A new member has been named to an international religious freedom panel whose advocacy for the issue has focused on enabling anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”
Tony Perkins, president of the notoriously anti-LGBT Family Research Council, announced Tuesday in a statement that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has named him to a two-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“I am grateful to Majority Leader McConnell for appointing me to this prestigious position,” Perkins said. “From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally.”
The congressional record for Monday confirms Perkins was appointed to the commission pursuant to McConnell’s authority under federal law.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom bills itself as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission dedicated to defending religious freedom in the United States and abroad. Commissioners are appointed by the president and congressional leaders of both parties.
Perkins has spoken out against the persecution of minority Christians overseas, but the Family Research Council — dubbed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — domestically promoted the idea religious freedom should allow individuals to discriminate against LGBT people.
The Family Research Council has sought to derail virtually every advancement on LGBT rights, ranging from non-discrimination laws to marriage equality. In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the organization maintains Christian baker Jack Phillips has a First Amendment right to refuse to make custom wedding cakes for same-sex marriages.
LGBT groups roundly condemned the appointment of Perkins to the commission on the basis of his advocacy against LGBT rights and also cited as concern his views on Islam.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project, said the appointment of Perkins is “deeply disturbing.”
“As head of the hate group Family Research Council, Perkins specializes in spreading false propaganda that demonizes the LGBT community and Muslims,” Beirich said. “His 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.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, also condemned the appointment of Perkins in a statement, calling him “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,” Ellis said. “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.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request in seeking comment from McConnell’s office on why the majority leader appointed Perkins to the commission.