Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, said on Tuesday that if confirmed, he would oppose moves to block Muslims from entering the United States, reports the Washington Times.
Sessions told the Senate panel conducting his confirmation hearing that Trump and he were “great believers in religious freedom” and he would not support a religious test for visitors or immigrants.
“I do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied entry to the United States,” the senator said, according to the Washington Times.
He did, however, say that people who ascribe to violent religious extremism should be prevented from entering the country.
During the election campaign, Trump caused an uproar when he called for a temporary ban on Muslim entry to the United States in order to prevent terrorism.
The call was made in the wake of the December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, California, in which two terrorists who had been in contact with overseas terrorist organizations killed 14 people at an office Christmas party.
Sessions noted in Tuesday’s hearing that Trump had modified the proposal to ban Muslim entry during the presidential race to focus on countries that are hotbeds of terrorist activity.
“He has indicated that would he would suggest is strong vetting of people coming from those countries,” he was quoted as having said.
Trump also promised during the campaign to institute “extreme vetting” of immigrants to protect the nation from radical Islamic terror.
“We should only admit into this country those that share our values and respect our people. We will be tough, and we will be even extreme,” Trump said in a speech in August, three months before he was elected.