Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week he is developing Justice Department guidance aimed at ensuring the federal government doesn't intrude on people's religious freedom.
In a closed-door speech delivered Tuesday to a religious liberty summit in California, Sessions said President Trump has told him to "issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections."
The Justice Department is finalizing the guidance to issue soon, Sessions said. He described it as a guide that will "help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." That's a 1993 law aimed at preventing the government from intruding on people's freedom to worship how they want.
According to Sessions, "if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody's religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason."
In May, Trump signed an executive order to expand religious freedom allowing churches to engage in political activities without losing their tax-exemptions. It also protected religious groups who want to oppose providing contraceptive to their employees.
Sessions also vowed to defend religious freedom and fight back against what he said was a growing hostility to "people of faith and religious belief."
This would be Sessions's second guidance that appears to put the Justice Department down a more liberal path charted under former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. In February, Sessions reversed guidance from the Obama administration that allowed students to use the restroom facility that corresponded with their gender identity.
While his speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was closed, the Federalist published his full remarks on Thursday, and both a Justice Department spokesman and an ADF spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the published remarks online were those given on Tuesday.
Sessions condemned a society that he said "has become less hospitable to people of faith and religious belief."
"I believe that this recent election was significantly impacted by this concern and that this motivated many voters," Sessions said. "Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people."
Sessions added that the Justice Department thought "litigation and debate" will "never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned."
"We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. We will defend freedom of conscience resolutely. That is inalienable. That is our heritage," he said.
ADF is known for arguing religious cases before the Supreme Court, including the one involving a baker seeking the right to refuse wedding cakes to same-sex couples. That case will be heard later this year.