Human rights groups, Democratic lawmakers—including presidential candidates—and faith leaders have sent letters to the Trump administration voicing concerns over its new human rights commission.
The Commission on Unalienable Rights was announced earlier this month, and is tasked with deciding which rights are legitimate. Advocates showed concern from the outset that it would be used to undermine LGBTQ and women’s rights around the world.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the recipient of the trio of critical letters, and obtained by NBC News, announced the commission would be headed up by social conservative Mary Ann Glendon (below, with Pompeo), and argued that “words like ’rights’ can be used by good or evil,” and that in some cases human rights rhetoric has been “hijacked” for what he considered “dubious or malignant purposes.”
Glendon served as ambassador to the Vatican during the George W. Bush administration, and has been a vocal opponent of marriage equality and abortion. Pompeo has also opposed marriage equality.
A letter signed by over 180 human rights groups, including HRC, the ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, calls on the commission to be abolished.
The letter argues the commission is overseen by clergy and scholars “known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights,” and even include some who have defended “indefensible human rights violations.”
The groups urge Pompeo to instead “focus your personal attention on the significant challenges currently facing the protection of human rights globally.”
A letter from Catholic theologians, which was signed by more than 110 people, also calls for the commission to be dismantled, fearing it will be used to downplay the needs of the poor, as well as immigrants and refugees.
“Our faith and our commitment to the principles of democracy require us to view every person on earth as a full human being,” their letter states, according to NBC.
A third letter, signed by 22 U.S. senators, argues the implication that there is confusion regarding what human rights count as rights is nothing more than “an Orwellian twist to defend the indefensible.”
“Instead of condemning gross human rights violators, President Trump has fawned over Kim Jong Un, embraced Vladimir Putin, praised Rodrigo Duterte, looked the other way as Xi Jinping imprisons millions, and covered up for Mohammed bin Salman,” the letter notes.
Among the 22 senators who signed that letter are Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Michael Bennet.
“It’s intellectual top-cover for an effort to restrict the rights of certain people,” Rob Berschinski of Human Rights First, which organized the letter campaign efforts, said of the commission.