Allyson McKinney Timm, founder of Justice Revival, is a theologically trained human rights lawyer and elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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A Bad Report Card on U.S. Human Rights

by Allyson McKinney Timm 04-21-2020
A global review will render judgment on Trump’s appalling record.

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

HOW HAS AMERICA honored its avowed commitment to human rights over the last four years? Fellow nations will consider that question later this year during the Universal Periodic Review, a quadrennial evaluation by the U.N. Human Rights Council to which all member states are subject.

The review, scheduled for this spring before postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, promises a thorough accounting of U.S. progress and failings on human rights at home. Given the Trump administration’s withdrawal from global processes designed to safeguard human rights and its dubious moves to redefine the scope of human rights protections, this review is vital.

Central to human rights and our modern conception of justice is the idea of equality. No one is above the law. All should be treated fairly, without bias or favor—a value reflected in the biblical juridical instruction to not “be partial to the poor or defer to the rich” (Leviticus 19:15).

This principle of equality animates the review, a uniquely democratic process in which every nation can speak truth to every other and none is exempt. “Universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity” are guiding principles. With no regard for American “exceptionalism,” the UPR’s egalitarian structure aims to blunt the politicized use of human rights, in the U.S. and elsewhere, against adversaries alone.

Undermining Human Rights in the Name of Religious Freedom

by Allyson McKinney Timm 09-23-2019
The Pompeo commission is at odds with Jesus' radically egalitarian teachings.

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

THE 2018 STATE-SPONSORED execution of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, was a brazen violation of his right to life by a repressive regime, yet the U.S. executive branch responded with near indifference. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had already said that advancing U.S. interests should come before promoting U.S. values—such as defending human rights—and his successor Mike Pompeo has followed suit.

The Trump administration has disavowed the longstanding commitment to human rights by the U.S. in foreign policy. It has withdrawn from the U.N. Human Rights Council, ceded a voice on the U.N. body addressing racial oppression, and ignored the chorus of international condemnation of its family separation policy.

Looking Backward

by Allyson McKinney Timm 09-23-2019
The Pompeo commission is another Trump administration attempt to undermine human rights.

THE 2018 STATE-SPONSORED execution of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, was a brazen violation of his right to life by a repressive regime, yet the U.S. executive branch responded with near indifference. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had already said that advancing U.S. interests should come before promoting U.S. values—such as defending human rights—and his successor Mike Pompeo has followed suit.

The Trump administration has disavowed the longstanding commitment to human rights by the U.S. in foreign policy. It has withdrawn from the U.N. Human Rights Council, ceded a voice on the U.N. body addressing racial oppression, and ignored the chorus of international condemnation of its family separation policy.

When There Is No Justice in Scripture: The Rape of Tamar

by Allyson McKinney Timm 10-12-2015
Francis Wong Chee Yen / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Francis Wong Chee Yen / Shutterstock.com

When I first read about the rape of Tamar, I was astonished. This tragic story of a beautiful princess — sexually violated by her half-brother and then betrayed by her powerful father — left me aghast. What could I do with this troubling tale, tucked among pages of scripture where I sought spiritual guidance?

Throughout my life in the church, I had never heard the name “Tamar.” No reference to this daughter of King David. No remembrance of her profound suffering and grief.

It’s not an easy story to hear, especially within the biblical narrative of God’s love and providential care for God’s people. It’s like a well-guarded family secret no one dares mention, as if it might swell into a crushing typhoon, leaving devastation in its wake. Following tradition, I hoped not to encounter Tamar’s story again.

If shunning the ancient biblical story of Tamar is all too easy, avoiding news of unrelenting violence against women is becoming harder.