Evangelical leader Mark Tooley has weighed in on the burgeoning controversy surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of ExxonMobil CEO Tex Tillerson as his secretary of state.
“[Tillerson’s] probably a smooth and competent operator without strong ideological commitments whose focus will be deal making,” Tooley told The Daily Caller. Tooley’s Institute on Religion and Democracy aims to “protect religious freedom, and support democracy at home and abroad.”
Tooley’s comments came as controversy arose between Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and Liberty University president Jerry Falwell about whether Tillerson will be a friend or foe of social conservatives, and Christian values in general, overseas.
On December 12, Perkins wrote that Tillerson “may be the greatest ally liberals have in the Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas.”
“To hear that Donald Trump may be appointing a man who not only led the charge to open the Boy Scouts to gay troop leaders but whose company directly gives to Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best,” continued Perkins, who accused Tillerson of allying with the radical LGBT group Human Rights Campaign. “Under his chairmanship, ExxonMobil’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate ‘Equality’ Index has also skyrocketed to 87 percent.”
Tillerson was the president of the Boy Scouts of America when he urged the organization to accept openly gay youth as members. Two years later, under former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, the Boy Scouts accepted gay troop leaders. Conservatives have split off from the Scouts due to these decisions, creating multiple alternate groups, the most prominent of which is Trail Life, USA.
Falwell told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that he wasn’t concerned about Tillerson’s views on social matters. Speaking on Christmas Day, the early Trump supporter said Tillerson’s “position on social issues I don’t believe are relevant in the position of secretary of state. I don’t think he’ll ever have to weigh in on any of those issues. I think he’s going to be out cutting deals like he did as the CEO of a global enterprise with Exxon.”
“And I think that’s what we need in that position,” continued Falwell. “I don’t think his position on social issues will ever make a difference as secretary of state.”
Tooley told The Daily Caller that “until fairly recently, it was not necessarily very important” for a secretary of state to support socially conservative positions. “But USA diplomacy with other Western governments and NGOs has been promoting LGBTQ and abortion causes globally, especially to vulnerable global south countries that are typically socially conservative but dependent on Western aid.”
“So there’s a question whether the new administration will steer in a new direction or follow the rest of the Western donor community,” said Tooley. “Another question: to what extent will new administration advocate for global religious liberty and human rights?”
Social conservative leaders have long decried the Obama administration’s promotion of abortion and a redefinition of marriage overseas. Perkins claimed the State Department under former Secretary Hillary Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry is a leader in “the global parade for the slaughter of innocent unborn children and the intimidation of nations with natural views on marriage and sexuality.”
In a piece critical of Tillerson, Conservative Review’s Nate Madden likewise highlighted how the Obama administration recently implemented a policy “that threatens to strip USAID contracts from nonprofits who do not adhere to the administration’s views on sexuality.” Human Rights Campaign described the policy as affecting which groups $16 billion worth of aid goes to in 100 countries.
As secretary of state, Clinton promoted abortion and acceptance of same-sex relationships in testimony to Congress and in multiple speeches. And both Clinton and Kerry, in tandem with Obama, decried and even declined to provide aid to Nigeria against the terrorist group Boko Haram because of Nigeria’s socially conservative laws and culture.
In 2011, Obama ordered U.S. embassies to promote the acceptance of redefinition of marriage and sexuality, describing LGBT policy goals as “central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.” Earlier this year, U.S. embassies flew the so-called “Pride” flag in embassies around the world, and in 2014 both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden told Africans they should change legal and cultural views on marriage if they wanted access to Western humanitarian aid.
The administration also overturned the Mexico City Policy, which blocks the U.S. from funding abortion overseas, just days after Obama took office in 2009. Like many other Western nations, the U.S. has also prioritized increased contraception in African nations.
“Ideally, the new administration will become a global advocate for policies that protect children and families instead of policies that coercively impose Western secular extreme individualism,” said Tooley. “And, ideally, it will advocate for religious liberty and human rights for all when possible, while vigorously defending USA interests.”
According to Tooley, he is “ambivalent” about Tillerson, though he said “it’s unclear whether foreign policy will be State Department-directed or White House-directed.”