An infamous Christian nationalist will now head an important U.S. governmental body on religion, much to the dismay of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Tony Perkins, a notorious anti-LGBTQ, anti-atheist and anti-Muslim hatemonger, has been announced as the chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had appointed Perkins last year to the commission, and now Perkins will be leading it for a year.
“It is ironic that someone who is so widely known for intolerance outside of his brand of American Christianity would be authorized to defend religious freedom internationally,” states FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
Perkins is the president of the faith-based Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has rightly labeled a hate group. Perkins once referred to FFRF as “the Atheist Taliban,” a shocking slander that FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel picked apart.
Perkins has a history of repeatedly making prejudiced comments, and his organization has had a record of activism of the most dubious sort. His elevation to the commission’s leadership role is an insult to people of minority beliefs or no belief, as well as mainstream believers, around the world. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has had a checkered reputation, and Perkins’ leadership will serve to damage it further.
“Like USCIRF itself, Perkins isn’t much of a household name.” explains New York magazine. “But he has for years worked toward a definition of religious freedom that maximizes First Amendment rights for conservative Christians, while minimizing the rights of Muslims, nontheists and members of other minority traditions.”
It’s not just that. The Family Research Council has actively worked with some of the most religiously intolerant regimes on Earth, as Right Wing Watch points out.
Perkins and his group seem to lack even a basic understanding of the U.S. constitutional system.
“Perkins’ sweeping bigotry does not represent American values, which are rooted in a secular and godless Constitution,” adds FFRF co-founder and Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “A secularist would be the best suited to defend religious freedom for the United States.”
The appointment of Tony Perkins is the most recent perversion of religious freedom to occur during the Trump administration. FFRF opposed the appointment of religious zealot Sam Brownback as Trump’s ambassador-at-large for religious freedom. We have spotlighted the entanglements between religion and government with the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, created by a presidential executive order. And we have raised the alarm about the “Conscience and Religious Freedom” unit in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation will keep a sharp eye on Perkins and his activities.