A few dozen Religious Right groups and leaders released a letter this week praising Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for creating his Commission on Unalienable Rights, which has been strongly criticized by human rights advocates for bypassing the State Department’s existing human rights infrastructure, for its focus on applying “natural law” principles to human rights policy, and for the dominant role of social conservatives among members of the commission.
Among the signers are Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, the Heritage Foundation’s Kay Coles James, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed, and C-FAM’s Austin Ruse. According to news reports, the commission was at least in part the brainchild of Robert George, a proponent of “natural law” and an ardent foe of legal abortion and legal equality for LGBTQ people.
The August 6 letter claims that “the foundation of human rights is being watered-down by activists around the world promoting political ideology and identity group goals as ‘human rights.’” And it says Pompeo’s commission can return a focus to fundamental human rights and “reassert the right kind of American leadership on the world stage.” (Emphasis in the letter.)
Presumably, the wrong kind of leadership the letter-signers had in mind includes the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBTQ equality as an element of U.S. foreign policy, something to which many of the letter-signers strenuously objected.
In the letter, the signers say that what they regard as ideological activism presented as rights “distracts from the fundamental purposes of protecting human rights.” And that takes the focus off “real” victims of human rights abuses. Interestingly, among the examples they offer of real victims of human rights abuse are “men in Syria and Iraq being thrown off buildings to their death.” That portion of the letter links to a CNN story about ISIS killing men who are perceived to be gay. While one might view it as progress to have these Religious Right leaders acknowledge this deadly anti-gay persecution, it is telling that they could not apparently bring themselves to include in the letter that the “men” being thrown to their deaths were being murdered for being gay or being perceived to be gay. Groups like the Family Research Council don’t want conservatives to even use the word “gay” because they, like other conservative evangelical and Catholic leaders, don’t want to recognize sexual orientation as an identity.
A few weeks before this recent group letter, anti-LGBTQ activist Brian Brown told supporters that Pompeo’s new commission provided “pro-family” activists with “an extraordinary opening to push for clear and consistent recognition of the natural family” and “gives us a forum to challenge American foreign policy that has in the past advanced the extreme agenda of the left that has been cloaked in the language of so-called human rights.”
As RWW reported earlier this week, Mary Ann Glendon, the law professor who chairs the new commission, was dismissive of human rights advocates who have sounded an alarm about the commission’s work. No doubt the signers of this week’s letter were cheered by Glendon echoing the rhetoric of religious and political leaders opposed to the pro-LGBTQ advocacy of the Obama administration when she said that one of the topics the commission will discuss will be “the sense in many non-western countries and in fragile states that western-funded organizations are imposing neocolonial views on them and calling them human rights.”
The Trump administration upset some of its Religious allies recently when it said it will lead a global push for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Meanwhile, some of Trump’s authoritarian friends are fomenting bigotry and violence against advocates for LGBTQ equality.