Mr. Pompeo’s Fraud

U.S. Department of StateOne of the Trump Administration’s most damnable traits has been its blatant disregard for human rights norms.  The President’s embrace of the world’s worst dictators….withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council….cherry-picking of rights deemed worthy of inclusion in the annual human rights reports….antipathy toward transgender rights and efforts to strip out use of the word “gender” in multilateral fora.

What else can this venal and short-sighted Administration do to sever further our country from the human rights leadership it has held since World War Two?

Enter Mike Pompeo.

Last Friday, March 6, the Council for Global Equality and four other non-profit organizations filed suit against the State Department to block the continuation of Secretary Pompeo’s “Commission on Unalienable Rights” — a body aimed at constricting U.S. human rights advocacy to align with the “natural law” and “natural rights” vision of religious and social extremists.

Filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit challenges the legitimacy of the Commission’s role, its lack of membership balance, and the lack of transparency in its operation — all violations of Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requirements, under which the Commission must operate:

  • The Pompeo-appointed Commission members are narrowly based academics, known for their religious rights views but with little broader human rights expertise; many of their statements and writings show clear bias against LGBTI rights, reproductive rights, and gender equality.
  • The Commission’s membership fully excludes participation by human rights experts with on-the-ground programmatic or advocacy experience.
  • The Commission has failed to provide the public with documents on which it is basing its final report, or indeed access to working group deliberations that are shaping the contours of that report.
  • And as the Secretary receives in-house advice and expertise on human rights policy from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the need for the Commission is dubious at best.

Secretary Pompeo has argued that claims of what constitutes “human rights” have proliferated, leading to a cheapening of the coin of human rights acceptance.  He appears to consider the rights of marginalized communities, such as those that filed this lawsuit, as little more than political pandering.

But these claims are a fraud on the American people, and indeed on the world.  The simple truth is that this Secretary views human rights through a distorted lens of religious freedom — and his appointments to this Commission share his lens.  From day one, the Commission’s purpose has been to reframe human rights from that narrow religious perspective, rather than building acceptance of universal rights that are nurtured and grounded in international law.  While that may serve Pompeo’s political purposes, it’s disastrous for our country’s leadership and moral sway.

The Council hardly is alone in its concern about this bad-to-the-bone Commission.  Our partners in this lawsuit — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity, CHANGE, and Global Justice Center and Democracy Forward — are but the tip of the iceberg of civil society organizations that view Pompeo’s efforts with dismay.  Last summer, hundreds of human rights advocates and organizations wrote to Pompeo to oppose the Commission.  A growing number of Congressional voices, too, have weighed in against Pompeo’s misguided mission, even seeking to defund it.

We cannot allow this Secretary to drag America down a rabbit hole of social and religious extremism — a direction that’s out of keeping with the principles of our country.  All of us who care genuinely about human rights, and who believe that human rights should be the province of all, have a responsibility to take a stand.

Please join us in that effort by calling your state representatives in Congress and asking them to demand that the Commission be disbanded now.

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Read more about Secretary Pompeo’s description of the Commission, and his claim that our country’s human rights practice should be grounded in religion, in his speech to Concerned Women for America at the Trump Hotel. 

 

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