The Trump administration is “aggressively enforcing” hate crime laws, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday in an address to an Orthodox Union gathering in Washington, DC.
“Make no mistake,” Sessions emphasized, “hate crimes are violent crimes, and reducing violent crime is a top priority of ours.”
“According to the FBI,” he continued, “religious hate crimes are second only to racial hate crimes in the United States today. Since January of 2017, the Department [of Justice] has brought hate crime charges against 27 defendants and obtained 25 convictions.”
“We remain vigilant, in particular, against antisemitic hate crimes, which remain the most common religiously-motivated hate crimes, and which increased by 12% from 2014 to 2016,” the attorney general added.
“This administration is animated by that same American view that has led us for 242 years — that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square,” Sessions concluded. “It has served this country well. It has made us not only one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and accepting countries, it’s also helped us be the freest, most generous and the strongest.”
Earlier in his remarks, Sessions revealed that the Justice Department would be filing a Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) lawsuit against the New Jersey borough of Woodcliff Lake over the denial of zoning approval for an Orthodox Jewish synagogue.
“In order to enhance our ability to conduct RLUIPA investigations, I am also announcing today the Place to Worship Initiative,” Sessions went on to say. “Under this initiative, we will seek to raise awareness about legal protections under RLUIPA through public events across America and through better training for our federal prosecutors.”
“I believe that these efforts will help us bring more cases under RLUIPA — and it will help us win,” he stated. “I am hopeful that, as more people learn their rights, they will speak out where discrimination exists and prevent further discrimination from happening.”