Tony Perkins, the virulently anti-LGBT leader of a certified hate group, has been appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was appointed today by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The body “is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad,” according to its website. Members are appointed by the president and congressional leaders of both parties, and make policy recommendations to the president, Congress, and the secretary of State.
It’s frightening to imagine what Perkins’s recommendations might be regarding countries where LGBT people are oppressed in the name of religion. Some of his “greatest hits” over the years:
In 2010, he observed National Coming Out Day by writing a blog entry in The Washington Post in which he blamed suicides by gay people not on homophobia but on “same-sex attractions.” “Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal — yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are ‘born gay’ and can never change,” he wrote. “This — and not society's disapproval — may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.”
In 2012, he said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” led to the hiring of prostitutes by the Secret Service. “You cannot maintain moral order if you are willing to allow a few things to slide,” he said on his Washington Watch radio program, and in a newsletter he added that DADT repeal “introduced a new chapter of promiscuity into the U.S. military.”
In 2014, he likened antidiscrimination laws to the Holocaust. Discussing the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s ruling that a baker illegally discriminated by refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (the case now before the Supreme Court), he said on Washington Watch, “I’m beginning to think, are reeducation camps next? When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?”
In 2015, he said the Supreme Court’s ruling for nationwide marriage equality would mean that schools would teach “immoral sexuality.” “With this decision, this will be used as a club to force conformance across the spectrum,” he said in an interview with the equally anti-LGBT preacher Gordon Klingenschmitt, adding, “I think we’re at a point where parents have to seriously consider removing their children from government schools that are going to be teaching and indoctrinating their children into immoral sexuality and this redefinition of marriage.”
Perkins played a major role in writing the 2012 and 2016 Republican Party platforms. He took credit for strengthening the anti–marriage equality language in the 2012 platform, and he successfully pushed for the 2016 platform to include language supporting the right of parents to subject minor children to “ex-gay” therapy and opposing the Obama administration’s recommendation that schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity. The 2016 platform also said President Obama and “bureaucrats” were “wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.”
He has been a big supporter of Donald Trump and all his anti-LGBT policies, such as his various “religious freedom” orders (amounting to a license to discriminate) and his ban on military service by transgender people. He has been willing to overlook Trump’s sexual transgressions because conservative Christians “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists,” he told Politico in January. “And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, has long had the Family Research Council on its list of such groups because the FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science,” says the SPLC’s website.
The SPLC posted this statement today in response to Perkins’s appointment: “It’s deeply disturbing that Tony Perkins has been appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. As head of the hate group Family Research Council, Perkins specializes in spreading false propaganda that demonizes the LGBT community and Muslims. Perkins’ idea of ‘religious freedom’ is having the freedom to discriminate against entire groups of people he doesn’t like. His well-documented bigotry has no place in any government entity.”
Several other groups released statements denouncing the appointment. “Tony Perkins is the most recognizable anti-LGBTQ activist in America. He has espoused the most extreme views of LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities including vocally supporting foreign laws that punish LGBTQ identity with death,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. “The idea that Perkins would be making policy recommendations to an administration that is already anti-LGBTQ is dangerous and puts LGBTQ people directly in harm’s way.”
“Tony Perkins does not embody the values that many Americans would associate with religious freedom — values like treating others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, respecting those with whom you disagree, and demonstrating a reverence for the many different faiths and types of people who make our country so strong,” said Masen Davis, Freedom for All Americans CEO. “It’s unfortunate that this appointment to the USCIRF will provide Tony Perkins and his colleagues at the Family Research Council yet another platform to spread deceptive and, often, hateful messages about many people - including LGBTQ Americans.”
Another anti-LGBT leader was appointed earlier this year to a position dealing with international religious freedom — Sam Brownback, as U.S. ambassador for religious freedom. Brownback, whose position is separate from the work of the commission, compiled a long anti-LGBT record as governor of Kansas and a U.S. senator from the state. Nominated by Trump, he was confirmed by the Senate in January.