U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar joined representatives from Brazil, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda Thursday in a virtual ceremony to launch the “Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthening the Family.”
During the Obama administration, U.S. foreign policy supported reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, while resistance and backlash to those principles were being led by religious-right advocacy groups, often in partnership with the world’s most repressive regimes. But during the Trump administration, the U.S. government has been mobilizing the reactionary forces. Pompeo and Azar have been working for at least a year and a half to mobilize Thursday’s signing of the Geneva Consensus.
The anti-abortion and anti-choice language of the declaration is explicit while wrapped in broad language about supporting women’s health. It draws language from other international agreements about the need to provide children with “special measures of protection” and “safeguards … before as well as after birth.” Speakers from the sponsoring nations all insisted that they would oppose any effort by any United Nations body to assert that access to abortion is recognized in international human rights law. Pompeo praised the Trump administration’s “unprecedented defense of the unborn abroad” and said he hoped that the declaration’s “moral clarity” will embolden others.
The anti-LGBTQ agenda of the coalition is less explicit in the language of the declaration itself—which draws on language from the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights to reaffirm that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.” But Hungary’s Minister of State for Family, Youth and International Affairs Katalin Novák was more explicit, denouncing international forces that she charged were trying to “weaken the traditional family” through a “culture of indoctrination and preaching” at the U.N. and the promotion of “gender ideology,” “ideological neocolonialism,” and sex education.
Novák said that the right-wing anti-LGBTQ governments of Hungary and Poland are playing a leading role in promoting and strengthening the “traditional family.” Uganda’s health minister, Jane Aceng, criticized international pressure to support policies that “may be contrary to our values” and called for “due respect for our values and sovereignty.”
Notably, the document affirms that “universal health coverage is fundamental” in achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals while recognizing that governments will “determine their own path towards achieving universal health coverage”—in the U.S., that path seems headed in the opposite direction as the Trump administration urges the Supreme Court to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and strip health care coverage from millions of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
18 Months in the Making: Pompeo and Azar Organizing at the United Nations
The Geneva Consensus Declaration event was a culmination of the Trump administration’s intensive efforts to build opposition to any international recognition of a right to abortion—and Pompeo and Azar’s zeal to undermine international recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people while celebrating governmental enforcement of “traditional” religious values on gender, sexuality, and family. They’ve been working on developing this new coalition for about a year and a half.
Last July, Pompeo and Azar sent a letter to foreign governments asking them to “join the United States in ensuring that every sovereign state has the ability to determine the best way to protect the unborn and defend the family as the foundational unit of society vital to children thriving and leading healthy lives.” The letter warned that “ambiguous” terms like “sexual and reproductive health and rights” are associated with “anti-family and pro-abortion policies.” The July letter built on a statement distributed in May by the governments of the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Haiti, Ghana, Nigeria, and Iraq making the same argument. Since then, the U.S. has been working to expand this coalition.
In September 2019, on the eve of Trump’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, Azar released a similar statement, this one endorsed by a larger number of nations: United States of America, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Poland, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Just a month later, the U.S. issued a statement arguing that governments could better worktogether to improve access to health care if they avoided “divisive” topics. “The United States firmly believes that we can do more for people by coming together on those broad areas of agreement on which we can achieve genuine progress, rather than pursuing divisive policies that promote abortion, diminish the role of the family, and compromise the sovereignty of nations by focusing on sensitive issues where we know consensus is not possible,” the U.S. statement said in part.
Comprehensive sex education, a target of the World Congress of Families and right-wing culture warriors around the globe, was also singled out by the U.S. government. “We remain deeply concerned that comprehensive sexuality education programs undermine the protective role of the family in such education and condone harmful sexual risks for young people,” the U.S. statement said. “We continue to be a stalwart defender of all women, men, children, and families and support programs to improve their health, life, dignity, and well-being.”
The Trump team’s organizing continued with a November session and statement released during the Nairobi Summit on the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which was first held in Cairo in 1994. And in December, the Department of Health and Human Services and the governments of Hungary and Brazil sponsored an “International Conference on Family Policy” that was attended by White House domestic policy director Joe Grogan. The event also featured anti-choice and anti-marriage-equality activists from the U.S. religious right.
In December, Hungary and Brazil cosponsored a public gathering at which HHS Special Representative for Global Women’s Health Valerie Huber—an abstinence education advocate—thanked countries that have demonstrated “political will” and “moral courage” and acted to “preserve our countries and this civilization as it should be.” Azar singled out Huber for praise at Thursday’s ceremony.
This year, on Jan. 16, Azar addressed a closed-door meeting of 35 nations at Blair House, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. “Together, we built a pro-life, pro-family, pro-sovereignty coalition that is a force to be reckoned with,” Azar declared of the 2019 organizing efforts. But, he added, “our informal coalition needs to grow and be more active.”
Joining Azar in January were Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and representatives of two authoritarian leaders compared to and praised by President Donald Trump: Hungary’s Novák and Brazil’s deputy chief of mission] in Washington, Minister-Counselor Fernando Pimentel. Azar also read a letter from Uganda’s Aceng, whom Azar called “one of our strongest and most reliable partners.”
At that event, Azar encouraged countries to continue to build momentum by attending “an upcoming global women’s health conference” in Geneva, Switzerland, in May, just before the start of the World Health Assembly. That is where the consensus declaration was to be finalized, but COVID-19 derailed that gathering. Presumably with an eye on the U.S. elections, sponsors decided to push forward with the release of the statement before the group meets next year.
All this official business builds on the work being done by an extensive network of religious-right legal and political groups. Hungary’s Novák has met with representatives of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious-right legal giant that opposes LGBTQ equality in the U.S. and has defended criminalization of homosexuality in other countries. “We agree that there is a great need for closer cooperation among international pro-family stakeholders in defending #family values,” Novák tweeted last November.
C-FAM, which works relentlessly to promote anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ policies at the U.N., cheered Azar’s January remarks. And C-FAM’s Austin Ruse, was quick to put out a statement Thursday “heartily” congratulating the Trump administration and the 32 nations that have signed the new declaration.
This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission
Image: Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar participate in signing ceremony of the Geneva Consensus Declaration. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha via Flickr
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Conservative SCOTUS Justices Show Open Hostility to LGBTQ People Being Parents in ‘Religious Liberty’ Case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments against the City of Philadelphia in a case brought by Catholic Social Services. By all accounts the six-justice conservative majority was not merely dismissive of equality and LGBTQ rights in favor of special rights for Christian-based organizations, but openly-hostile to the very idea that LGBTQ people and same-sex couples could be good parents.
Catholic Social Services (CSS) lost in a unanimous 2018 lower court ruling when it sued the City of Philadelphia for refusing to send children to it for foster placement because the religious organization reneged on its agreement to place children with LGBTQ parents and same-sex couples.
Far right wing Justice Clarence Thomas used a thinly-veiled analogy of a swimming pool to argue what’s in the “best interest” of a child.
“Don’t you think it’s in the best interest of the the child to also have a pool, that is, that is beneficial to the child?” Thomas asked, as The Washington Blade reports. “I don’t understand why that isn’t also in the best interest of the child.”
Justice Samuel Alito decided to push false animus in what sounded like a conspiracy theory.
“If we are honest about what’s really going on here, it’s not about ensuring that same-sex couples in Philadelphia have the opportunity to be foster parents,” Alito claimed. “It’s the fact that the city can’t stand the message that Catholic Social Services and the archdiocese are sending by continuing to adhere to the old-fashioned view about marriage.”
Justice Brett Kavanaugh insisted the City of Philadelphia was somehow attacking the Catholic group. He called Philadelphia’s position, that LGBTQ people cannot be excluded, “extreme.”
“It seems like Philadelphia created a clash, it seems, and was looking for a fight, and brought that serious controversy all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Philadelphia did not bring the case to the Supreme Court. Philadelphia won the case. Catholic Social Services brought the case tot he Supreme Court.
(Kavanaugh was recently criticized for making a serious error in an opinion last week so dire it had to be corrected.)
And then there’s the Court’s newest, and most extreme Justice, Amy Coney Barrett.
Here’s how the ACLU’s Josh Block characterized her questioning:
“Barrett asks what would happen if an agency had a religious objection to serving couples in interracial marriages? CSS says government has a compelling interest in eradicating racial discrimination, but not discrimination against same-sex couples. Very scary response.”
As recently as Masterpiece, the Court has consistently held that government has a compelling interest in eradicating discrimination bases sex and sexual orientation. CSS is asking the Court to roll back those precedent.
— Josh Block (@JoshABlock) November 4, 2020
Despite Ban Joe Rogan Hosts His ‘Friend’ – Conspiracy-Monger Alex Jones – on Flagship Spotify Show
Joe Rogan—host of popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast and the biggest podcast star on Spotify—interviewed radical right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on a recent episode of his show despite the fact that Jones himself has been banned by the Spotify platform.
Rogan, who hosted Jones on two previous occasions on his show, conducted a three-hour discussion with Jones and podcast host Tim Dillon on topics ranging from climate change, Hunter Biden, vaccine concerns, globalists, and the influence of tech companies on freedom of speech.
At the top of the show, Rogan addressed his friendship with Jones, explaining that he does not believe in de-platforming people.
“People have criticized me for being friends with you, for talking to you, and they have also criticized me for not supporting a lot of these people that were banned and deplatformed,” Rogan said to Jones near the start of the episode. “My take on it has always been the best way to counter wrong speech is correct speech. When someone says something that’s wrong or a conspiracy theory that’s not accurate, the best way to counter that is to do better speech…and to let the truth rise to the top.”
Jones has long been banned from all major platforms, including Spotify, which canceled ‘The Alex Jones Show’ in 2018 “due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies.” (Author note: Jones was banned, in part, due to reporting by Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt.)
Jones has peddled conspiracies about white genocide, vaccines, 9/11, and climate change. He claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018 were false flag operations, which led to parents of victims and survivors being harassed and threatened.
Over the past decade, Rogan has hosted a wide range of controversial and far-right figures on his show, including Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, Steven Crowder, Gavin McInnes, Milo Yianoppoulos, Bret Weinstein, Roseanne Barr, Mel Gibson, and Ted Nugent, among others. Interestingly, he has also hosted renowned figures like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, athletes like Mike Tyson, and progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang.
While Rogan prides himself on his “question everything” mentality, his podcast has proven to be dangerous in its ability to convey false information to impressionable followers who already question the legitimacy of mainstream science and media. He has been guilty of spreading false information several times in 2020 alone, including information relating to Obamagate, an unfounded conspiracy theory based on President Donald Trump’s claims that former president Barack Obama broke a law during his transition out of office. He also claimed that left-wing people started the wildfires in Oregon, a statement for which he later apologized.
In an attempt to provide some sort of balance to the three-hour interview, Rogan tried to factcheck Jones’ various claims. Along with his producer Young Jamie, Rogan sought out relevant news articles surrounding some of Jones’ claims. He even asked Jones to avoid discussing topics like 9/11, and urged him to tread carefully with some of his accusations. At one point, Rogan warned him: “We’re gonna go down another rabbit hole, you son of a bitch.”
Despite the lengths Rogan went to fact-check Jones, he also celebrated the conspiracy-monger for “getting so many things right.”
“We all know that you’ve fucked some things up,” Rogan said.
“Your biggest fuck-up was Sandy Hook,” Rogan added, referring to Jones’ claims that the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., never happened. “But you’ve gotten so many things right. This is why I keep talking to you about these things and why I defend you, and why I think it is fucking dangerous to censor you.” Rogan, notably, did not mention a single thing that Jones has supposedly gotten “right.”
As for Spotify, the popular platform is unlikely to take any editorial action against Rogan for Jones’ appearance. An internal email from Spotify’s chief legal officer and head of global affairs Horacio Gutierrez which was leaked to Buzzfeed framed the matter as a question of context, and stated that “we are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies.”
“It’s all too common that things are taken out of context,” Gutierrez added.
This article was originally published at Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
Image: Screenshot via YouTube
In Strange Move Clarence Thomas – Not Chief Justice Roberts – to Administer Oath to Amy Coney Barrett
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will not officiate the swearing in of soon-to-be confirmed Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett Monday night. Instead, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife is a close Trump ally, will do the honors.
The event is set to take place between 8 and 9 PM Monday night, according the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and media reports.
From a senior WH official: “Justice Clarence Thomas will administer the official Constitutional Oath to Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House tonight.”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) October 26, 2020
It’s unclear why the Chief Justice will not be administering the oath, but Justice Thomas and especially his wife, far right activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas (photo) are close to the Trump White House.
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