Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission

Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission
© Kevin Dietsch for The Hill

A coalition of Democratic senators, human rights groups and theologians is calling on Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoFive takeaways from Biden's climate summit UK Parliament declares China's treatment of Uyghurs a genocide If Trump runs again, will he be coronated or primaried? MORE to disband the Trump administration’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights, warning it will undermine LGBTQ and women’s rights, according to NBC News.

Nearly 200 human rights groups, including the Center for Disability Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in a Tuesday letter to Pompeo that the commission’s members had a history of hostility toward such demographics.


“The Commission’s chair and members are overwhelmingly clergy or scholars known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights, and some have taken public stances in support of indefensible human rights violations,” the letter states.

The groups said in their letter that commissioner Russell Berman, a Stanford University professor of comparative literature and German studies, dismissed outrage over last year's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as “another effort to get at President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: LeBron James's 'racist rants' are divisive, nasty North Carolina man accused of fraudulently obtaining .5M in PPP loans Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE” ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“We urge you to immediately disband this body” and “focus your personal attention on the significant challenges currently facing the protection of human rights globally,” the coalition wrote.

The commission is meant to provide advice on human rights based on U.S. founding principles and the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pompeo said earlier this month, arguing that there is confusion over what constitutes a human right.

In a second letter, 22 Senate Democrats, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 Bottom line The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges MORE (N.J.), said the commission is based on the erroneous idea that “there is any ‘confusion’ over what human rights are."

The senators expressed concerns about the administration’s commitment to human rights, citing Trump’s praise for heads of state such as Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny says he feels 'pride and hope' over protests against his detention Technical snafus disrupt Biden climate summit The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden convenes world leaders for Earth Day MORE, North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSouth Korean leader pushes Biden to restart nuclear talks with North, knocks Trump Exclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee On North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration MORE and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

That letter was signed by several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi pushes for drug pricing measure amid uncertainty from White House White House sees GOP proposal as legitimate starting point The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisGOP sees immigration as path to regain power Senate confirms Gupta nomination in tight vote Earth Day 2021: New directions for US climate policy rhetoric MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSharpton eulogizes Daunte Wright: 'Tags of racism' have expired Hawley votes against anti-Asian hate crime bill Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing MORE, (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory BookerTim Scott to deliver GOP response to Biden's speech to Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Chauvin conviction puts renewed focus on police reform New signs of progress emerge on police reform MORE,(D-N.J.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden plan would nearly double capital gains tax for wealthy: report Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave Progressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIntelligence leaders warn of threats from China, domestic terrorism Jon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left MORE (D-N.Y.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Overnight Energy: Biden reportedly will pledge to halve US emissions by 2030 | Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution Democrats get good news from IRS MORE (D-Colo.).

In a third letter, more than 100 Catholic theologians expressed concern the commission will minimize the problems facing immigrants, refugees and the poor, according to NBC.

“Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being,” the theologians wrote.

When reached for comment, a State Department spokesperson pointed to an interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN-TV in which Pompeo said: "The U.N. Human Rights Council had sitting on it countries that you know treat women poorly, treat people different because of their faith or because of their race or because of their sexual orientation, things that we know governments ought not do. And so we want to bring it back."

"The attempt is to reground that so that the United States Department of State at very least is back to first principles on what these human rights are, and clean up that language," Pompeo added.

Updated at 2:41 p.m.