It seems Biden’s State Department has decided it must do even more to shame countries into normalizing same-sex relations. It announced a new grant to “promote greater social acceptance of LGBTQI+ persons” in a small African country using U.S. tax dollars. The grant is advertised as “Beyond Decriminalization: Expanding LGBTQI+ Rights in Botswana,” and identifies “influential religious groups” as targets to lobby in its campaign.
This tactic is likely to harm U.S. relations with Botswana. The Batswana may not be so keen on U.S. pressure to change their religious beliefs and social mores.
Like many African countries, Botswana is home to a religious and socially conservative people. It is among Africa’s oldest democracies and considered one of the least corrupt countries on the continent. Nearly 80 percent of the citizens of Botswana are Christians. And according to the U.S. State Department’s Report on International Religious Freedom, the country boasts “a high degree of religious tolerance and robust interfaith relations.”
Presumably, the U.S. government has decided that it is these Christians whose attitudes and beliefs must change.
But while in South Africa last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed the opposite.
“The United States will not dictate Africa’s choices,” he pledged. “Neither should anyone else. The right to make these choices belongs to Africans, and Africans alone.”
Contrast that with the Biden administration’s aggressive agendas in Botswana and other developing countries.
Under the mantle of sexual and reproductive health the Biden team is pushing abortion across the globe. In the name of “equity and equality” it promotes radical gender ideology and critical race theory. In their climate crusade, it promotes contraception and population control. And with its pursuit of “LGBTQI+ rights,” American foreign policy is undermining religious freedom. This adds up to nothing short of ideological colonialism.
In what may be a related effort, the State Department is also seeking to fund atheism abroad, ironically, under the framework of religious freedom. Another grant, also targeting Africa as well as south and central Asia, will use U.S. federal funds for “creating or strengthening networks of advocates for … atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals.” But promoting atheism with U.S. tax dollars is just as problematic as promoting social acceptance of “LGBTQI+ rights.”
U.S. foreign policy should avoid cultural imperialism. It’s not the job of our State Department to meddle in the domestic laws of sovereign countries—provided they protect human rights. This principle of sovereignty has long governed international relations.
Lest the Biden White House forget, there is no human right to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. No human rights treaty—negotiated and ratified by sovereign nations—includes such “rights.” As such, many countries regulate or prohibit behavior such as adultery, fornication, prostitution, and pedophilia. A country’s laws on these matters are bound to reflect its cultural and religious traditions. Such public morality laws do not violate human rights or democracy. They simply violate the orthodoxy of the globalist and secular left.
Notably, Botswana recently liberalized its laws on same-sex relations, likely reflecting changing sentiment within their population. That has not helped it escape the notice of the gender ideologues in the current U.S. administration.
The U.S. grant for promoting LGBTQI+ issues in Botswana is not unique. Last year the State Department issued a notice of funding for up to $1 million for Global Equality Fund LGBTQI+ Programs in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The Global Equality Fund (GEF) is a partnership between companies, foundations, and governments to support LGBTQI+ initiatives. Besides addressing violence or abuse, the GEF seeks to eliminate “criminalization, discrimination, and stigma” related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Opposing violence and discrimination is not the same as promoting social acceptance and affirmation. The U.S. must promote fundamental human rights, grounded in human dignity, for every man, woman, and child. That is a proper role for our State Department. Targeting religious believers with hostile ideological agendas is not.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal