UN to Examine “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” Policy and Religious Freedom

January 18, 2023

The UN Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) recently requested input for a forthcoming report that will explore “the right to freedom of religion or belief in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity,” which will then “be presented at the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2023.”

RFI submitted a response to this request, beginning with a some basic observations about the state of religious freedom in international law:

Religious freedom is clearly enumerated as a right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Although non-binding, the Declaration has explicitly been the basis for many subsequent human rights treaties. UN member States developed and negotiated the text and adopted the declaration in 1948 by a vote of 48-0-8. The subsequent International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights enshrined the religious freedom principles of the UDHR in a legally binding convention, which 172 countries have ratified. Even international humanitarian law, like the Geneva Conventions, includes some religious freedom protections…

The introduction into international law of special “SOGI” protections, however, should be understood as both unnecessary and harmful. RFI’s response continues:

There is ample international law protecting all people from violence and invidious discrimination, regardless of any pattern of perceptions or actions regarding their sex or sexuality. The same international legal regime prohibits violence and invidious discrimination based on what the perpetrators perceive about those they target.

Long-established international law protecting religious freedom, and the fundamental demands of human dignity, together require proper recognition of what is at stake in attempts to enshrine “SOGI” policy in international law and norms. It must be stated emphatically that all people are worthy of full protection from violence and invidious discrimination. However, international institutions, especially the UN, must refrain from infusing “SOGI” policy into international law as a means of achieving conformity in the areas of anthropology and sexual morality.

Imposing conformity in this regard would lead to violations of the religious freedom of religious individuals and institutions that remain committed to a view of the human person and human sexuality that dissents from “SOGI” policy.

Read RFI’s full submission to the UN Independent Expert on SOGI here.