Randy Berry, the first U.S. special envoy for the rights of LGBTI persons, is shown at a gay pride rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in June 2015. Berry says the U.S. is supporting activists worldwide but recognizes the risks they face in many countries. Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

Trump retains LGBT State Department official, frustrating Christian conservatives

(RNS) President for less than a month, Donald Trump has come through for the overwhelming numbers of religious conservatives who helped put him in office — but not so much on LGBT issues.

Conservative Christians in particular cheered his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and Trump's promised "fix" for the Johnson Amendment, which restricts pastors' ability to politick in the pulpit.

But for the second time since his inauguration, Trump has decided to preserve an Obama-era initiative to protect sexual minorities.

Foreign Policy magazine on Monday (Feb. 13) quoted a State Department official saying that the department would retain Randy Berry, the special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons. In 2014, the Obama administration created Berry's position to support efforts abroad to protect gay people from violence and death.

The conservative Family Research Council had made removing such "activists" a priority and as recently as December called on the State Department to rid itself of employees who promote an "anti-family, anti-life agenda."

Tony Perkins, head of the council and a prominent evangelical backer of Trump, said that if it turns out to be true that the State Department is keeping Berry in his job "it will be a disappointing development." In a statement on Tuesday, he said the administration should focus on battling "Christian persecution and genocide" rather than promoting gay rights.

"Keeping Berry only signals to the world that the extreme agenda of the Obama years is still deeply entrenched in the State Department," Perkins concluded.

Rod Dreher, an Orthodox Christian and writer at The American Conservative, said the Berry announcement should cause religious conservatives to question their allegiance to Trump.

"Does Donald Trump wish to continue funding America’s culture war mercenaries abroad?" he wrote. "The signs do not look good. … At some point, I’m betting that conservative Christians are going to wake up and realize that they’ve been played for chumps."

The retention of Berry was the second blow to religious conservatives on LGBT issues. They chafed after Trump last month decided to retain protections for LGBT federal workers, protections also put in place under Obama. That decision came with a gay-friendly statement from the White House.

“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement said. “The president is proud to have been the first ever G.O.P. nominee to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression.”

That reassurance has been tempered, however, by indications that Trump officials will take a different tack than the Obama administration and lend their support — or at least not stand in the way of — states' "bathroom" bills, which require transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender at birth, as opposed to the gender with which they identify.

And while Trump has accepted gay marriage as the law of the land, LGBT leaders have little faith in Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who opposed gay marriage and championed a "religious freedom" law when he was governor of Indiana that was widely criticized as anti-gay. After criticism from the business community, Pence signed an amendment to the law intended to protect gays and lesbians.

Foreign Policy described gay leaders as "stunned" by the move and predicted anger on the part of social conservatives.

“This is really surprising to me,” Ross Murray, the director of programs at GLAAD, a pro-LGBT group, told FP. “I don’t think I can applaud it until I see what his mandate becomes in this administration.”

Comments

  1. Nothing else says “I’m a Christian” quite like the ability to discriminate against minorities. Except, maybe, the justifications.

  2. Too true. The risk for Christians at large is losing real religious liberty protections by tying the broader religious liberty protections to discrimination against gays. Tying your cart to a dying horse is not a strategy that wins the race.

  3. Greedy, aren’t they? They’ve got the President in their pocket yet aren’t satisfied with what he’s doing for them already and will do for them.

    They remind me of the Harlot in Revelation riding the Wild Beast for their own gain yet ultimately being destroyed by the beast. I think that prophecy applies here.

  4. I wonder if Perkins realizes how much he sounds like Joseph McCarthy. “I have here in my hand a list of 205 State Department employees that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the extreme LGBT agenda and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”

  5. Dreher’s only now realizing that Christian conservatives have been played for chumps? The GOP has been playing them for chumps since the 1970s when they foresaw and exploited the Democratic weakness on social issues. They’ve been riding that wave ever since and paid just enough lip service to keep getting the votes, largely without needing to actually do anything.

  6. Speaking of being played for chumps…..
    The LGBT, et al, will now be so pleased, they and their supporters will endorse Trump, and probably vote for him again because of this. The man played the right card.
    This does not mean he need enact any other measures to placate the group though.

  7. If you want to take that light, he “technically” is discriminating against Christians.

  8. Sorry for my comment, you said some things much better.

  9. It’s so clearly written in the bible that thou shalt not hire Teh Geyz.

  10. Not sure what you are saying, except that it appears to try to justify religious discrimination against gay people, when religious discrimination is forbidden at every level of government.

  11. Trump doesn’t care about LGBT issues one way or the other. His daughter and son in law have his ear on this issue (they also dissuaded him from signing that anti-LGBT executive order a couple of weeks ago) and they like to hobnob with elite, wealthy young socialites, not mouth-breathing Bible-thumpers whose idea of a luxury emporium is Wal-Mart (aka Daddy’s base of support). If Daddy discriminates against the gays, Ivanka will get snubbed and be unhappy. And if Ivanka’s unhappy, Jared has to sleep on the couch.

    While Trump’s administration is still an abomination, it does put a song in my heart to see the right-wing Christians weeping and gnashing their teeth over these slights. Gnash away, nasties!

  12. I didn’t read it that way. I got the impression John was saying the effort of Christians to equate religious liberty with discrimination against gays is counterproductive to actual religious liberties.

  13. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not, to stand up to the things that are………NT

  14. “LGBT leaders have little faith in Vice President Mike Pence”

    So what?? Unless Trump gets assassinated that’s not a problem.

    I mean Biden’s major contribution to the past eight years was his Onion persona and surrounding memes.

  15. I can’t see why protecting the rights of people should a problem. Whether religious or secular, male or female, black or white, gay or straight, people’s rights should be protected. End of story.

  16. It is what it is. Unlike Barack Obama, President Trump gave all Christians fair warning about what they could expect and NOT- expect from him.

    Trump is merely doing what he promised, so there’s no need for any Christian to feel any stress or “frustration.” Trump didn’t lie to anybody.

    All Trump is offering us Christians, is a small patch of grace-time and breathing room (which is 100 times better than what Hillary Clinton had in store for us.)

    So Christians, it’s not up to Trump to deal with the current huge mess. It’s up to us!!

  17. I’m definitely NOT justifying discrimination against anyone. I’m saying that if you try to tie “religious liberty” to discrimination against gay people, actual religious liberties will be lost because people rightly believe discrimination (against anyone) to be one of the most nasty, perverse concepts imaginable. In the simplest terms I can muster, if Christians insist on treating gay people with contempt, don’t be surprised if they lose church tax exemptions and access to government funds for Christian schools and social programs. Not to mention implicit acceptance of Christianity as a quasi-state religion.

    It’s worth noting that not all Christian sects advocate discrimination against gay people. The Episcopal Church (mine) is very friendly to our gay brothers and sisters.

  18. “His daughter and son in law have his ear on this issue (they also dissuaded him from signing that anti-LGBT executive order a couple of weeks ago)” And even knowing this, the libs are working overtime trying to attack and alienate Ivanka. Go figure.

  19. I’m sorry.you’re language wasn’t clear. We are 100% in agreement.

  20. How disturbing, though unfortunately familiar, it is that the conservative religionists define faithfulness in the negative. This is at best lazy theology and at worst a thin gloss over to legitimize a narrow and crude social agenda.

  21. Well, this action–or inaction as it were, helps to chip away at the lie that President Trump is a racist and a bigot! The President is proving that he truly DOES represent all the people. This totally bewilders the unhinged left! They’re so devoted to hating and demeaning President Trump that they’re speechless any time he takes an action that favors one of their top interests.
    To me this further illustrates that President Trump is an independent thinker rather than being a rabid partisan. He’s willing to risk opposition from evangelical supporters in order to do what he truly thinks is the right thing.

  22. Homophobia is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. It is possible to fix this with education, coupled with deepening one’s understanding of what Jesus was all about. When will the conservative Christians awaken to this reality?

  23. What is “homophobia”? If a Christian opposes legalized gay marriage, does that make them “homophobic”? Would he or she be at odds with Jesus?

  24. There’s the hate group, Family Research Council and Tony Perkins, doing their dirty work again.

    Trump did the right thing.

    There, never let it be said that I never had a good word to say about . . . . . him.

  25. Funny how invested these people are in the LGBTQ+ community. I mean we get it, you are afraid of progress. You are selfish pricks that don’t want to share tax breaks. You’ve said your piece and we either shame ourselves into compliance or ignore you. But as people wake up you risk driving them away.
    You know who else persecuted gay people? The nazis. Because, frankly, in supporting the orange menace that is the dying horse they have tied their cart to.

  26. Gawd what horrible people these “Christians” are. Yeah, the last thing we need is the government protecting the dignity of people that Perkins and his ilk would live to torment even further. He thinks he has real power with Putin’s Punk in the White House, and his true colors are showing, actually “colors” conjure up images of a rainbow, Perkins is more of a black and white sorta guy

  27. I want to express my appreciation to RNS for not silencing commenters who have a different opinion

  28. The entire situation is absurd. The small minority LGBT group is taking America hostage with their viewpoints and are successful because they have mainstream media to “normalize” their disgusting, demoralizing behavior. To hire a USA representative just to spread the gospel of homosexual sin is disastrous. But your vain glory will not last. A human can only live for maybe 70, 80, etc. years. Then you will have to submit and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I hope you all wake up before then.

    Bible: Romans 1:

    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave
    thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts
    were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In
    the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and
    were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts
    with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their
    error.

    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They
    have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and
    depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
    They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

  29. Jesus said “Go and sin no more”. He did not discriminate the day he died for the sins of all, but one day, on the Day of Judgement, he will not discriminate either.

    All who repent will go to heaven. Those who chose to remain in their practice of sin do not. Simple, and no discrimination.

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