Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay Family Research Council, has been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, reports Religion News Service.
The Trump administration named Perkins to the commission on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), according to the Congressional Record. The commission is tasked with examining and speaking out against violations of religious freedom in other countries, advises the United States on how to respond to such infringements on freedom, and advocates for laws that protect the free exercise of religion.
Perkins, who is best known domestically for his opposition to LGBTQ rights and advocacy of conservative social causes, has also been outspoken about the persecution of religious minorities — particularly Christians — who live under totalitarian governments. He will remain president of FRC during his two-year term on the commission.
“I am grateful to Majority Leader McConnell for appointing me to this prestigious position,” Perkins said in a statement. “From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally.”
But Perkins’ appointment has rankled LGBTQ rights advocates, who fear he will use his position to push for or encourage other nations to pass anti-LGBTQ or right-to-discriminate laws under the guise of “protecting religious freedom.”
“Tony Perkins does not embody the values that many Americans would associate with religious freedom — values like treating others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, respecting those with whom you disagree, and demonstrating a reverence for the many different faiths and types of people who make our country so strong,” Masen Davis, the CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said in a statement.
“There are many conservatives who understand that securing freedom and opportunity for LGBTQ people is consistent with conservative values,” Davis added. “Tony Perkins is absolutely not one of those individuals. His appointment to USCIRF does not advance religious freedom, and goes against the values that so many Americans from all walks of life hold dear.”
Perkins has previously come under fire from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has classified FRC as a “hate group” for its willingness to spread false or misleading information about LGBTQ people in order to curb expansions of their rights.
“It’s deeply disturbing that Tony Perkins has been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom,” Heidi Beirich, the director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said in a statement. “As head of the hate group Family Research Council, Perkins specializes in spreading false propaganda that demonizes the LGBT community and Muslims. His idea of ‘religious freedom’ is having the freedom to discriminate against entire groups of people he doesn’t like. His well-documented bigotry has no place in any government entity.”
Perkins has a long history of inflammatory or anti-LGBTQ statements, and often cloaks opposition to LGBTQ rights as an essential part of being a Christian (while disparaging pro-LGBTQ Christian sects) and any recognition of LGBTQ equality as a direct affront to people of faith. He has called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for authoring the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, has advocated for conversion therapy, and compared LGBTQ advocates to terrorists.
Perkins has railed against transgender-inclusive restroom policies adopted by businesses like Target, has compared the fate of Christians living in a society where LGBTQ rights are respected to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, and insists that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem.” He has also used his position at FRC to promote laws restricting the ability of LGBTQ couples to adopt, oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and advocate for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” law that doles out punishments for homosexuality, saying the bill simply “upholds moral conduct.”
“Tony Perkins is the most recognizable anti-LGBTQ activist in America,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement denouncing Perkins’ appointment. “He has espoused the most extreme views of LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities including vocally supporting foreign laws that punish LGBTQ identity with death. The idea that Perkins would be making policy recommendations to an administration that is already anti-LGBTQ is dangerous and puts LGBTQ people directly in harm’s way.”
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