U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined a conference call with conservative pastors hosted by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins last Thursday. Pompeo told the pastors that he has two big projects: the high-level international conferences he has hosted to promote religious liberty around the world, and the Commission on Unalienable Rights.
The Commission on Unalienable Rights has generated alarm among human rights advocates and excitement among anti-LGBTQ religious-right groups that opposed the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBTQ human rights globally. In the past, the commission’s chair, conservative Harvard University law professor Mary Ann Glendon, has dismissed those concerns without allaying them.
Pompeo’s remarks on the FRC pastors call strongly suggest that he hopes the commission will do exactly what human rights advocates fear, which is to seek to limit what some conservatives call “human rights inflation,” especially the recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people.
Here’s what Pompeo said about the Commission on Unalienable Rights:
But we have watched the State Department, this concept of human rights just be trampled upon where everything became a human right, and things that we all know as Christian believers aren’t part of the inherent dignity of a human being became rights, and we would send out cables all across the world saying, well, we have to go do this because that’s part of some right or human right, and it was—it ran—it didn’t have a moral underpinning or logic to it. And so, I set about creating a group that would study this, review this, and with the mission set to say, what are those unalienable rights? What are the set of God-given rights that every human being possesses by nature of their humanness? So, by middle of May or first of June, we will have that report come back. And I think it will return America’s understanding of human rights—at least at the State Department, I hope more broadly—back to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded, to take this idea of rights and human rights back to the foundational ideas that have made this civilization, this country here, so unique and so special. I’m really looking forward to having that report complete and then sharing that with my team and with the world.
Pompeo has been a religious-right favorite since his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, when he publicly praised a Kansas pastor for a notoriously divisive legislative prayer that criticized America for having “worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism.” Pompeo has helped open doors in other countries to allow Ralph Drollinger, who runs Bible studies for members of Trump’s cabinet and conservative members of Congress, to take his fundamentalist ideology into the upper echelons of other governments, where he teaches public officials that the Bible requires them to support a range of right-wing public policies.
Pompeo told FRC’s pastors that he has used his official travels as an opportunity to evangelize:
I’ve been unabashed in my role as Secretary of State to talk about the fact that I swore an oath to the Constitution, but that my first calling is to my Savior. And I’ve made that something that I tell world leaders, whether I’m with President Sisi in Egypt or whomever, whatever faith they may be of or of no faith. And we’ve watched some of us be called out for that, to think that, to say that we don’t care about science, that we don’t care about the rule of law, all the things that I know we all care so deeply about.
My relationship with pastors across America, with Tony and all of you, reminds me of the important reason that I believe the Lord put me in this place to have this opportunity to make religious freedom such an important part of what this administration is doing.