Former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions is calling on the Birmingham City Schools and the Birmingham Housing Authority to reverse its ban on Church of the Highlands, Alabama’s largest church. The Housing Authority’s commissioners recently voted to cancel its relationship with the church because the pastor “followed” and “liked” social media posts by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.
Sessions issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the agencies to reverse their ban on the church, referring to their decision as religious discrimination, according to a report by AL.com.
“The actions taken by the Birmingham Housing Authority and the Birmingham Board of Education against the Church of the Highlands represent an attack on both religious liberty and freedom of speech,” said Sessions in his statement.
“This cannot happen in America, and certainly should never happen in Alabama. Birmingham will not become Berkeley,” he added. “The First Amendment guarantees to every American the right to freely express their religious beliefs. Too often, this right has been ignored. This grave error must end.”
The agencies had cut ties with Church of the Highlands over pastor Chris Hodges “following” Charlie Kirk on social media and “liking” his posts.
“There’s also a very real free speech issue here,” continued Sessions in his statement. “The withholding of public facilities and the refusal to allow a church to minister as a result of a social media ‘like’ implicates freedom of speech in a profound way.”
“It is intolerable for a government agency to deny access and discriminate against a faith-based organization, based on a political or religious disagreement,” he added. “This is a dangerous trend we’re seeing today. It is the vicious and ugly side of political correctness.”
“If this intimidation in the name of ‘tolerance’ by the Birmingham government is allowed to stand, don’t be surprised if politically correct officials begin trying to condition government contracts, approvals, and permits on whether the applicant has ever ‘liked’ a social media post that suggests support for President Trump or conservative causes,” affirmed Sessions.
Donald Trump Jr. also reacted to the decision, tweeting: “They’re canceling the pastor of the largest (and most racially diverse) church in Alabama just because he liked some of [Charlie Kirk’s] posts. Absolutely insane.”
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 9, 2020
“Government resources cannot be used as a hammer to suppress personal viewpoints, but that is what is happening here,” said Sessions. “The Birmingham Board of Education and the Birmingham Housing Authority are using government power to coerce people into specific viewpoints.”
They are seeking to bludgeon faithful and service-oriented citizens to adopt certain viewpoints on issues, and demanding that Alabamians bow to politically correct viewpoints before they can serve the public or have access to public facilities. At its base, this action is outrageous, and amounts to a rejection of the American ideal of individual freedom. It must not stand.
The Housing Authority is an extension of the Mayor, and it is Mayor Woodfin’s responsibility to call for a reversal of the Authority’s outrageous action, and this he must do now. The members of the Board of Education should likewise immediately reverse their blatantly anti-religious decision to terminate lease agreements with the Church of the Highlands.
Sessions added that the people of Alabama “will not accept apparatchiks at the Housing Authority and officials at the Board of Education bludgeoning admirable citizens because of political differences.”
“Alabamians will not be told what to do or how to think,” declared Sessions.
“We can never allow the government to dictate what American citizens say or believe,” continued Sessions. “These actions, at a most fundamental level, are un-American.”
“The Church of the Highlands, by all accounts, has been an extremely effective partner with the Housing Authority in serving Birmingham’s citizens,” he added. “So, let me be clear, this matter is not going away. It is wrong at a very deep level. The leadership of the government of Birmingham must recognize this enormous overreach and reverse it, and they must do so immediately.”