Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hate Group Leader Will Now Lead a Major U.S. Religious Freedom Body

Perkins addressing a white supremacy group before moving to FRC.
The Trump/Pence regime and its self-prostituting GOP allies are continuing its efforts to make far right evangelical Christianity the preferred religion in the United States.  While Pence is a true believer and, in my view down right frightening given his fanaticism, Trump has zero moral compunctions and it's all about keeping the now dominant Christofascist/white supremacist base of the GOP loyal through the 2020 elections.  Molded out of the same moral vacuum is Mitch McConnell who appointed a leading hate merchant/professional Christian who has helped rally evangelicals to Trump's support and the GOP's support is Tony Perkins - head of the certified hate group, Family Research Council ("FRC") - to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  McConnell, like Trump, faces a potentially difficult re-election campaign in 2020 and is willing to sell his soul (if he has one) to secure Christofascist support. Sadly, in Perkins' world view, only his fellow evangelicals deserve religious freedom. The rest of us simply do not matter or are deemed deserving of marginalization.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Perkins' ugly record and agenda, but sadly omits Perkins' strong and documented white supremacist ties (Perkins hails from Mississippi, perhaps the most racist state in America).   Here are article highlights:

One of the most vitriolic anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim activists in the U.S. will now lead the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Tony Perkins, who was first named to USCIRF by Senator Mitch McConnell in 2018, will head the group for a year. Perkins is also the president of the Family Research Council, a far-right organization that lobbied against marriage equality and continues to work against anti-discrimination laws that cover LGBT people.
Established by the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, USCIRF is a bipartisan body. Commissioners are appointed by members of Congress and serve limited terms. As the commission explains on its website, it’s charged with tracking the status of religious freedom around the world, advocating for prisoners of conscience, and producing reports that contain policy prescriptions. . . . But Perkins’s chairmanship will likely undermine USCIRF’s mission, and his hostility toward LGBT people and Muslims mirrors the Trump administration’s positions in the worst possible ways.
Like USCIRF itself, Perkins isn’t much of a household name. But he has for years worked toward a definition of religious freedom that maximizes First Amendment rights for conservative Christians, while minimizing the rights of Muslims, nontheists, and members of other minority traditions.
At various points in his prolific career, Perkins has argued [lied] that there is “a disproportionate overlap” between homosexuality and pedophilia and that the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead inexorably to the persecution of conservative Christians. In a column on the Family Research Council’s website, Perkins linked the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas — which found sodomy bans unconstitutional — to a host of other supposed evils, including marriage equality, rights for trans people, and the alleged mainstreaming of polygamy and pedophilia.
Same-sex relationships remain illegal in much of the world, and LGBT people can face violence and death, meted out either by vigilantes or courts. They won’t have an advocate in Perkins, nor, for that matter, will many religious minorities.
Perkins has also shown particular antipathy toward Islam. . . . The Trump administration shares Perkins’s animus toward Islam. Its ban on immigration from some majority-Muslim countries indicated early the depth of its hostility for Muslims. As HuffPost reported after March’s mosque shootings in New Zealand, Trump once floated a national database to track Muslims, and has repeatedly and wrongly insisted that Muslims in Jersey City celebrated the September 11th attacks. The Trump administration isn’t any more tolerant of LGBT people. Trans people are among its favorite targets . . .
At the same time, the administration has consistently defended a definition of religious freedom that allows people of faith extreme leeway to discriminate. If the administration’s idiosyncratic definition of religious freedom has ever bothered Perkins, it’s not visible; as president of the Family Research Council, Perkins has committed himself wholly to the defense of Trump and his policy priorities.
Perkins’s term as chairman ends in 2020, but the rest of USCIRF’s membership tilts to the right as well. Of its nine commissioners, five have links to right-wing groups; at least one, Gary Bauer, has also worked for the Family Research Council. Though Perkins won’t be around for long, his tenure as chairman marks a grim turn in USCIRF’s history.
Virginians need to be aware that The Family Foundation, Virginia leading hate group, is closely aligned with FRC and its antecedents likewise trace to white supremacists.  

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