A new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered unit launched by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights drew criticism from legal experts who say it could pose a threat to religious freedom.
Censorship “of religious speech against homosexuality” is on the rise, Ligia M. De Jesus, a former research fellow for the commission, told CNA on Nov. 22.
De Jesus warned that although the creation of the unit does not have a legal effect, “it may have a political effect” in pressuring countries to recognize homosexual “rights” and to “culturally legitimize homosexuality.”
The D.C.-based commission said that its new unit—which was created on Nov. 3 and titled the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons—will “protect and promote” the rights of these individuals specifically within the Americas.
De Jesus, who currently teaches at Ave Maria University's School of Law in Florida, said that “no international legally binding treaty recognizes a right to homosexual marriage or to penalize speech against homosexuality.”
The “great majority of countries have not legalized same-sex marriage either,” she added.
Despite this, however, De Jesus said there has been a push by some non-governmental and international organizations to promote “the creation of new rights” for homosexual individuals.
De Jesus fears the new unit may pressure government officials into labeling moral opposition to homosexual behavior as illegal “discrimination” and eventually into legalizing same-sex “marriage” and adoption.
Such efforts could threaten freedom of religion and speech in both the United States and other countries, she said.
Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund in Europe, observed what he called a widespread failure to distinguish between discrimination against homosexual individuals and a moral opposition to homosexual behavior.
He explained to CNA that the implications of this failure have led to a “chilling effect on religious liberty,” as private organizations and individuals are increasingly prosecuted for their moral beliefs.
Kiska pointed to growing examples of adoption agencies, marriage counselors and churches that have suffered for their defense of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. He warned that the commission’s new unit will contribute to this rising threat to religious freedom.
The fact that the new unit has no basis in international law shows that it is “agenda-driven,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”