DOJ ends political targeting of conservative, religious groups

For eight years the Department of Justice under former President Barack Obama was weaponized. Religious liberty and free speech were constantly under assault. Spiritual institutions were forced to violate their religious beliefs. Citizen organizations were targeted because they had a different interpretation of the Constitution than President Obama. Attorneys General Holder and Lynch launched an all-out assault on freedoms of Americans.

Attorney General Sessions is leading the fight to depoliticize the DOJ and put the blindfold back on Lady Justice.

Early in President Obama’s first term in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began scrutinizing organizations with specific words in the names. Words like “tea party” and “patriots” would cause the determinations unit to provide extra scrutiny when reviewing the application for tax-exempt status.

The targeting would also include groups with specifically outlined goals. Groups that wanted to challenge the Affordable Care Act, complained about government spending, or raised questions about illegal immigrants voting spent well over a year on the list to become tax exempt.

In 2012, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa expressed concerns to the IRS about allegations he was hearing. The Inspector General for the IRS would launch an investigation looking at the claims.

One year later in 2013, the IRS, through Lois Lerner, would issue an apology for targeting conservatives, days before the results of the IG would be released. Congressional investigations would soon follow. The actions of the IRS during the congressional investigations would also draw attention. Computers, emails, and back up tapes would all be destroyed while under a subpoena be retained. Americans and Congress smelled a rat, but could not quite get a handle on the scandal.

Following years of legal battles, the IRS finally reached settlements with over 400 groups targeted by the Obama IRS last week. The settlements include an official apology with AG Sessions stating, “Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS.  We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”

This Department of Justice has also signaled it will defend the First Amendment’s freedom of religion. One of the main components of Obamacare was the contraceptive mandate. The law mandated female contraceptive coverage for all employers and educational institutions, except churches and other houses of worship. This created a problem for the thousands of religious hospitals, religious charities, Christian universities and organizations owned or controlled by religious establishments. Many of the institutions took legal action and sued the Obama administration for violating their First Amendment rights.

After years of expensive legal battles, the DOJ settled with more than 70 plaintiffs that challenged the mandate. The settlement was allowed after the Trump administration issued new guidelines to all federal agencies that allow for religious exemptions. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior stated, “This brings to a close protracted litigation that never should have happened in the first place. As this president and this attorney general have made clear, they will always seek to protect and defend religious liberty.”

Free speech has been under assault for years on college campuses, and the Obama DOJ ignored the mugging of the Constitution by institutions receiving billions in taxpayer funds. In September, the DOJ announced it would take the fight to the bastions of anti-constitutionalism by filing a Statement of Interest in two campus free speech cases, with more to be filed.

In a statement about the move, Attorney General Sessions stated, “A national recommitment to free speech on campus and to ensuring First Amendment rights is long overdue. Which is why, starting today, the Department of Justice will do its part in this struggle. We will enforce federal law, defend free speech, and protect students’ free expression.”

Sessions is returning the Constitution and the rule of law to the Justice Department. It is early on in his term as Attorney General, but he has jumped into the fire to make the much-needed changes at the DOJ. Sessions is determined to undo the damage eight years of a politicized DOJ has done to the country, and is to be commended for fighting the deep state.

Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor for Americans for Limited Government.