Mat Staver, who heads the Religious Right legal group Liberty Counsel, has launched an attack on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—along with a lobbying effort targeting Pompeo, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence—over a memo that Staver says “is being drafted for Sec. Pompeo to push all U.S. embassies to lobby for new privilege for LGBT activists.”
“I need your help to stop this immediate threat to religious freedom worldwide,” wrote Staver in a May 8 alert sent by Liberty Counsel Action:
Sec. Pompeo is using America’s international reputation to shove his controversial view on other nations. He is threatening any country that seeks to protect religious freedom or refuses to promote the LGBT agenda.
America has always been a brightly shining example for the nations. Don’t let Sec. Pompeo turn that into the enforcement arm of the LGBT movement. If you haven’t already, please sign our petition.
Staver asks activists to send him money and sign a petition to Trump and Pompeo to help Liberty Counsel Action “stop Pompeo from forcing U.S. ambassadors to become tools for the LGBT agenda.”
Given that Mike Pompeo is himself a conservative evangelical and marriage equality opponent whose July 2018 “ministerial” summit on religious freedom was praised by Staver and other Religious Right leaders, why is Staver now portraying Pompeo as a threat to religious liberty around the world?
Staver seems intent on preventing Pompeo from repeating an action he took last year. On May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the State Department released a Pompeo statement criticizing governments that “continue to arrest and abuse their citizens simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI)” and asserting that “Human rights are universal, and LGBTI people are entitled to the same respect, freedoms, and protections as everyone else.”
For Staver, those are fighting words, and he is trying to stir up fears that Pompeo may be preparing to sign a directive that goes even further, saying the memo being prepared “is described as escalating past actions.”
Staver is connecting the rumored Pompeo memo with H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which would expand civil rights laws to include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and which has generated intense opposition from the Religious Right.
“While we are still fighting HR 5, we can’t ignore Sec. Pompeo’s new demands pushing this exact same agenda around the world.”
On Monday, Staver appeared for nearly an hour on VCY Crosstalk, a show on the VCY America radio network, which says it broadcasts on 25 full-power stations in the Midwest and 15 low-power translators, and distributes its programming through other affiliate stations. Staver was interviewed by VCY America’s executive director Jim Schneider.
On the show, Staver portrayed the Equality Act as the biggest threat to religious liberty ever to be considered by Congress. He called Rep. Jerrold Nadler a “liar” for saying the freedom of religious institutions and leaders would still be protected if the bill becomes a law. Staver insisted the Equality Act would force churches “to promote the radical LGBT agenda.” And he warned that the directive supposedly being prepared by the State Department would “advance many of the ideals of HR 5 all throughout the world.”
Staver said the group’s “ears on the ground” in Washington were warning that Pompeo’s statement could force embassies to fly the rainbow flag and pressure American allies, including Muslim and African countries, to “promote LGBT.” Staver was appalled at the idea that the U.S. would affirm that there is a “universal human right” to be LGBTI.
“I’m going to Israel at the end of the month,” said Staver. “I don’t want to see a rainbow flag flying over Israel.” Well, if Staver is going to be in Israel in June, he’ll be likely to see plenty of pride flags whether or not there’s one flying at the U.S. embassy.
Staver even criticized Pence, another Religious Right stalwart. Staver complained that Pence had sworn in right-wing “openly homosexual” U.S. Ambassador to Germany Rick Grenell in a public ceremony. Staver said Grenell had been nominated in spite of pushback from “the religious conservative Judeo-Christian movement.” Grenell has cheered the rise of right-wing movements in Europe, but he also declared in February that the U.S. would push for decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide.
In response to a caller question that seemed sympathetic to embassies promoting the rights of LGBTQ people in countries where they are violently persecuted, Staver said:
We’re not in favor of some of these countries where they do what you’re just talking about, throwing people off buildings. I mean, that’s just awful, it’s reprehensible. But this is a directive that would, you would see rainbow flags flying on our embassies, you would see our ambassadors emboldened to push same-sex marriage in the different states, different nation-states, to push the LGBT agenda, to do in those countries what the Congress is trying to do here with HR 5, to actually put this radical, far-reaching LGBT agenda into every area of our life.
On the show, Schneider gave out the phone numbers for the White House switchboard and comment line and gave out the names and direct phone numbers of several State Department officials and staff.