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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Robert George's appointment raises concerns about religious freedom

The COMPASS Coalition (Coalition on Minority Protection Against Sexual Stigma) congratulates professor Robert George's appointment to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. He brings a distinguished academic voice to the national and international table on the complex issues around religious freedom. We are encouraged by professor George’s own comments on his appointment:

“This commission has a unique opportunity to call attention to efforts that threaten religious liberty around the globe, and I was pleased that Congress reauthorized it last year. Lastly, I appreciate the leadership of Rep. Frank Wolf, the founder of the commission, who has been a leader in Congress to ensure that religious freedom is protected in the U.S. and is appropriately addressed in our foreign policy.”

The COMPASS Coalition responds to professor George’s appointment by adding “Religious liberty needs to be balanced with religious privilege. We would agree with professor George that any form of prejudice or discrimination based on one’s religious beliefs and practices needs to be condemned and appropriate action taken to repair the damage done to individuals and communities, often by state actors. However, there are significant inconsistencies in professor George’s attention to and inclusion of some minority populations nationally and internationally, particularly LGBT people. What about the religious-based persecution and support for LGBT criminalization in 76 countries which has newly been addressed by recent changes in US foreign policy? We hope Professor George will use his new position to ensure these polices will be fully implemented.

We hope professor George will lend his important voice to the growing movement for LGBT equality and the right for LGBT people and their allies to practice their own forms of religious observances and practices which are often undermined and abused by millions of deeply religious people and organizations globally. It is morally wrong for religious institutions to call for protections of religious liberty nationally or globally while silently ignoring the plight of millions of Americans and fellow human beings who are often subjected to violence, intimidation and discrimination recently described in the UN Human Rights Council Report on anti LGBT violence.

Further, we raise our concern for the thousands of clergy in the USA who are forced to discriminate against their LGBT congregants by not allowing them the same rites and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual couples who seek religious ceremonies, legal and community recognition of their lifelong commitment to each other. Where is the religious liberty for these clergy and congregants who have different perspectives on marriages than those espoused by Professor George? We hope he can provide some insights and directions to this persecuted religious minority so as to allow for pastoral care and legal protections all Americans and their families.

We are concerned that George drafted the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto signed by Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders that "promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage."

Finally we express our concern for the plight of LGBT bi-national couples living in the USA who face enormous challenges and are denied the security and safety afforded to other committed married couples. Professor George’s position on same gender marriage is one of the significant obstacles placed between the ideal of religious and civil liberty and the day to day experience of liberty denied to American citizens and their families. We hope professor George will use his esteemed position to promote liberty and justice for ALL and to address the inconsistencies of national and international policies to allow for minority protections on a broader scale than heretofore”.

The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle
Co-chair, COMPASS Coalition
San Diego, Calif.