President Obama’s nominee to represent America in the worldwide fight for religious freedom is raising alarms from many traditional and conservative interest groups in the United States over his positions on abortion, homosexuality and marriage.
“How will it be possible for [Rabbi David] Saperstein, who has in the past stood against certain aspects of religious expression in the United States, to promote religious freedom abroad?” asked William Murray of the Religious Freedom Coalition in a report by Andrew Harrod on the coalition website.
Saperstein was nominated by the White House with great fanfare to be ambassador for International Religious Freedom, a position inside the U.S. State Department.
In a prepared statement at the time Obama said, “I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”
The announcement praised Saperstein’s experience as “director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he has served since 1974. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches First Amendment church-state law and Jewish law.”
The White House pointed out that Saperstein also serves on a number of boards, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.
His history with Obama is extensive, having been on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2010 to 2011, and a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001.
But the report from Harrod raised a number of questions and concerns – including that Saperstein has been a guest “at a far left People for the American Way conference.”
Saperstein would be the “first non-Christian” to hold the post that was created in 1998, he noted.
The report said some conservatives have supported Saperstein, including a pledge of cooperation from Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Rep. Frank Wolf called him a “good nomination.”
But the Becket Fund, which has fought on behalf of religious rights against the abortifacient mandate in Obamacare all the way to the Supreme Court, said while it “congratulates” Saperstein, it “had not agreed” with him on “every issue.”
Harrod’s report notes that Saperstein is a “longstanding abortion supporter” and he had criticized the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which banned federal dollars from going for abortions as a “dangerous precedent.”
Such a position would conflict with many of the Christian churches in America.
And his opinion on a Supreme Court ruling that the government could not force Christian employers to violate their faith and pay for abortifacients was that it was “dismaying.”
The Alliance Defense Fund, Harrod explained, was on the other side of that fight and considered it troubling that Saperstein would adopt a perspective that held “callous disregard for religious liberty.”
“This baffling appointment,” the statement said, “is akin to putting the fox in charge of the hen house – how will he have credibility defending freedom of religion abroad when he favors limiting religious freedom at home?”
Harrod pointed out that Saperstein “also holds sexual left positions on homosexuality and transgenderism,” supported the idea of marriage “equality” that would break down traditional marriage by allowing same-sex duos.
Further, the report said Saperstein supports an “anti-discrimination” law that would provide special status to those who are confused about their gender.
And conservative Rabbi Aryeh Spero told Harrod, “I’ve been following David’s activities for 30 years. I’m not confident he will address the greatest threat to religious freedom today – radical Islam’s oppression … of Christians across many parts of the world as well as its threats against Jewish people.”
In fact, Saperstein co-founded Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a group that promotes “Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values.”
His group wanted the New York Police Department to purge “harmful and offensive materials” that revealed facts such as a majority of the terror attacks inflicted on the United States in recent years have been brought about by Muslim males.
Harrod pointed out, “The foregoing leaves much to ponder for individuals like … Barret Duke [of the Southern Baptists Ethics board].”
He said, “If it should become clear that his liberal social and theological views will render him incapable of advocating equally for all people of faith, then I will declare him unfit for the position.”
Murray warned, a “dramatic change in some positions would be required for Ambassador Saperstein to serve the cause of religious rights as declared in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”
At Catholic World News, writers opined, “The man nominated by President Obama to be the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom has taken public stands directly opposed to those of the U.S. Catholic bishops on key religious-freedom issues.”