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Pompeo’s elevation of religious freedom draws criticism

July 20, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 1, 2020 file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. Dozens of faith leaders and religious advocates, most of them progressive-leaning, are warning that a recent draft human rights report from the State Department — which places a particular emphasis on freedom to worship — could “weaken religious freedom itself” by elevating it above other rights.In a statement organized by the Center for American Progress, the faith leaders and religious advocates urge the Trump administration to reconsider the draft report that Pompeo released alongside a Thursday, July 20 speech. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 1, 2020 file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. Dozens of faith leaders and religious advocates, most of them progressive-leaning, are warning that a recent draft human rights report from the State Department — which places a particular emphasis on freedom to worship — could “weaken religious freedom itself” by elevating it above other rights.In a statement organized by the Center for American Progress, the faith leaders and religious advocates urge the Trump administration to reconsider the draft report that Pompeo released alongside a Thursday, July 20 speech. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)

More than two dozen faith leaders and religious advocates, most progressive-leaning, are warning that a recent draft human rights report from the State Department — which places a particular emphasis on freedom to worship — could “weaken religious freedom itself” by elevating it above other rights.

In a statement organized by the Center for American Progress, the faith leaders and religious advocates urge the Trump administration to reconsider the draft report that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released alongside a Thursday speech. Pompeo described religious freedom and property rights as “foremost,” sparking worries among critics that the U.S. view of human rights had been overly narrowed.

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“Freedom of religion is equally and inextricably linked with all the other interconnected rights that enable humans to live in dignity,” the progressive-leaning faith leaders and religious advocates wrote in their statement, shared with The Associated Press in advance of its release.

“Without the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, freedom from violence and freedom from discrimination in access to basic needs, education, employment, or health, and the right to participate in all social practices, freedom of religion would be hollow,” they added.

Among those signing onto the statement are Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church; Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of the liberal-leaning advocacy group Faith in Public Life; and Robert Bank, president and CEO of American Jewish World Service.

The draft report was produced by a Commission on Unalienable Rights that Pompeo tapped last year with the goal of “ground(ing) our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles,” as he put it in a column.

In announcing the creation of the commission last year, Pompeo said he expected the group to conduct the most extensive review of human rights since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was was adopted by the United Nations and laid out broadly accepted rights and freedoms.

The commission, chaired by conservative legal scholar and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, is slated to issue its final report after a two-week public comment period.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.