President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state has made waves — and some of them not for the reasons you might originally think.
In addition to those queasy about Tillerson’s apparent cozy relationship with Russia, social conservatives are also concerned about the oil tycoon’s credentials. It is a concern that carries far more weight than one might think.
“The Left, which doesn't usually need a reason to oppose Trump's choices, won't find many here, since the ExxonMobil executive may be the greatest ally liberals have in the Cabinet for their abortion and LGBT agendas,” the socially conservative Family Research Council said in a statement Monday.
“That should be particularly alarming to conservatives, who've spent the last eight years watching the State Department lead the global parade for the slaughter of innocent unborn children and the intimidation of nations with natural views on marriage and sexuality.”
Why all the fuss about a big oil executive, you ask? Well, there are actually two big reasons: Boy Scouts and abortions.
First, as the Dallas Morning News profiled in 2014, Rex Tillerson was a lead voice against the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing policy on homosexuality while he served as the organization’s president from 2010 to 2012.
According to a statement from the BSA, USA Today reported earlier this month, “Tillerson was instrumental in leading the organization through an important period of growth and development, while upholding the long-standing traditions of character and good citizenship that are essential to Scouting’s mission.”
Also under fire from social conservatives are ExxonMobil’s corporate donations to abortion giant Planned Parenthood while Tillerson was chief executive.
“ExxonMobil funding for Planned Parenthood organizations have been made through our employee/retiree matching gift and volunteer programs, which exist to support our employees and retirees in their personal philanthropic giving and community involvement,” read the company’s statement to The Daily Signal last year.
How America’s chief diplomat handles these issues in office will have far-reaching consequences for the world’s most vulnerable populations, whether they are forming in the womb, or huddling together in a persecuted church.
It is tempting to brush these things aside and say that it really shouldn’t matter for a man dealing with foreign policy matters. Politics should stop at the water’s edge, as famously said by Michigan’s Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg in his famous 1945 speech on bipartisanship. While the statement was applicable in the context of its time, and the sentiment is a pleasant one, how one views issues of domestic policy like homosexuality, transgenderism, and abortion affects a whole lot of international policy nowadays.
Religious conservatives have every right to express concern about Rex Tillerson’s past. Dr. Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for research at the Center for Family & Human Rights, explained to Conservative Review that the State Department can also be used to push liberal social policies on the rest of the world through a combination of funding, international presence, and the bully pulpit of the United States.
While the Helms Amendment prohibits government funds from directly being used to promote and perform abortion overseas, and Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy” — overturned by President Obama in 2009 — blocks NGOs who receive taxpayer money from doing the same, it still has happened nonetheless. Funding channels within government departments are nearly impossible to keep track of, Yoshihara explained.
Furthermore, ever since Obama has made LGBT issues a cornerstone of American foreign policy, the State Department has become a key driver of forcing progressive Western agendas beyond our borders. One of the more recent developments in this trend has been an executive rule that threatens to strip USAID contracts from nonprofits who do not adhere to the administration’s views on sexuality.
“One thing that the government officials of other countries remark to us is how outspoken this administration has been about these issues,” stated Dr. Yoshihara. “People often don’t realize that this is happening because it’s ‘over there,’ but it happens.”
Indeed, over the past few years, as a result of the leadership of Obama, and Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, says Yoshihara, the State Department has been the “world’s biggest LGBT lobby.”
(Interesting side note: Kerry’s State Department sat on a congressional mandate for a special envoy for persecuted Christians in the Middle East for over a year, while the same cannot be said for its priority on LGBT issues.)
While many are sure to question Tillerson’s lack of official foreign policy experience, the question here is not of one of expertise, but of worldview. When it comes to issues like unborn life and religious liberty abroad, the Department of State clearly has a great deal of influence upon the rest of the world. How America’s chief diplomat handles these issues in office will have far-reaching consequences for the world’s most vulnerable populations, whether they are forming in the womb, or huddling together in a persecuted church.
If Donald Trump would like to keep social conservatives around for support in 2020, one of the challenges his top diplomat will have to tackle is undoing the pro-abortion, anti-family mess Kerry and Clinton have made of the State Department.
While it’s highly unlikely that a Secretary Tillerson would approach his job with the same kind of radical leftist gusto seen in recent years, questions about his past with the Boy Scouts of America and ExxonMobil are legitimate. And they deserve answers.
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Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.