". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Has the State Department’s Human Rights Report Gone Woke?

March 22, 2023

Tuesday, the State Department released its 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The extensive annual reports cover the human rights record of every country in the world. If that was all it did, this would be an immensely helpful tool for human rights advocates around the world. But over the years, progressive social agenda items — including LGBT policies — have been added to these reports, sending a not-so-subtle message to world leaders: if you do not embrace woke policies, your country will be deemed a human rights violator.

The reports cover a variety of serious human rights abuses, including arbitrary deprivation of life, forced disappearances, torture, and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest, unjust trials, attacks on freedom of expression and assembly, and corruption. In the 2009 reports, the Obama administration added a section to the Date Department’s human rights report titled “Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” At the time, it was a radical shift in policy.

The 2022 reports go even further. They point out whether countries have redefined marriage to include same-sex marriages and if countries legally recognize same-sex parenting. The reports also monitor alleged “conversion therapy” for LGBT-identifying individuals and record any restrictions on same-same conduct, or whether countries offer “legal gender recognition.”

The country report for Albania seems to criticize the nation because its law does not “guarantee the individual’s right to self-determination of gender.” Kenya was criticized because its law “did not cover or normalize gender-nonconformity or nonbinary designations associated with LGBTQI+ persons.” Astoundingly, the country report for Poland stated: “The practice of so-called conversion therapy is offered on a voluntary basis by Christian-affiliated psychological centers, priests and pastors, and individual psychologists and psychotherapists. They include psychotherapy and religious practices, such as individual and group prayers and religious rituals.” The State Department is criticizing Poland for allowing Christian talk therapy and prayer. These examples from Albania, Kenya, and Poland are perfectly reasonable and they do not belong in human rights reports that are supposed to record actual human rights violations.

The State Department’s website states that the report is based on “internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements.” Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) or international human rights treaties. In fact, the UDHR is remarkably un-woke. Its language implicitly — and noticeably — assumes and affirms natural marriage and the nuclear family. The Biden administration has no business pushing radial social ideologies through its human rights reports.

At a White House press briefing this week, Admiral John Kirby said, “President Biden has been nothing but consistent about his belief — foundational belief in human rights. And LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.” But that is not exactly correct — human rights law already covers LGBT-identifying persons because of their human dignity, not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They have the same rights that everyone does — to life, freedom of expression, religious freedom, etc.

In 2021, President Biden’s State Department also reinstated a section about “reproductive rights” — code for abortion — to the reports that was in place under Obama administration. It had been removed by President Trump. This is another example of the State Department overstepping its bounds. Not only is abortion not mentioned in the UDHR, the “right to life” specifically is mentioned, and a proper understanding of that includes the unborn. Countries that actually follow international human rights guidelines and do protect unborn life deserve praise, not criticism.

Aside from being condescending and coercive, pushing LGBT policies and abortion overseas is a major distraction from the many serious foreign policy issues facing America today. We should be addressing challenges posed by the emerging China-Russia alliance. Furthermore, core human rights are being violated all over the world, and the time and resources spent pressuring countries to adopt boutique LGBT policies could be better directed toward addressing real crises around the world.

Arielle Del Turco is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, and co-author of "Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution."