How conservatives have changed the meaning of ‘religious liberty’

Aug 3, 2018

By Jonathan Merritt

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday the creation of a religious liberty task force to help protect the right of every American “to believe, worship and exercise their faith in the public square.” At first glance, such an effort sounds innocuous, even laudable. But as with much that this administration does, a closer look reveals a different story.

The concept of religious liberty has always been a core American value, but the phrase has become a rallying cry for conservatives specifically in recent years. President Trump has even made religious liberty a top priority for his administration. In a blink, a historically uncontroversial concept became a point of contention.


Because in the hands of conservatives, the phrase has morphed in meaning. It’s time we’re honest about what this term once meant, what it now means and which policies it represents.

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