May 2021 Church & State Magazine - May 2021

State Department Dumps Trump-Era Approach To International Human Rights

  State Department Dumps Trump-Era Approach To International Human Rights

The U.S. State Department is moving quickly to end a Trump-era policy that emphasized far-right views in international relations.

Under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the department was guided by a Commission on Unalienable Rights that elevated extreme definitions of religious freedom and property rights over other types of human rights. The change had been heavily criticized by human rights advocates.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced March 30 that the Pompeo/Trump approach was formally being scrapped, reported NBC News.

“One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal,” said Blinken. “All people are entitled to these rights, no matter where they’re born, what they believe, whom they love or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal; there is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others.”

Blinken added, “Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those offered by a recently disbanded State Department advisory committee, do not represent a guiding document for this administration. At my confirmation hearing, I promised that the Biden-Harris Administration would repudiate those unbalanced views. We do so decisively today.”

Critics accused the Trump administration of downplaying women’s rights, reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights in its approach to international relations. For example, the Trump administration removed sections detailing attacks on women’s reproductive rights abroad in its annual human rights report.

Christian nationalists heralded the Pompeo/Trump approach because it supposedly emphasized the fact that rights are “God-given.” The administration also tied its approach to extreme forms of “America first” nationalism.

Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and high-profile opponent of legal abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Pompeo said he hoped that his approach to human rights around the globe would guide future administrations. That isn’t going to happen. As NBC reported, “Nearly all references to the commission’s report and Pompeo’s advocacy of it have been removed from the State Department’s website, although they remain available on archived pages.”

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