Last year, Pompeo charged the commission with studying the nature and historical foundations of human rights, with the hope that it would be part of “one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 Declaration.”
On Thursday, the commission released its report at an event in Philadelphia, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York offering the invocation.
God has “bestowed upon and ingrained into the very nature of his creatures certain inalienable rights enshrined by the founders,” Dolan said, noting that they are “rights flowing from the innate dignity of the person,” are “self-evident in reason and nature,” and are “celebrated” in Divine Revelation.
Dolan asked God’s blessing “upon this noble project” of the commission, “as we renew our sense of duty to share our country’s wisdom on rights inherent to the very nature of the human person, never, ever to be trampled.”
Glendon, introducing the report, noted various threats to human rights around the world, especially China “aggressively promoting a very different concept” of rights that puts “national priorities” over freedoms of speech and assembly, and free elections. She also pointed out recent technological advances that pose threats to human rights, such as artificial intelligence, data collection, and surveillance techniques.
Pompeo explained his hope that the tradition of rights outlined in the report could be used to give other countries the “courage” to speak up when authoritarian regimes abuse their own citizens.
Some critics of the commission, following its creation, alleged that it would emphasize rights such as religious freedom at the expense of other rights such as women’s rights or LGBTQ advocacy.
On Thursday, one senior administration official said it was “disturbing” how many human rights experts claim that focusing on religious freedom means a “deviation” from U.S. foreign policy priorities, or draws attention away from other human rights.
Today, religious freedom advocates are criticized as theocrats, the official said, but “those who seek toleration” shouldn’t be confused with “religious fanaticism.”
“To the extent that the United States” is successful in promoting religious freedom, the other freedoms “will be vindicated” too, the official said.
In addition to Glendon, commission members included Notre Dame Law professor Paolo Carozza; Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and philosopher Christopher Tollefsen.
On Thursday, Pompeo expounded upon the findings of the commission, noting that its emphasis on religious freedom underlines that “no society can retain its legitimate or a virtuous character without religious freedom.”
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The current unrest, with mass anti-racism protests occurring around the country, is connected to America’s very ability to put its founding ideals into practice, he said.
The U.S. “fell far short” of its ideals with chattel slavery being the “gravest departure,” he said, along with expelling Native Americans from their land.
However, he noted, the founding principles gave a standard and framework to abolish slavery and codify equality in law.