July 15, 2019
You don't have to fly to China to find real skeptics of freedom. Turns out, there are plenty right here at home. They pop their heads up every time the Trump administration does something meaningful on religious liberty or human rights -- which, thanks to this president's priorities, means we hear from them, a lot. Sticking up for freedom used to be America's calling card. Now that we have a State Department who takes that mission seriously, the country is finally starting to see who the real radicals are.
"It would be hilarious if it weren't so ominous." That's what one New York Times columnist described Secretary Mike Pompeo's new commission on unalienable rights. To most people, last Monday's announcement was the perfect compliment to this week's second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The State Department explained that it was appointing a new group of advisors, whose job would be helping the country get back to basics on human rights. In an age when liberals want that freedom to include everything from free health care to college tuition, Secretary Pompeo believes -- and we agree -- that it's time to reel in our foreign policy to freedom that's universal and God-given.
"When we start to talk about... thousands of rights, we diminish these things like religious freedom that are so fundamental to humanity... [They get] sort of lost in the shuffle. And I want to make sure we get this right. And so that's what the Unalienable Rights Commission is going to do." On today's "Washington Watch," Pompeo told me that he thinks the administration is putting together "a good panel that will go back to take a look at -- what are these basic rights, and how do we define them here in the United States? And then, how do we think about it around the world?" Our founders, he said, "thought about this an awful lot. They wrote about it in the Federalist Papers. They talked about it in the Declaration of Independence with the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There's a declaration and International Declaration of Human Rights to which we will study and refer." It's really important, he insisted, that the kind of freedoms America defends around the world are based on discussions that are "careful and thoughtful and grounded."
Of course, the critics could care less about what the founders intended. Their focus is imposing their extremism on as many people as possible. If that means passing off abortion as a "fundamental human right," they'll try. And until President Trump was elected, the global Left had tremendous success cloaking social activism in the language of freedom. But that era is over -- and the abuse of these sacred truths, Pompeo insists, ends now. Roger Cohen and other liberals can wring their hands over the administration's decisions -- like removing "reproductive rights" from the annual State Department Country Reports on Human Rights or withdrawing from the U.N. Human Rights Council. But as Secretary Pompeo would say, it's time to get back to the principles that matter.
"I'm very optimistic than when we complete this work, even those who've taken shots at what we're trying to do, will see that it was sincere and important and deeply consistent with our constitution and our founding here in the United States of America." If the U.S. wants to help the persecuted and suffering families around the world, it has to get rid of the distractions standing in the way of freedom.
That's why the administration is putting such a strong emphasis on religious liberty. "President Trump has made it a priority," the secretary explained, "so our team does as well." Thanks to events like the ministerial, where a thousand government, faith, and civil leaders will gather, religious freedom is "at a higher level in the conversation," Pompeo explained. "It's more of a priority in many countries. I think they understand the United States' expectations and our encouragement for them to behave in [certain] ways..." It's also important, he went on, for other nations to see "that affording this right -- this right of religious freedom -- will make their country stronger, will make their country more powerful. It will make the citizens in their nation more capable. So this is certainly something that one nation ought to do because it's the right thing to do -- but it's also something that benefits each and every country."
All across town, Pompeo explained, people are already meeting to talk "about things that are going right in their countries, things that are not going well, [and] how we can collectively deliver on this fundamental human right... [Y]ou'll have people like Pastor Brunson talking about his experiences. You'll have individuals who were persecuted in certain countries talking about what happened to them and how it is we can prevent that. The conversations will be lively. They'll be intellectual. They'll be very powerful, because we'll hear firsthand accounts of people who have suffered where religious freedom did not exist. And hopefully, we'll come together to deliver on a set of objectives over the course of the next year. We've seen great progress... but as you well know, there's much work to be done."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.