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FFRF, others seek to dissolve State Dept. commission

A new State Department body should be disbanded, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and close to 200 other organizations urged in a letter. Hundreds of former officials, academics and activists have also signed on to the July letter originating with Human Rights First.

FFRF and all these groups and individuals are calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to dissolve the recently announced Commission on Unalienable Rights.

“We object to the commission’s stated purpose, which we find harmful to the global effort to protect the rights of all people and a waste of resources; the commission’s makeup, which lacks ideological diversity and appears to reflect a clear interest in limiting human rights, including the rights of women and LGBTQI individuals; and the process by which the commission came into being and is being administered, which has sidelined human rights experts in the State Department’s own Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,” the letter states. “We urge you to immediately disband this body.”

The commission’s shortcomings start with its title, the letter points out.

“We view with great misgiving a body established by the U.S. government aimed expressly at circumscribing rights through an artificial sorting of those that are ‘unalienable’ and those to be now deemed ‘ad hoc,’” says the letter. “These terms simply have no place in human rights discourse. It is a fundamental tenet of human rights that all rights are universal and equal.”

And the composition of the entity does little to inspire confidence.

“The commission clearly fails to achieve the legal requirement that a federal advisory committee ‘be fairly balanced in its membership in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed,’” asserts the letter. “The commission’s chair and members are overwhelmingly clergy or scholars known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQ and reproductive rights, and some have taken public stances in support of indefensible human rights violations.”

FFRF and the other groups strongly advise that “taxpayer resources should simply not be wasted on this commission,” since “its findings will have no weight or ability to redefine human rights.”

The joint letter, released July 23, has received coverage in major media outlets.

FFRF has been ahead of the curve when it comes to the “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” getting wind of it in June and immediately asking for records on the body, which FFRF awaits. FFRF has been concerned from the outset that the group will redefine human rights through the Christian nationalism that the secretary of state promotes.

“The distinctive mark of Western civilization is the belief in the inherent worth of human beings, with the attendant respect for God-authored rights and liberties,” Pompeo said in May. This conflation of “God-given rights” and “human rights” seems to be a hallmark of the commission.

In a speech to a Wichita congregation in 2015, Pompeo, the then-Kansas congressman, shared his worldview: “To worship our Lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty.”

He also exposed his Christian fundamentalism in stating, “America had worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.” Pompeo concluded by describing politics as “a never-ending struggle . . . until the rapture.”

FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel has explained, “This language is worrisome. The Founders, Thomas Jefferson in particular, focused on human rights, not Pompeo’s ‘God-given rights.’”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is more than happy to join in the call for the Commission on Unalienable Rights to be shut down.

Mike Pompeo