The newest addition to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Tony Perkins, does not believe in religious freedom.
Perkins, who was appointed to the post by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will now serve on a commission that supposedly serves as a watchdog “dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad,” even though he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not believe in the equal protection of Muslims and others.
The commission has a long history of politicization, along with anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT bias. Perkins’ inclusion will only continue to undermine its credibility.
While he claims to support religious freedom, Perkins believes that the Constitution does not protect the rights of Muslims.
He has said that “those who practice Islam in its entirety” should not be afforded the same constitutional freedoms as other Americans since Islam, in his words, is “incompatible with the Constitution” — an obviously false claim that, in reality, flies in the face of our Constitution. He even goes so far as to make the absurd and bizarre claim that “only 16 percent of Islam is a religion.”
A top official of his organization, the Family Research Council, once called for a ban on mosques, and the group published an essay arguing that Islam is not really a religious faith but rather “a religious government, the establishment of which the Establishment Clause prohibits.” This is clearly nonsensical. He has also smeared and vilified Muslims as violent people and claimed that the U.S. is under no obligation to safeguard their rights.
Beyond Muslims, Perkins has also questioned whether Christians who support marriage equality and members of “fringe religions” should have the same rights under the Constitution as those who follow his personal brand of Christianity. He has also criticized supporters of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state as “cultural terrorists.”
Perkins’ appalling record doesn’t end there, as he is also known for his vicious bigotry towards the LGBT community.
He has called transgender identity a “perversion” and had a role in shaping the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service members, insisting that it would be “better” to disband the military altogether rather than allow transgender people to serve.
He once praised legislation in Uganda that would have included heinous punishments for homosexuality, including the death penalty, as an effort to “uphold moral conduct” and warned that marriage equality would lead to a revolution and second holocaust.
A commission that ostensibly acts as a fair-minded monitor that calls out other countries for endangering liberties can’t have much standing if one of its own members is actively working to undermine it.
Brian Tashman is a Political Researcher and Strategist for the ACLU