom.'

Former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was pushed by Donald Trump to resign from his job as attorney general, was one of the most fervent defenders of Trump's proposed Muslim ban. But as he runs for his old Senate seat, Sessions is now claiming that it's Democrats who are threatening religious liberty.

Sessions announced in November that, despite Trump's harsh criticism, he's seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Alabama's Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in 2020.

In recent days, Sessions made clear that his alleged support for freedom of religion will be a major thrust of his candidacy.

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Sessions said Wednesday that atheists and leftists were waging an "unprecedented" attack on religious freedom in the United States. In an interview with Breitbart, a right-wing site with ties to the white-nationalist movement, Sessions said: "These people contend that the state and government is trying to force religion down people's throats, but in fact they want the state, the law enforcement powers of government, to be used to silence constitutionally protected religious speech."

Sessions also released a campaign ad on Thursday in which he claimed  Democrats' plan for America includes "Socialism, open borders, [and] free health care for illegal immigrants."

"They plan to gut our religious freedom and our freedom of speech," a narrator claims in the 30-second spot.

Sessions then says, "Today's Democrats want to redefine America. And they mean business. They don't want me in the Senate because they know I won't back down."

But it is Sessions who has long promoted religious discrimination against Muslim people.

In 2015, he warned against accepting more refugees, complaining, "Since 9/11, we have permanently resettled approximately 1.5 million migrants from Muslim nations inside the U.S."

Later that year, he called it "an unpleasant but unavoidable fact that bringing in a large unassimilated flow of migrants from the Muslim world creates the conditions possible for radicalization and extremism to take hold.”

When then-candidate Donald Trump said in 2015 that he would ban all Muslims from entering the United States, Sessions embraced the idea. While noting that Americans are "deeply committed to freedom of religion," he said "at the same time, we’re in an age that’s very dangerous and we’re seeing more and more persons enter and a lot of them have done terrorist acts and a lot of them believe it’s commanded by their religion."

"I think it's appropriate to begin to discuss this, and he has forced that discussion. We may even have a discussion about it in Judiciary Committee today. But, you know, it’s time for us to think this through and the classical, internal American religious principles I don’t think apply providing constitutional protections to persons not citizens who want to come here," he said.

After Trump instituted a version of the ban in 2017, then-Attorney General Sessions defended it as "well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe."

"In fact, the President called upon leaders in the Muslim world to join the United States in protecting religious freedom for all, including the freedom to be free from violence and terror," Sessions said at the time.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.