State Department human rights advocacy commission holds first meeting

The State Department’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights held its first meeting on Oct. 23, 2019, at the State Department.

A controversial human rights advisory commission the State Department created earlier this year held its first meeting on Wednesday.

Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo delivered opening remarks at the Commission on Unalienable
Rights meeting that took place at the State Department.

The
Federal Registrar earlier this month published
a State Department note
that said Wednesday’s meeting would, among other
things, “include topics related to human rights and the American
founding.” Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor who chairs the
commission, ran the meeting.

“Today
we hosted the 1st public meeting of the Commission on Unalienable Rights,”
tweeted Pompeo on Wednesday. “I’m confident the Commission will advance
the Administration’s unmatched commitment to fundamental human rights and
extend America’s legacy as a nation without peer in upholding freedom and human
dignity.”

Pompeo in Julyannounced the commission will stress “natural laws and natural rights.” On the same day he also said Glendon, who is known for her vocal opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, will chair it.

Hundreds
of LGBTQ advocacy groups and their supporters who include former U.S.
Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) have
strongly criticized the commission. Wednesday’s meeting also took place against
the backdrop of continued criticism over the Trump administration’s LGBTQ rights
record in the U.S. and its overall foreign policy.

The Council for Global Equality on Thursday noted on its blog the commission — which is “stacked with religiously-focused academics who oppose the rights of LGBTI individuals and the sexual and reproductive rights of women” — took “a deep dive into the meaning of ‘unalienable rights’ in the context of our founding texts, including the Declaration of Independence, which most famously affirmed the unalienable rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Council for Global Equality in its post added Michael McConnel, a former federal judge who is a constitutional scholar at the Stanford Law School, was the first person who spoke at the commission’s meeting and said the idea of “unalienable rights” points to “a philosophical concept, rather than a concrete set of rights” and “our founders were ultimately more concerned with freedom of conscience, which includes but is not limited to a narrow understanding of religious freedom.”

“While U.S. moral
leadership ebbs and flows, and our commitment to human rights institutions has
been uneven over the years, it is simply wrong-headed and ultimately
self-defeating to create an artificial human rights hierarchy — one that strips
away the universality of human rights and puts a limited number of political
and religious rights above all others,” wrote the Center for Global
Equality. “Indeed, this enterprise stands to harm religious freedom
itself, as it gives philosophical justification to theocratic governments and
religious majority populations who are, by far, the leading persecutors of
religious minorities around the world. Those same oppressors also happen to be
some of the leading persecutors of LGBTI individuals and other marginalized
groups.”

Pompeo on Wednesday described
criticism of the commission as “unfortunate” during an interview with
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on his “Washington Watch”
program.

Perkins is a
member of
the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The
Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Family Research Council as a
hate group.  

“This is a commission that has a set of
commissioners from a broad political perspective, different faith traditions,
all aimed at something that I think every American can agree to, which is our
conception that our founders put in place of the protection of human life and
dignity is central to America’s wellbeing and our exceptionalism as a nation,
and indeed, are a beacon for the entire world,” Pompeo told Perkins. 

“What we’re hoping to do is to take this idea of rights, which sometimes becomes confusing or turns into simply personal or political preferences, and reground it — reground it in the history and tradition of the United States so that we are moored to something more than someone’s fancy of the moment and we come to understand that these incredible cherished, fundamental rights are at the very core of the American experience,” added Pompeo.

The commission’s next meeting
is scheduled to take place on Nov. 1.

Published at Fri, 25 Oct 2019 16:19:11 +0000