State Department Launches Anti-LGBTQ Panel
Pompeo uses ‘Natural Law’ to deny human rights
Natural law is to human rights as phrenology is to psychology
When it comes to the Trump administration and human rights, nobody expects anything good. Administration officials cage immigrant children in squalid conditions and argue in federal court that kids don’t need soap, toothbrushes and blankets.
Administration officials draft regulations that allow doctors to deny routine health care to transgender people.
Natural Law has become a pseudo philosophy used by religious people to deny basic human rights to members of minorities.
Trump’s State Department has a dismal record on LGBTQ human rights
- Despite recent lip service to the contrary, in the middle of 2018, the State Department stopped pressuring African nations to repeal their anti-LGBTQ criminal laws. One official justified the decision by stating the US doesn’t want to “discourage Christian values in other democratic countries.”
- During the same time period, the State Department stopped granting visas to the same-sex partners of UN and international NGO staffers. Staffers who live in countries where same-sex marriage is illegal may no longer bring their same-sex partners to the US.
- The State Department routinely refuses to acknowledge the citizenship of babies born overseas to same-sex American couples. Gay parents have to go to court to get passports for their children, and even though multiple courts have ordered the State Department to comply, appeals are in progress and the matter is not settled.
The State Department just announced a human rights initiative
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is launching an advisory panel that will stress human rights in the context of “Natural Law.” So, should we be getting excited? Is Pompeo about to start taking human rights seriously?
No, quite the contrary
Natural Law today is almost exclusively associated with Roman Catholicism and with white evangelical Christianity, especially with opposition to reproductive and LGBTQ rights. Anti-LGBTQ activists use the phrase constantly to justify opposing basic human rights.
According to the Federal Register, the panel “will provide the Secretary of State advice and recommendations concerning international human rights matters… [and] will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”
According to Politico, human rights activists say they are surprised by the move and worry that talk of the “nation’s founding principles” and “natural law” are code words for plans to focus less on protecting women and LGBT people.
The activists are right to be worried
While Natural Law and Natural Rights were key philosophies in overturning the divine right of kings and in underpinning the Lockean ideals that led to the foundation of the United States and the establishment of liberal democracy around the world, Natural Law as discussed today has almost nothing to do with those ideals.
As observed today, Natural Law harkens back to the Medieval era, with conservative religious institutions attempting to use it to deny basic human rights to women and to LGBTQ people.
Natural Law as discussed by religious people today ignores evidence about nature and eschews empiricism. People who tout Natural Law also celebrate its basis in divine inspiration. In practice, they mean the Christian Deity. As observed today, Natural Law IS religion — the Christian religion, wrapped in the archaic robes of Aristotelian and Aquinian philosophy.
Natural law is to human rights as phrenology is to psychology
Just as phrenology is a debunked pseudoscience that once pretended to be able to judge human character and mental abilities based on the size and shapes of skulls, Natural Law has become a pseudo philosophy used by religious people to deny basic human rights to members of minorities.
Less than two weeks ago, the Vatican issued a shocking poison pill of a document on education that denies the transgender experience, condemning transgender people and those who validate and affirm them as annihilating the “concept of nature.”
Catholic Church Calls Transgender People Annihilators
Ignoring science, the Church promotes suffering
The document will cause suffering, will increase rates of bullying, will increase rates of death by suicide among transgender people. The document bases all of its conclusions on Aristotelian and Medieval-era Natural Law, while entirely ignoring contemporary science and the experiences of actual transgender people.
The Catholic Church also bases its opposition to same-sex marriage on Natural Law. Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George said in an interview, that “[Our opposition is] based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along.”
Again, the Church ignores clear empirical evidence that same-sex attracted people exist in very small but seemingly stable numbers, and that society is not harmed when those people enter into loving unions. Instead, the Church bases its opposition to basic human rights on centuries-old Natural Law philosophy that was uninformed about the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Catholic Church is not alone in using Natural Law to oppress LGBTQ people
Tony Perkins, the president of the hate group Family Research Council (FRC), argues “same-sex marriage violates reason and natural law.” He frequently goes on the record to make Natural Law arguments for criminalizing homosexuality and erasing almost all rights LGBTQ people have won to live as equal members of society.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.” They denigrate LGBT people and fight same-sex marriage, hate crime laws, anti-bullying programs, and the inclusion of transgender and gay people in the US military.
FRC employs “policy experts” whose discredited research has allowed FRC to shape public discourse. Its leaders often testify before Congress and appear in the mainstream media. It also works at the grassroots level, conducting outreach to Christian pastors in an effort to “transform the culture,” by which they mean erasing LGBTQ people and rights.
Secretary Pompeo and FRC’s Perkins are very close
Perkins attended the infamous July 2018 “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” hosted by Pompeo and sponsored by the Department of State. It was at this gathering that the State Department announced that the jailing of “homosexuals” by African nations was a “Christian value” that the United States would not interfere with.
Perkins frequently praises Pompeo’s Christian faith and values, including in this April 2019 article.
Since Trump was elected, FRC has grown even more influential, becoming a guiding force in policy and personnel development in the administration. As Perkins told The New York Times in 2017, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.”
Besides Pompeo, the administration is filled with conservative Christians like Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. All of them, sometimes in the company of Perkins, have attended a weekly Bible study led by “Christian nationalist” pastor Ralph Drollinger. Besides being a sexist and a racist who supports separating immigrant children from their parents, Drollinger is a notoriously anti-LGBT figure who bases his own homophobia on Natural Law.
When Secretary Pompeo speaks of Natural Law and human rights, he's saying something very important
He’s embracing a view of human rights that rejects the rights of LGBTQ people, a priori. He’s embracing a conservative Christian philosophy that rejects contemporary knowledge of biology, psychology, anthropology, and medicine. He’s rejecting advances in moral thinking.
He’s calling for the US to “return” to a time when gender and sexual minorities were hounded, bullied, erased, and imprisoned.
Natural Law to Pompeo, Perkins, Drollinger, and the Catholic Church is antithetical to genuine human rights and respect for people who happen to be ordinary, minority variants of human beings.
Pompeo’s track record speaks for itself. His advisory council is about denying human rights, not advancing them.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
— Martin Niemöller