Former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the former Attorney General of the United States who is again running for his old seat in the U.S. Senate, told Breitbart News exclusively on Wednesday that there is an “unprecedented” assault on religious freedom that leftist and atheist groups are waging against people of faith all across the country.
Sessions’ comments come in response to a letter from the atheist foundation led by former President Ronald Reagan’s son Ron Reagan—who is nothing like his father was when it comes to politics—who are condemning Sessions for standing up for religious freedom.
The letter – which comes as the same atheist group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), ran a television ad during Tuesday evening’s Democrat presidential debate promoting atheism and attacking religion – goes after Sessions for criticizing the group in a local news interview in Alabama, where he was standing up for the religious freedom rights of 26 football players to be voluntarily baptized at Reeltown High School at the school’s Notasulga, Alabama, Nix-Webster-O’Neal Stadium in November.
WATCH: FFRF’S AD ATTACKING RELIGION:
After the baptism at the school football stadium, FFRF attacked the school and its head football coach Matt Johnson. Sessions conducted an interview with local Alabama publication YellowHammer Politics defending their religious freedom from FFRF. That infuriated FFRF, which fired back with a letter released by Sessions this week.
Sessions says this is a part of the group’s efforts to “intimidate” people of faith.
“This group and others over the years have used threatening letters and threats of lawsuits to intimidate and back public institutions including schools away from protecting constitutional rights of Americans and students,” Sessions told Breitbart News in an interview on Wednesday afternoon. “It has been too successful. It needs to end. Americans have a right to express themselves and speak on campuses and they have a right to speak religious thoughts on campuses. 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. It’s a big matter. They have fought the Department of Justice since I became Attorney General as we tried to protect legitimate religious expression. It’s more than expression really. The Constitution protects the right of every American to freely exercise their religion. That’s being violated too much today. It’s time to have this discussion out in the open and the public to make sure that every governmental institution protects free speech and the free exercise of religion.”
Sessions also said that the left—groups including FFRF and others like it—are engaged in an “unprecedented” assault on religious liberty.
“It is unprecedented,” Sessions told Breitbart News. “The FFRF proudly declares themselves to be an atheist group and they are plainly hostile to people of faith. They have incorrectly and improperly and unlawfully sought to silence people of faith. The First Amendment guarantees every American the right to freely exercise their religion. It’s a big deal and it’s time for the American people to understand what their rights are, and it’s time for government officials to understand they don’t have to follow the advice of these militant atheists.”
During his time as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, one of the issues Sessions stood up most for was religious freedom—issuing in October 2017, at the president’s direction, a 20-point set of guidelines to defend religious freedom of all Americans.
“President Trump issued an executive order to the Department of Justice to issue guidelines to the government to advise them the rights of Americans to freely exercise their religion,” Sessions told Breitbart News. “That we did in October of 2017, we issued 20 principles, many of them to protect students as well as adults. Americans don’t shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or of religion at the schoolhouse or at the courthouse. So I think that’s a big deal. We were proud to do it. We embraced that challenge and it was broadly received as legally sound and as an important pushback against this extreme anti-religious mentality that’s been growing in the country.”
Sessions said the American people—and the people of Alabama, whom he seeks to again represent in the U.S. Senate—will “not be intimidated” by the left on this front.
“The people of Alabama are sick of it,” Sessions said. “They know it’s gone too far. We were not intimidated one bit when I was at the Department of Justice and will not be intimidated now. They can say what they want, but we’re going to defend the constitutional rights of Americans to freely exercise their faith vigorously and defend their constitutional rights vigorously.”