Boston • Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue an “attack on all people of faith” Monday, saying targeting people because of their religion will not be tolerated.
Sessions’ remarks came during a discussion in Boston on the importance of protecting religious freedom, which the Methodist and former Republican senator from Alabama has made a key part of his Justice Department’s agenda.
“This was not just an attack on the Jewish faith. It was an attack on all people of faith. It was an attack on America’s values of protecting those of faith,” Sessions said at the event hosted by the Boston chapter of the Federalist Society at the Omni Parker House.
Federal prosecutors said Sunday they’re asking Sessions to give them the green light to pursue a death penalty case against the suspected Tree of Life Synagogue gunman, Robert Bowers.
Sessions, who has not said whether he will approve the request, told the crowd Monday that Bowers will “be subjected to the death penalty, perhaps.”
Sessions’ remarks were briefly interrupted by religious leaders protesting the Trump administration’s policies before they were quickly escorted out by police.
One man, wearing a clerical collar, rose from his seat, began reciting a passage from the Bible and called on Sessions to “repent and care for those in need.” As the men protested, crowd members booed at them and shouted: “Go home!”
After they men were removed, Sessions defended the administration’s immigration policies, saying he doesn’t believe there’s anything in scripture or his theology that says “a secular nation state cannot have laws to control immigration in its country.”
“It’s not immoral,” he said, “it’s not indecent and it’s not unkind to state what your laws are and then set out to enforce them.”
Sessions, who in July announced the creation of a “religious liberty task force” to implement Justice Department guidance on accommodating religious beliefs, said the Trump administration will continue to fight against what he described as efforts to erode religious freedom protections.
“These are deeply troubling incidents that should concern everyone, religious or otherwise who care about our Constitution.”