Mainstream U.S. politicians including Samantha Power, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will mix with anti-LGBTQ extremists at this year’s International Religious Freedom Summit (IRFS) in Washington, D.C., set to begin on Jan. 31.
Power, whom President Joe Biden nominated for USAID head in 2021, will speak alongside the anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Another anti-LGBTQ extremist group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a partner of the event. Both extremist organizations are conservative evangelical advocacy groups that espouse hateful rhetoric and champion discriminatory policies towards the LGBTQ community.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is a co-chair of the event.
Perkins has repeatedly made anti-LGBTQ remarks and pushed the FRC towards a harder anti-LGBTQ position since he assumed the role of the organization’s president in 2003.
In 2011, Perkins called the It Gets Better Project’s videos, which feature celebrities that offer encouraging messages to LBGTQ youth, “disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle.”
The It Gets Better Project began in 2004. Its goal is to help prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to die by suicide than their peers due in part to feelings of rejection and lack of social support, according to research cited by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.
In 2018, Perkins said, “if you are a male — genetically you are a male, biologically you’re a male — and you say, ‘Well, I’m not a male. I’m a female.’ I mean, what’s to keep you from saying that you’re an animal?”
The FRC did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment.
The ADF has defended state-enforced sterilization for transgender teens and its former president Alan Sears co-authored a 2003 book that claimed gay people promote pedophilia. Sears was ADF president until 2017.
ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement, Jeremy Tedesco, told Hatewatch the organization “believes that all people are made in the image of God and that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect.” Tedesco disputed claims that ADF supported forced sterilization abroad. ADF has characterized its support of decades-old European laws that, in some cases, required transgender people to undergo sterilization in order to receive new identification documents as “supporting the rights of European countries to establish their own laws, rather than have them imposed by international courts.”
USAID is the U.S. agency that delivers civil aid and development assistance across the globe. The FRC and ADF both take positions in opposition to the stated goals of USAID. The agency says “it advances the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and works to protect LGBTQI+ people from violence, discrimination, stigma, and criminalization around the world.”
A USAID spokesperson told Hatewatch that Power will participate “in a conversation with US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain” to discuss “US government efforts to support international religious freedom” among other strategic goals. The spokesperson “US government officials regularly participate in this forum, and this participation is not an endorsement of the views of other participants or organizations taking part in the IRF Summit.
USAID “is deeply committed to our work and partnerships that advance the rights and opportunities of LGBTQI+ people,” they concluded.
The groups’ positions also run against those of Meeks, who publicly supports LGBTQ equality. Meeks’ tenure in Congress has received high scores from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Meeks scored 100 in the 116th Congress, which ran from 2019 to 2021, and 96 in the 117th, which ran from 2021 to 2023. The score is based on representatives’ voting records on bills that protect the LGBTQ community.
Meeks’ office did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment.
FRC’s anti-Muslim positions
Aside from the FRC’s anti-LGBTQ advocacy, Perkins has also steered the organization into anti-Muslim positions. Perkins said in 2014 the U.S. Constitution does not necessarily protect Islam because it is “not just a religion, it’s an economic system, it’s a judicial system and it’s a military system.” He has also espoused conspiracy theories about Muslims attempting to replace the U.S. legal system with Sharia Law.
At least two Islamic organizations are involved with the summit, including the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is a partner, and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS). ADAMS Imam Mohamed Magid will speak at the summit.
Neither organization responded to Hatewatch’s request for comment.
Top Photo: US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images)