Humanists Call Out State Department Commission’s Overly Narrow Interpretation of Human Rights Advocacy

Humanists Call Out State Department Commission’s Overly Narrow Interpretation of Human Rights Advocacy July 17, 2020

From the American Humanist Association:

Humanist leaders take issue with the recently released draft report from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, which examined the United States’ founding documents to prioritize commitments to international rights and liberties around the world.

The commission interpreted that Christian values and classical liberalism are the core tenets for the US to champion. The draft report also ties the “American spirit” to Protestant Christianity and “beautiful Biblical” teachings – effectively linking sectarian faith to American core principles.

“The report, peppered with biblical and religious references, takes a rigid and exclusionary view of human rights,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt reacted. “Echoing the notion that the US was built on Christian values and claiming faith is necessary to advocate for human rights perpetuates a revisionist narrative that erases a core principle that the nation was founded upon: being secular and free from a state religion.”

The Commission on Unalienable Rights, which convened in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and protests spurred by racial injustices across the US, has been led by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law School professor known for her strong opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and ten other commissioners selected by Secretary Pompeo. The report relies heavily on principles codified in documents from our nation’s founding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which leaves out seven decades of progress in human rights.

Speckhardt concluded: “The commission’s limited interpretation of unalienable rights leaves many people around the world vulnerable to the whims of Pompeo’s Christian nationalist agenda. At a time of global uncertainty, our foreign policy must be forward looking.”

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The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.


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