Tony Perkins, a vitriolic anti-LGBTI and Islamophobic figure, has been tapped to lead the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Perkins, who is also the president of the far-right Christian lobbying organization the Family Research Council, was initially named chair of the Commission last year.
With this new appointment, he will oversee the mission of the USCIRF for at least a year.
Created by the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, the USCIRF ‘uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress’.
The President and Congressionals leaders from both parties appoint commissioners.
Hateful views instead of freedom
Despite leading a group advocating for freedom, Perkins’ various views counter the ‘freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly’ as outline by the Commission’s definition of religious freedom.
His thoughts on LGBTI rights are extensive and hateful.
Most recently, he called trans pride flags ‘unpleasant’.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also lists the Family Research Council, which endorses conversion therapy, as an anti-LGBTI hate group.
Perkins is also extremely Islamophobic.
In 2010 while appearing on CNN, he said people who follow the literal teachings of Islam ‘have perpetuated great evils on society’.
He also wrote that only 16% of Islam is a religion. The rest, he claimed, ‘is a combination of military, judicial, economic, and political system’ and therefore ‘Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment’.
Religious freedom as a weapon
Since Trump assumed office, his administration has used religious freedom as a guise to attack the LGBTI community and other marginalized communities.
In 2018, the administration established a ‘religious liberty task force’.
It has also consistently advocated for religious freedom over anti-discrimination protections.
In January, the administration granted a foster care agency in South Carolina the right to discriminate against potential parents, including same-sex parents, due to the agency’s religious beliefs.
Last year, another Supreme Court case rocked the country when the justices voted in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Trump administration fully supported this ruling.
Perkins supports this stance, having previously attended a prayer group in the Oval Office.
Democrats, however, are trying to combat the use of religious freedom as a weapon. In February, they reintroduced the Do No Harm Act, which protects religious minorities and freedoms, while not bypassing anti-discrimination laws.