Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) each made appointments to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and both chose candidates known for infringing upon others’ religious freedom and fostering hate against minorities.
Boehner’s pick was Robert P. George, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, a group making headlines this week for its confidential memos revealing an intent to divide racial groups and scare parents as tactics to oppose marriage equality. George has explicitly participated in the effort to paint gays and lesbians as a threat to children through the Preserve Innocence project, for which he made a video warning about President Obama’s appointment of Kevin Jennings as Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. He also helped draft the Manhattan Declaration, which encourages Christians to defy the law to uphold their anti-gay, anti-choice beliefs. By working to ban same-sex marriage, George eagerly imposes upon the religious freedom of all faiths who support the freedom to marry.
George shares a connection to his fellow new appointee through their promotion of Islamophobia. McConnell appointed Zuhdi Jasser for his pick, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Most see Jasser as a “mere sock puppet” for those who spread animosity about the Muslim community, and Jasser’s group in turn has called the leadership of many U.S. Muslim groups “malignant.” He has testified before Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) “radicalization” of Islam hearings and supports spying on innocent Muslims. Both Jasser’s group and the Bradley Foundation (of which George is a board member) featured heavily in last year’s Fear, Inc. report by the Center for American Progress, documenting the roots of the U.S. Islamophobia network. The Washington Post mistakenly described George as having a “less controversial profile” than Jasser.
These appointments are further evidence that the Republican agenda is not about defending so-called “religious liberty,” but about ensuring that their conservative values continue to have a prominent voice over other points of view.