In pushing for faith to be given extra prominence in U.S. international coverage issues, might Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be performing in unhealthy religion?
That’s what many human rights teams consider. In a letter dated July 30, a coalition of faith-based and secular civil liberty teams and leaders accused Pompeo of performing out of “private political and non secular beliefs.” It coincided with the final day of public session on a draft report by the Pompeo-appointed Fee on Unalienable Rights that prioritizes spiritual freedom over different human rights.
As a scholar of human rights and the regulation, I perceive these issues. Valuing one human proper over one other undermines efforts to guard everybody’s rights, together with the liberty of faith.
The 60-page draft report attracts upon “biblical teachings” and “classical liberalism” to conclude that “foremost among the many unalienable rights that authorities is established to safe, from the founders’ perspective, are property rights and non secular liberty.”
It’s a view grounded in a historic narrative of American exceptionalism. Certainly, launching the report, Pompeo declared: “America is particular. America is nice. America does good all world wide.”
‘Advert hoc rights’
Pompeo arrange the Fee on Unalienable Rights with a mandate to offer him with recommendation on human rights “grounded in our nation’s founding rules” and “the rules of the 1948 Common Declaration of Human Rights” – a global settlement supported by the U.S. that units out, however doesn’t rank, common human rights such because the rights to schooling, well being and work and freedom of speech and meeting, and protections from torture and discrimination.
In an op-ed in The Washington Publish, Pompeo harassed his purpose was to tell apart between unique “unalienable rights” and what he referred to as “advert hoc rights” which were added for the reason that finish of the Chilly Conflict.
The fee’s draft report seeks to do that by suggesting that some rights are “unalienable” in that they’re inseparable from our humanity and equates these to human rights. Different rights are merely granted by governments.
The report implies that spiritual freedom and property rights are extra vital than different civil and political rights, like freedom of speech and meeting, or the correct to vote. It additionally says financial, social and cultural rights needs to be handled otherwise in U.S. international coverage.
Different rights – together with these masking reproductive rights and LGBTQ protections – are dismissed by the fee as “divisive social and political controversies.” It additional cautions in opposition to U.S. assist for “new” rights.
Even earlier than the report’s launch, 400 U.S.-based human rights teams and consultants famous in a joint letter that “it’s a elementary tenet of human rights that every one rights are common and equal.”
In addition they aired concern in regards to the make-up of the fee – the vast majority of members are students of spiritual freedom with stances in opposition to abortion and the enlargement of LGBTQ rights – amongst different points.
Spiritual leaders and faith-based media are amongst those that have expressed issues with the draft report.
Critics say that if the U.S. declares some rights are extra vital than others, the transfer will devalue all human rights – together with spiritual freedom. With out freedom of speech and meeting, rights to well being and schooling, and safety from discrimination and violence, freedom of faith doesn’t imply a lot. That’s the reason human rights are thought of indivisible, interrelated and interdependent.
It might additionally solid additional doubt over the legitimacy and credibility of U.S. efforts to advertise rights abroad. The priority is different nations might even see the proposed method as a inexperienced mild to advertise their very own nationwide sovereignty claims over their obligations to present human rights regulation and requirements – the latter which the fee’s report disparages as “drawn up by commissions and committees, our bodies of unbiased consultants, NGOs, particular rapporteurs, and many others., with scant democratic oversight.”
It’s laborious to separate the fee and the draft report from the the political agenda of the administration, which has made spiritual freedom a central plank of its platform. Likewise the fee’s report echoes the disdain the Trump administration has displayed for worldwide our bodies.
Already a precedence
The institution of Pompeo’s fee and its draft report differs from bipartisan efforts that had already positioned an emphasis on spiritual freedom in U.S. international coverage.
The Worldwide Spiritual Freedom Act of 1998 handed through the Clinton administration and amended in 2016 through the Obama administration, established the unbiased U.S. Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Freedom, together with an Workplace of Worldwide Spiritual Freedom within the State Division headed by an ambassador-at-large.
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Congress receives an annual report on worldwide spiritual freedom, which evaluates different nations’ efforts to advertise spiritual freedom. It focuses on acts of spiritual persecution and naming “nations of concern,” which can lead to sanctions.
However the workplace has been extra lively through the Trump administration. Pompeo used the launch of its 2019 annual report – which singles out China as one of many worst offenders of spiritual freedom for its remedy of Uighurs – as a chance to intensify the administration’s rhetoric in opposition to China.
The place from right here?
Having acquired public feedback, the fee might, in fact, considerably alter its draft report. However even earlier than the top of the session interval, it was reported that Pompeo promoted the draft as steering for State Division employees to observe.
The record of challenges to human rights within the U.S. and world wide is lengthy and sophisticated: rising authoritarianism and nationalism, a worldwide pandemic, widespread protests demanding racial justice, local weather change, new applied sciences and financial inequities, amongst others. The U.S. is simply an efficient advocate for the safety of human rights abroad, if it may possibly guarantee all rights for its personal folks equally.
However a significant deliberation about how the U.S. ought to defend and promote human dignity for all each domestically and internationally could require a really completely different method than that of the Fee on Unalienable Rights.