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'American way of life is under attack,' says Pompeo as he unveils rights report

'American way of life is under attack,' says Pompeo as he unveils rights report
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled a new report Thursday by the Commission on Unalienable Rights. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

July 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the American way of life was under attack, specifically by protesters and the media, as he unveiled a controversial new report on human rights that critics argue is an attempt to create a hierarchy of which rights to defend.

The United States' top diplomat made the comments during an event Thursday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Penn., to unveil a draft report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights that emphasizes property and religious liberty rights as foremost among those the government is to secure.

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Pompeo said the report was not timed to be released amid the nationwide unrest that was sparked by the Memorial Day police-involved killing of George Floyd but it does mention the issue.

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The protesters who are toppling statues and decreasing monuments have taken "false doctrines to heart" about the country's founding, he said, referring specifically to The New York Times' 1619 Project, whose goal is to re-examine the legacy of slavery in the United States.

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"They want you to believe that America's institutions continue to reflect the country's acceptance of slavery at our founding," he said. "They want you to believe that Marxist ideology that America is only the oppressors and the oppressed."

He said it is "a disturbed reading of history," one that he rejects as "a slander of our great people."

Those who believe this are functioning under are ideologically opposed to the nation's founding ideals, he said.

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"The very core of what it means to be an American, indeed the American way of life itself, is under attack," he said. "Instead of seeking to improve America, too many leading voices promulgate hatred of our founding principles."

He said the nation's founding "fell far short" of securing rights for all but its principles armed the country with the tools and the framework to not only see its faults but fix them as they did by abolishing slavery and enshrining into law the idea of racial equality.

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In its prefatory note, the report calls the current unrest testimony to "the nation's unfinished work in overcoming the evil effects of its long history of racial injustice."

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The credibility of the United States advocacy for human rights abroad is dependent upon its ability to secure those same rights at home, it said.

"With the eyes of the world upon her, America must show the same honest self-examination and efforts at improvement that she expects from others," it said. "America's dedication to unalienable rights -- the rights all human beings share -- demands no less."

The report -- rewritten by 11 scholars and academics following Pompeo announcing the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights in July of last year, has been long criticized as controversial and in March several human rights organizations sued Pompeo and the State Department over the commission, alleging it was founded in violation of a statute that requires members to be balanced in terms of viewpoints.

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On Thursday, several pro-democracy and human rights groups lambasted it as being flawed and biased.

Democracy Forward, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, CHANGE and other groups, which sued Pompeo in the spring, said the report was written by academics with little human rights experience and who have a record of opposing women and LGBTQ rights.

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The organization called it "a biased, pseudo-academic report" that fails in its objective to ground U.S. human rights advocacy abord.

"The State Department unlawfully stacked the commission with members hostile to LGBTQI and sexual and reproductive rights, excluded career diplomats and mainstream human rights groups and denied the public a meaningful opportunity to engage with the commission and follow its work," it said.

The report describes abortion, affirmative action, same-sex marriage as "divisive social and political controversies" and that it is common for both sides of the issue "to couch their claims in terms of basic rights."

Amnesty International chastized the U.S. State Department as attempting to create a hierarchy of rights where it chooses which are inalienable and which are divisive.

"Human rights are not a choose-your-own adventure in which the U.S. government gets to pick a different ending because it doesn't like a particular set of rights," Tarah Demand, direct of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. "The report, made through an illegitimate process, only further shows the contempt this administration has for human rights and its desire to excise certain rights."

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the report another attempt by the Trump administration to undermine internationally recognized human rights, further eroding the nation's reputation.

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"Secretary Pompeo used his speech to insinuate a hierarchy of rights where property rights and religious liberty are 'foremost' rights and some rights are not 'worth defending,'" he said in a statement. "By justifying the roll back on hard-won advances for the rights of women, girls and LGBTQ persons, Secretary Pompeo detailed a report that does not call on the U.S. government to champion greater protection of all human rights but many in fact narrow the scope of U.S. human rights obligations."

The commission said the report's release initiates a two-week public comment period.

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