Persecution of all, not selected, groups should be condemned

Michael Guest, The Council for Global EqualityRepost from the Charlotte Observer

From Michael Guest, a former Bush Administration ambassador who advises the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of human rights and LGBT advocacy groups.

Rev. Franklin Graham has suggested publicly a cut off of U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt, in response to the latter’s persecution of Christians.

And so, in light of the State Department’s latest human rights reports, how does Rev. Graham feel about providing assistance to Panama, Cameroon, El Salvador and other countries where officials were implicated last year of unlawfully harassing, detaining, or brutalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens?

State’s annual human rights report to Congress, released May 24, is widely regarded as the most comprehensive assessment available of human rights abuse abroad. The report is worth taking in.

In Jamaica, police were implicated in 12 cases of assault or other abuse directed at LGBT people. In South Africa, an average of 10 cases per week was reported of lesbians being subjected to “corrective rape,” generally without police response.

In Nigeria, local authorities failed to act against those responsible for stoning and beating members of an LGBT-affirming Christian church. Authorities in China, Russia, the Dominican Republic and Moldova denied freedom of assembly to LGBT citizens and groups. And in dozens of countries, gay and transgender people were denied employment or basic social services, including health, housing and education – only because of who they are.

Rev. Graham is right to be concerned about abuses directed at Egypt’s Coptic Christians. I stand at his side in expressing outrage, both at what this minority has suffered and at the Egyptian Government’s failure, more broadly, to protect minority rights.

But human rights are, if anything, a matter of principle. They are as universal as God’s love. And if all are created in God’s image, every person deserves respect.Egypt isn’t the only country that fails to protect minority rights. Uganda, for instance, is considering legislation that would impose, in some cases, a death penalty on gay citizens. David Bahati, the principal author of that bill, identifies himself as Christian, as do many of the bill’s supporters.

That particular advocacy – an incitement to hatred and violence – doesn’t square with the teachings of Jesus. And the discrimination documented by State is flatly out of keeping with principles of equality, fairness, and the rule of law that are core to who we are as a nation, and to what our country advocates abroad.

I frankly disagree with Rev. Graham’s call for foreign assistance to Egypt to end, or be suspended, uniquely because of these abuses. Bilateral relationships are not black-and-white, and Washington must weigh a range of sometimes contradictory national and humanitarian interests before making such a sweeping decision.

But surely we can agree that, wherever human rights abuses occur, and toward whomever they are directed, our government should stand on principle in challenging other countries to do better.

The Obama administration is taking such a principled stand. All of us, as citizens, should do so as well. It’s time we insist that all humans deserve equal respect, equal treatment, and equal protection under the law.

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