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Peter Berkowitz

Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff; Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary, State Department Office of the Secretary; Executive Secretary, Commission on Unalienable Rights

Berkowitz is a long-time fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank, and is a regular contributor to RealClearPolitics. For more than a decade, he has used his platforms to spread his ideas, which reject freedom for LGBTQ communities, support the restriction of abortion access and deny the significant impact of racism in America.

HOW THEIR ROLE AFFECTS ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Berkowitz is a key policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Under Berkowitz and Pompeo’s policy guidance and leadership, the State Department has distorted the definition and application of human rights to fit within an extremist ideology that stigmatizes and restricts abortion access, alienates U.S. participation at the United Nations and blatantly disregards LGBTQ communities. Berkowitz also serves as executive secretary of Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. This year’s report from the Commission on Unalienable Rights documents the department’s diminution of “abortion, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage” as “divisive social and political controversies in the United States.” In his current role, Berkowitz is authorized to influence U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy with his own regressively narrow view of human rights.

PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT OF NOTE

Tad and Diane Taube Senior Fellow, Hoover Institute, Stanford University, 2005–present

Contributor, RealClearPolitics, 2008–present

Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 2002–2005

Professor, Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence, George Mason University School of Law, 1999–2006

Professor, Political Philosophy, Harvard University, 1990–1999

TIES TO OTHER ANTI-CHOICE EXTREMISTS

F. Cartwright Weiland:

Weiland works alongside Berkowitz on the policy planning team and is a rapporteur of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. He has worked previously as a policy analyst at the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, a conservative think tank that is well-known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion agenda. While there, Weiland helped to write an amicus brief, in cahoots with designated hate group the Family Research Council, to (unsuccessfully) support the unconstitutional abortion restrictions examined during Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Weiland has also done educational advocacy for the anti-abortion movement. While in law school, he spent a summer conducting research under the guidance of Mary Ann Glendon, chair of the Commission on Unalienable Rights.

Mike Pompeo:

Berkowitz and Pompeo work closely together within the Department of State. As Secretary of State, Pompeo has shepherded the Trump administration’s domestic and global attacks on reproductive health, abortion access and equality. He convened the Commission on Unalienable Rights, a thinly veiled move that advanced the extremist, anti-choice movement’s takeover of U.S. policy. Pompeo has had a very long career as an anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion ideologue.

HIGHLIGHTS

Berkowitz Defended The Commission Of Unalienable Rights Report On Programming Sponsored By A Designated Hate Group

Berkowitz Appeared On The Family Research Council’s Podcast Washington Watch With Tony Perkins To Defend The Commission’s Existence And Discuss The “Cultural Attacks On America’s Founding Principles.” [Family Research Council, 7/17/20]

Berkowitz Conflates Equitable Abortion Access With Immorality

Berkowitz Authored An Article In Which He Said Elevating Choice Weakens “Our Ability To Maintain A Moral Climate.” “The problem is rather that the culture of freedom gives rise to a tension between the sanctity of individual choice and the sanctity of human life. And there is reason to worry that the more we elevate choice, the more we weaken our ability to maintain a moral climate …” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

Berkowitz Believes That Progressive Expansion Of Human Rights Is Tyranny Against A Presumably Straight, White, Male Majority

He Authored Opinions That Claim Marriage Equality Subverts Religious Freedom… “It is significant that none of the justices suggests that the gay couple that unsuccessfully sought a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop lacked opportunities to purchase one elsewhere. Colorado’s demand that owner Jack Phillips bake their cake—and thereby endorse a practice that conflicted with his sincere religious beliefs—seems less about ensuring wedding cakes for gays and vindicating their equal rights and more about conscripting fellow citizens to the progressive cause and eliminating from the public sphere views that dissent from progressive orthodoxy.” [RealClear Politics, 7/13/18]

…And Goes So Far As To Suggest That Progressivism Is Tyrannical. “The struggle for religious liberty has become again, as it was at America’s founding, a front-line battle against the tyranny of the majority.” [RealClear Politics, 7/13/18]

THE WHOLE STORY

Berkowitz Uses His Public Platforms To Validate Discrimination, Hate And Restricted Freedoms For Basically Everyone That Is Not A Heterosexual, White Male 

Berkowitz Has Used His Academic Position To Decry Civil Liberties And Rights For LGBTQ Communities, Abortion Patients, And Black And Brown Communities

Berkowitz Doesn’t Believe The Constitution Protects Reproductive Freedom And Rejects Usage Of Medically Accurate Terms To Describe Abortion. “The principle of choice, for example, is not, never has been, and never can be absolute under a liberal constitution. Put most austerely, the law hems in choice to prevent physical harm to others. Mothers are not free to terminate the lives of their young children even if they conclude on reflection that the children severely interfere with their autonomy.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

Berkowitz Believes Equitable Abortion Access Precludes A Moral Society … “The problem is rather that the culture of freedom gives rise to a tension between the sanctity of individual choice and the sanctity of human life. And there is reason to worry that the more we elevate choice, the more we weaken our ability to maintain a moral climate that respects human life, which underlies the respect for individual choice.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

… And That The Courts Should Do More To Restrict Bodily Autonomy Of Pregnant Persons. “To the extent that the supreme law of the land enshrines arguments and attitudes that deny personhood and life to the fetus or unborn child, and which make the determination of personhood a function of the private judgment of individuals, the Court’s abortion decisions encourage a belief in the violability of human life. Respect for individual choice is rooted in the idea of a common and inviolable humanity. The more we treat humanity as negotiable, and the more respect for it is subject to individuals’ subjective and varying judgments, the more precarious become the grounds for respecting humanity in ourselves and in others, which is a precondition for respecting the choices individuals make.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

Berkowitz Believes Both Abortion Access And Affirmative Action Are Bad For “Freedom.” “In this way the Court’s abortion jurisprudence demonstrates that progress in freedom, in the sense of expanding the domain of protected choices, can erode the conditions for preserving freedom. In this abortion is not unique. A similar dynamic marks the constitutional jurisprudence of affirmative action.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

Berkowitz Questioned How Conservative-Appointed SCOTUS Justices Could Rule Positively On Affirmative Action. “Nothing in the Constitution or in previous case law required the Court to pretend to apply the most demanding constitutional test to the University of Michigan Law School’s account of its affirmative action program while more or less taking the truth of that account on faith. Indeed, nothing in the Constitution required the Court to prefer the more progressive interpretation of liberal principles, which calls for government measures to promote a more inclusive society where more have the opportunity to enjoy their freedom to the fullest, over the more conservative interpretation of liberal principles, which focuses on keeping down the social costs of classifying by race. That a Court on which sit seven justices appointed by conservative presidents made these choices is testimony to the power of the progressive interpretation of liberalism.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

He Completely Ignored And Minimized The Inequitable Realities That LGBTQ Individuals Must Navigate In Their Daily Lives. “More evidence of that power is provided by the revolutionary speed with which attitudes in the United States about same-sex marriage have changed. Just 15 years ago, very few gay men or lesbians, whatever other grievances they harbored, thought or felt themselves to be deprived of civil rights because the law restricted marriage to a man and woman.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

He Outlined Biased Rationale To Explain His Opposition To Marriage Equality… “By separating matrimony from parenting, the most powerful conservative argument against it runs, and by implicitly rejecting the idea of the natural complementarity of the sexes, same-sex marriage will further undermine marriage, which has long been at risk and is the most vital institution in society for the formation of character in children. Conservatives may well be right about the consequences of same-sex marriage — but, as they hardly need to be reminded, there are always countervailing considerations.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

And Argued That Marriage Equality Could Undermine “The Structure Of The Family.” “The color of one’s skin has no bearing on the essential purpose of marriage, but same-sex marriage raises concerns about parenting, child rearing, and the structure of the family, which lie at the very heart of marriage’s purpose.” [Hoover Institute, 8/1/05]

After Obergefell v. Hodges, Berkowitz Pivoted His Opposition To Marriage Equality As Reason To Protect His Narrow View Of Religious Freedom. “Among the most unfortunate consequences of Obergefell v. Hodges for conservatives—and for democratic debate—is that it encourages the view that opposition to changing the meaning of marriage to include same-sex couples is tantamount to the rejection of gay rights and reflects rank prejudice. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion lends legitimacy to the pernicious tendency to denounce those who think differently as deniers, haters and extremists. So those arguing that the traditional family is the best institution for raising children must not only reaffirm limited government in light of Obergefell’s expansion of federal power; they must also champion freedom of thought and discussion. They must remind their fellow citizens of the indispensability of dissent and divergent opinions. In so doing, they will uphold not only their own moral convictions but also major principles of the American tradition.” [Hoover Institute, 7/24/15]

Berkowitz Is A Frequent Contributor To RealClear Politics And Uses This Platform As A Personal Soapbox Against Progressive Social Justice

He Authored Opinions That Claim Marriage Equality Subverts Religious Freedom. “It is significant that none of the justices suggests that the gay couple that unsuccessfully sought a wedding cake from Masterpiece Cakeshop lacked opportunities to purchase one elsewhere. Colorado’s demand that owner Jack Phillips bake their cake — and that Phillips thereby endorse a practice that conflicted with his sincere religious beliefs — seems less about ensuring wedding cakes for gays and vindicating their equal rights and more about conscripting fellow citizens to the progressive cause and eliminating from the public sphere views that dissent from progressive orthodoxy.” [RealClear Politics, 7/13/18]

Berkowitz Goes As Far As To Suggest That Progressivism Is Tyrannical. “The struggle for religious liberty has become again, as it was at America’s founding, a front-line battle against the tyranny of the majority.” [RealClear Politics, 7/13/18]

Berkowitz Belittled The 1619 Project As “Fashionable Academic Theory.” “Recovery of the truth about slavery and its painful legacy is laudable. But many of the Times’ 18 original articles advance a false and inflammatory contention. That claim, which is rooted in fashionable academic theories about structural oppression, is that slavery — not the idea of fundamental rights belonging to all persons heralded in the Declaration of Independence — is the defining feature of America’s founding. The ambiguity at the core of the 1619 Project — whether its goal is to recover the truth on behalf of the public interest or to promulgate a hyperbolic critique for partisan advantage — is on display in the project’s lead essay.” [RealClear Politics, 2/19/20]

Berkowitz Supported “Constitutional Conservatism” As A Path To Constrict Freedoms For People Who Can Get Pregnant And LGBTQ People Who Wanted The Right To Legally Recognized Marriage. “Moreover, a constitutional conservatism provides a framework for developing a distinctive agenda for today’s challenges to which social conservatives and libertarian conservatives can both, in good conscience, subscribe. Leading that agenda should be: (1) a focus on reducing the number of abortions and increasing the number of adoptions (2) efforts to keep the question of same-sex marriage out of the federal courts and subject to consideration by each state’s democratic process.” [RealClear Politics 2/2/09]

Berkowitz Is Executive Secretary Of The State Department’s Commission On Unalienable Rights And Often Speaks On Behalf Of The Commission Publicly

Progressive Human Rights Groups Called Out Berkowitz’s Anti-LGBTQ And Anti-Abortion Record

GLAAD Identified Berkowitz As An “Anti-LGBTQ Member Of The State Department’s New “Commission On Unalienable Rights.” In their profile of commission members’ anti-LGBTQ records GLAAD published that “Peter Berkowitz criticized the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling overturning sodomy laws as ‘dangerous,’ writing that ‘Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion seemed to follow the logic of his moral and political judgments rather than the logic of the law.’” [GLAAD, 9/9/19]

Ms. Magazine Made Note Of Berkowitz’s Opinion That His Conservative Interpretation Of Christianity Is The Foundation For Human Rights. “According to its statement of intent, the Commission is needed as human rights ‘discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.’ In case you’re wondering how to distinguish ‘natural’ rights, they’re the ones bestowed by God (at least according to Pompeo’s commissioners). One of them, Peter Berkowitz, argues that Christianity is the source of all human rights.” [Ms. Magazine, 7/26/19]

International Human Rights Organizations Joined Together To Legally Challenge The Creation Of The Commission. “The Commission, which purports to be examining the very meaning of human rights, is nevertheless stacked with individuals who share a narrow view of human rights as derived from natural law to the exclusion of anyone representing mainstream human rights groups or career diplomats from within the State Department. Worse still, this biased Commission has largely been conducting its work in secret. The troubling practices of the Commission violate a federal transparency law that regulates such outside advisory bodies. So in March 2020, we teamed up with four international human rights organizations to file a lawsuit aimed at shutting down this unlawful group and preventing the administration from relying on any of its advice or recommendations.” [Democracy Forward, 5/8/20]

As The Commission On Unalienable Rights’ Executive Secretary, Berkowitz Staunchly Defends The Extremist Commission

In June 2020, He Co-Opted The Social Uprisings Resulting From George Floyd’s Murder As A Chance To Defend The Commission. “Now, scandalized by the killing of George Floyd, many Americans are tempted to blur the difference between autocracies that systematically deny fundamental rights and liberal democracies whose governments and citizens respond with indignation and anger when public servants abuse their power by denying fellow citizens’ basic rights. It is in light of the United States’ genuine accomplishments and its real failings, and with a view to the perplexities that beset the cause of human rights, that Secretary Pompeo established the Commission on Unalienable Rights. Not the least of the commission’s contributions would be to renew the nation’s understanding of that complex combination of pride and humility that is among the most elusive and essential prerequisites for a foreign policy – and a domestic policy – grounded in America’s founding principles.” [RealClear Politics, 6/7/20]

In July 2020, He Touted The Commission’s First Report As An “Example” For Other Countries To Follow. “To the extent that the Commission on Unalienable Rights honors Secretary Pompeo’s mandate, we will give not only fellow citizens but friends of freedom elsewhere a contemporary example of drawing on one’s own traditions to affirm the rights all human beings share.” [RealClear Politics, 7/5/20]

Also In July 2020, He Characterized Dissent Of The Commission’s Report As “Intolerant And Uncivil”… “The yearlong controversy over the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights illustrates the potency of the intolerant and uncivil passions afflicting the nation. It also underscores the urgency of the commission’s report, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented to the public last Thursday in a speech in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center and in a Washington Post op-ed.” [RealClear Politics, 7/19/20]

… And, In A Hypocritical Twist, Berkowitz Appeared On A Hate Group’s Podcast To Defend The Commission. Berkowitz appeared on the Family Research Council’s Podcast, Washington Watch With Tony Perkins, to defend the Commission’s existence and discuss the “cultural attacks on America’s founding principles.” [Family Research Council, 7/17/20]

After The Report’s Release He Appeared On Programming Sponsored By The Heritage Foundation To Defend The Report’s Restrictive Stance On Human Rights. During the virtual webinar, Berkowitz made a comment that “human rights have been proliferated” and that there exists a hierarchy of rights. [Heritage Foundation, 8/28/20]

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