UN Expert Argues Religious Beliefs Must Change to Accommodate LGBT Ideology
Last week, the U.N.’s Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, presented a report to the 53rd Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council arguing that religious freedom is “not incompatible with equality for LGBT persons.” However, by reading Madrigal-Borloz’s report, it appears that his understanding of “compatibility” means that long-held religious beliefs and traditions must be subservient to the LGBT ideology.
In his remarks, Madrigal-Borloz stated: “Paying attention to the voices and practices of inclusive communities can help to shift narratives claiming that the exercise of freedom of religion or belief is incompatible with the equal enjoyment of human rights by LGBT persons.” His report was received warmly by many of the member states whose diplomats were present in the room. Yet, Human Rights Council members should beware of the blatant violations of religious freedom that Madrigal-Borloz’s report is promoting.
The core idea of the report is deeply concerning: that religious communities and LGBT ideology would not come into conflict if only religious communities would interpret their own doctrine correctly. Madrigal-Borloz put it this way:
“In some cases, religious narratives have been deliberately used to justify violence and discrimination — often in defiance of the doctrine of those faiths, and also beyond the scope of the right freedom of religion or belief.” (Emphasis added.)
So, now if we hold to biblical truth, we are apparently just misinterpreting our own doctrines. He insinuates that religious believers who do not embrace the LGBT ideology are misinterpreting their own religion. It is the height of arrogance for a U.N. expert to suggest that his interpretation — informed by the LGBT activist groups who submitted comments for his report — understands the teachings of major world religions better than their own religious leaders or the thousands of years of tradition that often inform their beliefs. This sows seeds of divisions inside religious communities, pitting so-called “LGBT-affirming” religious adherents against those who hold to a more traditional understanding of their religious texts and doctrines.
The report goes further in a section on “hate speech and incitement,” citing submissions from activist organizations which “expressed concern about interpretations of religious doctrines that place homosexuality and gender nonconformity within a discourse of immorality and sin, describing the power that such discourse can have on the social acceptance of LGBT people, particularly when propagated by religious and belief leaders.” (Emphasis added.) Madrigal-Borloz not only haphazardly perpetrates the idea that religious groups are interpreting their own religions incorrectly, but also that articulating their understanding of sin can be considered hate speech or even incitement to violence.
The report bemoans laws that affirm natural marriage and family structures. In one instance, it criticizes Hungary for having “passed a law that effectively banned adoption by same-sex couples, applying a strict Christian conservative viewpoint to the legal definition of a family.” Yet, this is not simply a “strict Christian conservative” viewpoint; it is one that affirms natural law and biological reality. Painting this as an extreme Christian position ignores the thousands of years of human history that recognized natural family structures, including those that were not shaped by Christian ideas.
As if anticipating this argument, the report goes on to state, “The concept of a ‘natural’ order as the guiding principle of human and social existence is also present in conservative doctrine.” This is a laughable attempt to make basic reality seem evil or scary. The word “natural” does not deserve scare quotes — it should be accepted and respected.
In an obvious attack on religious freedom, the report openly takes aim at religious exemptions. For example, it notes that in some countries, “including the United States and Australia, government-funded foster care and adoption agencies can reject prospective families based on sexual orientation, gender identity and faith.” The report rejects the idea that religious institutions should have any autonomy regarding their internal policies, arguing that this could hinder “diversity-oriented education, comprehensive sexuality education, and gender equality.”
The report cites unspecified “obligations” under international human rights law to “ensure that LGBT consumers are not discriminated against.” It quoted the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who said, “[I]t is not permissible for individuals or groups to invoke ‘religious liberty’ to perpetuate discrimination against … lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons, when it comes to the provision of goods or services in the public sphere.” The report specifically alludes to incidents in the U.S. where wedding vendors were asked to create a unique product for same-sex marriages, which went against their religious conviction.
Perhaps most surprising is the report’s emphasis on “access to spirituality” for LGBT-identifying people. After noting that many LGBT-identifying still consider religion to be part of their identity, the report states:
“To leave, and sometimes be forced to leave [a religious community] because of exclusionary practices or teachings can have significant implications for identity and spiritual wellbeing. In many cases, the painful departure from their religious or spiritual community has life-long impact on the mental wellbeing; in others, the option is not just to leave: it can be the taking of one’s life.”
Religious communities should not be cruel to those choosing LGBT lifestyles over their faith. However, it is inappropriate for a U.N. expert to suggest that religious communities should change their beliefs and practices in order to benefit those who wish to violate religious tenets and still identify with a given faith. This paragraph also ominously suggests that anything short of affirming LGBT identities and behaviors — regardless of whether it violates their religious texts or traditions — could lead to mental illness or even suicide. That accusation — which the report offers no evidence for — is a bully tactic that intentionally vilifies religious communities to coerce them to change.
At the outset, the introduction to the report states that it will explore how religious freedom intersects with “all other rights on the basis of which lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and other gender diverse (LGBT) persons have a right to a life free from violence and discrimination.” Of course, LGBT-identifying people should not be subject to violence — they should be treated with the same human dignity we are all owed as image bearers of God. But Madrigal-Borloz wants more than that; he wants faux “rights” for LGBT-identifying people elevated over universally agreed upon human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as religious freedom (Article 18) and freedom or speech (Article 19). This is the exact opposite of what the Human Rights Council should be doing. If the Human Rights Council has any shred of credibility remaining, they would reject this fundamentally flawed report.
Nearly every line from Madrigal-Borloz’s report is troubling. It represents a bold insistence that religion must be subservient to LGBT ideology. If you only have the freedom to hold and live out certain LGBT-approved religious beliefs and practices, then you have no religious freedom at all.
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."