US Body That Sermonised India on Religious Freedom Headed by Evangelical Who Opposes Gay Rights and Calls Yoga ‘Goofy’
Tony Perkins USCIRF leads the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance at start of the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. REUTERS/Mike Segar - HT1EC7L1U9Q4G
New Delhi: The chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), the federal agency that on Tuesday designated India as a country of ‘particular concern’ (CPC) along with 14 other countries, himself has a history of making vitriolic statements about the LGBTQ and minority communities.
India had strongly rejected the claims made by the commission and stated the report as ‘biased’ and ‘tendentious’. "Its biased and tendentious comments against India are not new. But, on this occasion, its misrepresentation has reached new levels," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
"It has not been able to carry its own commissioners in its endeavour [some USCIRF members had dissented to India's designation as a CPC]. We regard it as an organisation of particular concern and will treat it accordingly," he added.
USCIRF made global headlines in 2019 after a long-time ally of President Donald Trump, Tony Perkins, was chosen to lead the council despite his history as a right-wing leader who presented extreme views on Muslims and compared LGBTQ activists as terrorists. The decision to choose Perkins for the chair was widely criticised across the US.
Perkins had earlier served as the president of the Family Research Council since 2003 - a conservative group that was designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. The council had made claims about the LGBTQ community based on discredited research, stated a Huffington Post report. It is also well known to be anti-abortion while promoting faith, family and freedom in policymaking along with the culture from a Christian worldview.
Perkins was also behind an unsuccessful effort in 2016 for involving the debunked practice of “gay conversion therapy” into the Republican Party platform. Next year, he wrote a letter signed by evangelical leaders to reverse Obama-era guidance allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
Perkins again sparked controversy for making hateful comments against the Muslim community. During an episode in 2015, on his radio show, he said that Islam was ‘not just a religion but a ‘comprehensive system which is incompatible with the Constitution.’
Not only Muslims, but Hindus have been Perkins target as well. Earlier in 2007, when a Hindu man named- Rajan Zed offered a prayer in the US Senate, the first time ever, Perkins along with two women shouted that Zed's offering was an ‘abomination.’
Later, in his mail to the supporters, he stated, “Zed enjoys religious freedom in this country, but does that mean it is appropriate for him to open the nation's highest elected body in prayer? I think not."
Perkins also wrote about how US Mariners should not use yoga and meditation as prevention and therapy to post-traumatic stress. He described the practices, both of which are rooted in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as “goofy” and getting in the way of a personal relationship with God. According to Perkins, only faith, that too the Christian faith, could do that.
Perkins has always supported Trump’s controversial immigration policy and tagged his hardline approach towards the issue as biblical.