A U.N.-certified “expert” on sexual orientation and gender identity declared Wednesday that religious communities must yield to the demands of LGBT persons to avoid charges of violence and discrimination.
Freedom of religion or belief need not be incompatible with equality for LGBT persons, Victor Madrigal-Borloz asserted in his address to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, as long as religious groups accept the claims of gay and transgender persons.
Religious narratives clashing with the beliefs and lifestyle choices of LGBT persons, however, are “beyond the scope of the right freedom of religion or belief,” said Madrigal-Borloz, dubbed by the U.N. “the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Predictably, the U.N. Council did not call on an expert in religious freedom to offer a counterpoint to the position of Madrigal-Borloz.
As a model for religious believers, Madrigal-Borloz held up the example of “the voices and practices of inclusive communities,” meaning religious groups that accept same-sex marriage and gender fluidity.
Traditional believers such as Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and conservative Christians, who offer a negative moral judgment on LGBT claims and practices stoke the flames of violence, discrimination, and exclusion, he suggested, which “can have severe and negative consequences for the personhood, dignity, and spirituality of LGBT persons.”
In particular, Madrigal-Borloz voiced 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.”
The target of particular opprobrium in the expert’s address was the nation of Hungary, which passed a law in 2020 “that effectively banned adoption by same-sex couples, applying a strict Christian conservative viewpoint to the legal definition of a family.”
The amendment “altered the constitutional definition of families to exclude transgender and other LGBT individuals, defining the basis of the family as ‘marriage and the parent-child relationship,’ and declaring that ‘the mother is a woman, and the father is a man,’” he lamented.
“The expert underscored that the right to freedom of religion or belief must not be used as an excuse for violence or discriminatory denial of the human rights of LGBT persons,” the U.N. report stated, while failing to make the vital distinction between encouraging violence — which all major religious bodies reject — and refusing to accept the pretensions of the LGBT lobby.
Throughout his address, in fact, Madrigal-Borloz never referred to “discrimination” without appending it to “violence,” thus precluding the possibility of analyzing these distinct terms separately.
Examples of “hate speech” against LGBT persons, Madrigal-Borloz contended, include “scapegoating them for controversies, positing them as a threat to the traditional family, and interpreting religious doctrines to exclude and promote violence and discrimination against homosexuality and gender nonconformity.”
According to criteria from the expert’s statement, the Christian Bible would be full of anti-LGBT hate speech and therefore would be unacceptable as a religious text.
“The right to freedom of religion or belief is a shield to protect the lawful manifestation of personal convictions, as well as to protect the right not to be part of a particular belief or subjected to human rights violations claimed to be justified by it,” he argued.
Madrigal-Borloz also criticized efforts to accord any special status to religious freedom within the hierarchy of human rights, such as the Catholic Church has sought to do. Pope John Paul II, for instance, called religious freedom “the source and synthesis” of all human rights.
In his address, Madrigal-Borloz specifically attacked the United States Commission on Unalienable Rights, which released its Report on Unalienable Rights in 2020.
Religious liberty enjoys “primacy in the American political tradition — as an unalienable right, an enduring limit on state power, and a protector of seedbeds of civic virtues,” the report declared.
“There is good reason to worry that the prodigious expansion of human rights has weakened rather than strengthened the claims of human rights and left the most disadvantaged more vulnerable,” it stated.
Madrigal-Borloz also took issue with “religious-based exemptions” from laws requiring participation in LGBT activities, citing the case of the United States where “foster care and adoption agencies can reject prospective families based on sexual orientation, gender identity and faith.”
He similarly excoriated the exemptions given to persons who object to celebrating LGBT couples by baking cakes, hosting receptions, or printing invitations or who refuse for religious reasons to “print materials for Pride Parades.”
The expert went on to decry conscientious objection to “prescribing cross-sex hormones,” a practice that poses “a threat to LGBT persons in substantially restricting the spaces in which they can access necessary services.”
Worthy of great praise, on the contrary, is humanism, Madrigal-Borloz proposed, because it “recognizes that sex is an evolved trait, with no intrinsic meaning” and “does not require rigidly defined sex or gender roles.”
The Independent Expert recommends that faith-based leaders “recognize that sexual orientation and gender identity are diverse around the world and that gender manifests differently in many cultural and social structures and practices, including that many cultures recognize more genders than the male-female binary,” he declared.