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Anti-gay activist Tony Perkins will lead a federal commission on religious freedom

Perkins has been called "the most recognizable anti-LGBTQ activist in America"

Tony Perkins — Photo: USCIRF

Tony Perkins, leader of the vehemently anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, is the new chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Perkins, a pastor with close ties to Donald Trump, was first nominated to the commission last year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He was elected as chair on Monday.

The commission is a bipartisan organization that reviews violations of religious freedom globally, before making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

Perkins — who has claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem” and said LGBTQ activists want to “destroy” America — sits alongside a number of other conservative voices on the commission, including former FRC president Gary L. Bauer, who was appointed to the commission by Donald Trump.

In a statement, Perkins said he looked forward to “continuing our efforts to promote the fundamental human right of religious freedom for all people.”

However, Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, said Perkins has “no place” on the commission and his election to chair is “an embarrassment to the United States.”

“As the leader of a Christian supremacist group that weaponizes religion against the LGBTQ community and regularly attacks religious minorities as un-American, Tony Perkins is unqualified to serve as a commissioner or in any other capacity at the USCIRF, let alone to lead it,” Fish said in a statement.

He continued: “Perkins has spent his career advocating a dangerous, distorted, and discriminatory vision of “religious liberty” that only protects orthodox Christians and leads an organization that supports abusing LGBTQ children with conversion therapy at home and enforcing the death penalty for LGBTQ people abroad.”

At the time of his appointment last year, LGBTQ advocates feared that Perkins would use his position to encourage the promotion of anti-LGBTQ religious discrimination legislation.

“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 2018.

“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.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, called Perkins “the most recognizable anti-LGBTQ activist in America” after his appointment, noting that 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.”

Ellis added: “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.”

Perkins has a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements, including earlier this year deriding the Trump administration’s plan to decriminalize homosexuality globally, calling it “cultural imperialism” and arguing that the U.S. should “refrain from imposing the values of the sexual revolution” on other nations.

Last month he also blamed a rise in sexual assault reports on the military on gay soldiers, and in April said it was “jarring” and “unpleasant” that lawmakers were flying transgender pride flags outside their Congressional offices.

Perkins has also called for the impeachment of former 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.

He has slammed transgender-inclusive restroom policies adopted by businesses like Target, 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.”

In addition, he has used his position at FRC to promote laws restricting LGBTQ adoption, 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.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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