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AG Jeff Sessions Talks Faith and Religious Freedom on Faith Nation

AG Jeff Sessions Talks Faith and Religious Freedom on Faith Nation Read Transcript

Attorney General Sessions, thanks for doing this.

I really appreciate it.

Thank you.

Good to be with you.

Good to see you again, by the way.

Thank you.

It's good to see you.

Hey, I want to ask you about the job.

And by the way, congratulations

on your program.

Well, thank you!

Good work you're doing.

Well, I appreciate that a lot.

Let me ask you quick about how you're enjoying this job

to begin with, because I know this is a dream job for you.

I understand.

So tell me about that, and tell me about how faith--

your faith, because I know faith is very important to you--

how that plays into your worldview

and how you see this Department of Justice.

Well, it's a fabulous job, and every day we

do things that I feel like make decisions that

take us in the right direction.

First, it's an important principle

for all of us, religious people and non-religious people,

that we have an orderly, lawful society.

If you don't have that, nobody's liberties are protected,

and we are determined to work in that regard.

And I think we've had a slide over quite a number of years

in which courts and advocates and politicians

have disrespected the primacy of law.

And that has long-term damaging effects for the country,

and we're trying to get us back on the traditional view that

protects us all in the long run.

Do liberals and progressives need

to not be so concerned when you use the word traditional view?

They get a little out of sorts when you

use a word like traditional.


I think they are too sensitive to that sometimes.

I don't mind saying it at all.

It's this umbrella of law in the Constitution that protects us.

One professor said, if you respect the Constitution,

you would apply its principles even if you disagree with them.

Otherwise, you get to the point where nothing is firm.

There's no wall of protection for anyone,

whether they're liberal or conservative,

secular or religious.

Religious liberty guidance that the DOJ did last week.

Is it the Department of Justice's view

that cake bakers that we've heard so much--

these Christian cake bakers.

Is it the view of the Department of Justice from a guidance

perspective-- not law, I understand law is different--

that they have a right, if you will,

to not sell a cake to someone if they're having a gay wedding?

Is that what the Department of Justice

is saying as it relates to the guidance that they put out?

Well, what I would say to you now while the matter's

in litigation, but I would just say to you

that too often we have ignored what the Constitution actually


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 being 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.

People of faith are very happy.

I'm sure there's a better word for it than happy,

but very happy with what the DOJ is doing on this issue.

Obviously, the Trump administration doing on this.

What about the critics who say this

is license to discriminate?

You've heard the charge.

What's the reaction to something like that?

It's not a license to discriminate.

It's a respect for a person's integrity

and their own personal beliefs, and someone can make a cake.

It's not the only one person in the world can make a cake,

but I would just say the president, President Trump,

did an executive order that called on us to state

some principles about how we would conduct ourselves

and that government should conduct itself

with proper respect for religious freedom.

And that's what we've done.

It's general.

It did not go case specific dealing with any specific case,

but it's the general principles.

It also sets a tone and a direction

and a guidance for every one of these government agencies.

Some of them I think in years past, in recent years,

have gone too far in constricting

free exercise of religion.

So I think it will give guidance to the Trump administration

all the way down to the lowest department and agency.

Let me switch gears.

This whole NFL and the Constitution

plays a part in this, because there's a lot of folks.

And I have a 15-year-old daughter,

and here's the word on the street in high school.

A lot of these high school kids go, well, these NFL players,

they have a constitutional right to do what they're doing.

It's not that simple.

And I'm curious if you could kind of explain it,

if you will, dumb it down for folks

that really aren't paying attention maybe

to this issue overall.

Well, the government, the federal government,

is doing nothing to punish people

who chose not to stand when the national anthem was played

and put their hands over their heart.

The government isn't oppressing them in any way,

and they've been free to do so.

But they have to stand before the public,

and are they free never to be criticized

for not respecting the national anthem, which

is a nonpolitical thing?

If you don't like Donald Trump, if you don't like Hillary

Clinton, should you as a matter of propriety

not stand when the national anthem

gets played, which has nothing to do with any of that?

It's a respect for the nation, not individual politics

and so forth.

So I think the president is correct to say

you may have a right to do this under the Constitution,

but it's not the right thing to do.

It's not good that you disrespect our nation.

We should first respect our nation

and then battle out our differences between us

in the lawful way that we are allowed to do.

Couple last questions.

You and President Trump-- and the media loves to just


put you and President Trump on the Dr. Phil couch.

I get it.

You're a straight shooter.

You want to set the record straight

about your relationship with the president

and all of the stuff that's been said in the media,

because they have a point of view.

And they are going to go with a narrative, and a lot of times

it's a lazy narrative.

And I thought I'd give you the chance

to respond to all of that.

The president's a strong leader,

and he's accomplishing things nobody thought was possible.

I'm so proud of what's happening.

I'm so proud to be able to have this great job of attorney

general and to be able to advance

the principles that the president talked

about and allowing me to advance those every day.

And that's what's so important.

But he's got his own views.

He speaks clearly.

If he's irritated about something, he says it.

And I respect that.

But I got to tell you, in many ways, we're doing things here

day after day that I think if the American people really

saw what we were doing, they would feel like we're putting

this country back on a lawful path, a constitutional path,

a path that respects religious faith and other principles that

are important to our country.

And I thank the president for the opportunity

to lead that effort.

So when you say things in this country,

let me ask you about religious liberty.

This is the teeth in that executive order, if you will,

because I remember in that executive order

on religious liberty, he said, the Department of Justice

will issue guidelines.

And here we are.

So is this really the teeth of what can

be done at the federal level?

Well, it's a statement, a reaffirmation,

I think, of what the country has felt

for centuries about the right of people

to exercise their religion.

Madison and Jefferson made clear that this was

one of the preexisting rights.

The right to worship is a preexisting right.

The state has no power whatsoever

to dictate to the American citizen how they should feel

or how they should worship.

That should be respected.

And to have the government dictate

it is really weird, because the only thing that counts really

is your personal relationship with the Lord.

And the state shouldn't try to get in between it.

Yeah, I know you can go on forever on this question,

and it's my last-- or one of my last.

Two more left.


You went out you talked about DACA.

You had that news conference.

The president then and we heard all this talk

about cutting a deal with Nancy, or Chuck and Nancy.

What do you make of what might happen here with DACA as it

relates to the legislation that could come forward

at some point?

Well, the order of the Obama administration

has been found on, basically--

essentially have been found to be flawed.

He had no power to wipe out whole sections of United States

law, and so we had to get that straight.

The president does have sympathy for our people, young people

who may have been brought here at an early age

and have gotten into no trouble.

And we have to wrestle with what to do about that.

But to give an amnesty, to give a lawful status

to a group of people and do nothing

to fix the problem in the future is unacceptable.

So the president is exactly right about this.

What we need to do is to restore a lawful system of immigration,

a system that serves the national interest, one that's

consistently applied fairly to everybody

who applies to come to America.

We admit 1.1 million every year to the United States,

to lawful, permanent residence.

And so I would just say that the president is exactly right.

Let's end this lawlessness.

Let's create a system that will serve us

well in the future, that's moral and decent and fair and just.

That's what we should be doing.

My last question, just to wrap it up.

How I started.

How has your faith gotten you through some

of the tough times in this job?

Any job is tough, but how is your faith?

How have you relied on your faith in this job especially?

Well, I got to tell you.

There have been days in which my faith has meant

a tremendous amount to me.

And how people without it get by, I don't know.

But I've had such good support from friends

who are praying for me, and I feel that,

and I know they're telling the truth.

Also you have to ask yourself, you're just a servant.

You don't have to have a job.

You don't have to--

but you do have to do your best every day.

And the Lord will take care of you in the end

if you try to do the right thing every day.

And none of us are perfect.

We make mistakes.

But I do my best, and I think that a faith component gives

you a certain perspective and strength that otherwise you

just wouldn't have.

Such a pleasure, sir.

Thank you.

Thank you.


That was great.




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