How Pompeo's focus on religion could recast US rights policy
7 min read
U.S. human rights policy is akin to a national statement of principles. Mike Pompeo asked a commission to define what is an "unalienable right."
"Religion is a fundamental freedom, one I think has been promoted by recent administrations," says David Kramer, who served as an assistant secretary of state under President George W. Bush. "But my worry is that Pompeo's focus on it – as we're seeing in this commission – will mean that other rights, like women's rights and LGBTQ rights, will be subordinated to it."

Some say they worry this will constitute a narrowing of the U.S. vision of human rights to a focus on Mr. Pompeo's priorities as a conservative Christian. Among their biggest concerns is that his challenging of the vision promoted by Western powers over recent decades could prove to be a boon to autocratic regimes determined to halt the expansion of rights, including democratic governance and gender equality.

A year ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched his Commission on Unalienable Rights, which he tasked with determining what is a basic human right and what is not. On Thursday he will unveil the results of the commission's work, which he previewed as "an important restatement of how the United States thinks about human rights ... and our role ... in preserving those rights for all people who are made in the image of God."

Since becoming secretary of state in April 2018, Mike Pompeo has sought to distinguish his vision of human rights from that of preceding administrations and set a new course for the promotion of human rights globally.

The conservative Republican and evangelical Christian has pushed to shift the United States away from what he sees as an overemphasis on women's reproductive rights and LGBTQ issues and toward religious freedom – which he likes to note is the first right America's Founding Fathers listed in the Bill of Rights.

Moving the U.S. away from participation in international and United Nations-affiliated human rights bodies such as the Geneva-based Human Rights Council has also been a priority. The U.S. has a "unique" vision of human rights, he says – what he…
Howard LaFranchi
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