As the Senate of the United States prepares to confirm a number of President-Elect Trump’s cabinet appointments this week, among the worst nominations he has submitted is that of Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of United States Attorney General.
Senator Sessions is, of course, entitled to a fair hearing. However, it’s important to note that his many statements and actions over the course of his career are contrary to the values of and the positions taken and advocated by the American Reform movement.
Here are some highlights of Senator Sessions’ career that make this claim clear:
- He voted to ban marriage equality;
- He supports so-called “religious freedom” laws that would protect discrimination against LGBTQ people;
- He voted against extending hate crimes laws to include gender and sexual orientation;
- As a US Attorney in the 1980s, he persecuted civil rights workers who were helping to register to vote poor African Americans by bringing bogus election fraud charges against them;
- He called the Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation”;
- He publicly applauded the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act;
- He opposed the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in the last Congress;
- He was rejected by a bipartisan vote in the US Senate in 1986 for a federal judgeship when Senators heard testimony that he had referred to a black prosecutor as “boy” and said that he thought the KKK was fine “until I found out they smoked pot;”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights notes that Senator Sessions received awards from groups designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-Muslim hate groups.
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) released today (January 9, 2017) through the Reform movements Religious Action Center (RAC) its “Statement on the Nomination of Senator Sessions for U.S. Attorney General (see complete statement at http://www.rac.org/statement-nomination-sen-jeff-sessions-us-attorney-general). Here are a few excerpts:
“The Reform Movement has significant concerns about the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States. As the nation’s top law enforcement officer, Senator Sessions would be responsible for enforcing key civil rights laws that he has demonstrated hostility toward over more than 30 years in public life. On issues of vital importance to the Reform Movement, including voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality, and immigration, Senator Sessions has a voting record and a history of statements that raise alarm.
On civil rights in particular, Sen. Session’s record is deeply troubling. The Reform Movement is fiercely committed to protecting the right to vote and reinstating the full strength of the Voting Rights Act, which was partly drafted at our headquarters in 1965. Senator Sessions has called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and hailed the Shelby decision that eviscerated it as “good news.”
Now is the time to stand up for justice, equality, and human rights by calling your Senators today in Washington, D.C. (phone – 202 224 3121) and urging them to vote NO on the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General.
Note: I do not speak for my synagogue or any other organization. I thank Rabbi Fred Guttman for compiling the list of positions as cited above that Senator Sessions has supported over his career.