More than 30 faith leaders on Monday issued a warning against Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhy is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Keeping the world's focus on cyber State Department watchdog probing whether Trump aides took gifts meant for foreign officials MORE’s new push to put property rights and religious freedom at the forefront of American diplomacy.
In a statement, faith leaders across denominations warned that Pompeo’s push for a hierarchy of rights with religious freedom at the top “will weaken religious freedom itself and undermine respect for and damage the protections of the universal values of human dignity.”
The statement was led by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan progressive policy institute, and signed by leaders from the Catholic, evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist faiths.
The statement came in response to the secretary’s recent unveiling of a draft report by the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights that defined human rights as a hierarchy with property rights and religious freedom at the top. Critics worry the report will set the groundwork for how the agency will prioritize monitoring human rights abroad.
Pompeo had created the commission to reexamine how the U.S. defines human rights, relying on texts from America’s founding like the Declaration of Independence and the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
But Democrats and human rights organizations have criticized the commission and its report as rolling back human rights protections for LGBTQ individuals and a woman’s right to an abortion.
The statement on Monday echoed those concerns, warning that Pompeo “will seek to use the Commission’s report to justify marginalizing certain rights, thus diminishing human rights advocacy and stifling demands for accountability for those whose rights have been violated.”
The commission’s report is open for a two-week comment period before a final version is released. The faith leaders in their statement urged members of the commission to publish a final version that rejects a hierarchy of rights and “firmly upholds the universality and indivisibility of rights.”
The faith leaders, in their statement, warned that “freedom of religion must never be used as a pretext to diminish other rights we hold dear, nor to justify infringing upon those other universal human rights.”
“Such politicization of human rights — and of freedom of religion in particular — is dangerous, particularly now when the forces of authoritarianism are on the rise globally,” the statement says.
“We urge members of the commission to consider the risks of complicity in such an effort and use this comment period to ensure that the final version of the commission’s report firmly upholds the universality and indivisibility of rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Other signatories to the statement included academics, human rights advocates and former State Department officials, including former ambassador to the Holy See Miguel H. Díaz and Ahmed Younis, a former official in the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.