Without fanfare, the Southern Poverty Law Center has made several important additions to its list of anti-gay hate groups. Some are already very familiar to readers, while others are only becoming more visible, having worked behind the scenes for years. While anti-gay folks seem to believe that mere opposition to gay rights will land a group on the SPLC’s list, their criteria is actually quite specific, and involves groups which routinely lie about and demonize LGBT people in their work. While we may not always agree, for instance, that a group like NOM hasn’t yet earned a spot on the list, we trust that they are staying true to their guidelines for which groups truly deserve the moniker and when. As the Religious Right in the United States loses members to old age, many of their organizations are growing more extreme, and as a result, more and more of them are moving into the “hate group” column. Let’s look at a few of this year’s most significant additions:
Two of the new groups on the list have grabbed the spotlight much more in the past year than in the decade before. Indeed, they’re often mentioned in the same breath. The World Congress of Families/Howard Center For Family, Religion and Society, based in Rockford, Illinois, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights institute (C-FAM), have actively supported Russia in the pogrom it’s waging against its LGBT citizens. The World Congress convenes international events which bring anti-gay and other hate groups from around the world together under the guise of “protecting the family,” and this year, their conference will be held inside the Kremlin. In fact, the two organizations were formed around the same time, with many of the same people involved, with a direct intention to spread far-right Christian thinking around the globe (PDF link to Summer/Fall 2000 issue of Public Eye):
Over the past few years, a small group of leaders from the Christian Right has forged an unlikely but well-organized, inter-religious coalition of conservative NGOs in the United Nations arena. Through this new coalition, Conservative Catholics, Mormons, Conservative Evangelicals and to a much smaller degree, Muslims and Jews, are developing institutional structures, political rhetoric and mobilized networks to bring their “family values” message to the UN and the world. This new coalition is the result of several noteworthy trends in right-wing organizing.
Having failed to gain accreditation for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council in the early nineties, Human Life International (HLI), in 1997 helped to establish the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam). C-Fam, the only one of these organizations focusing solely on UN work, coordinates much of the pro-family coalition’s work and strategy at the UN.
In the wake of scandals involving the misuse of funds, HLI reorganized its governing board and staff, equipping itself with leadership open to inter-religious cooperation and moderating the organization’s far-right tendencies.
Meanwhile, the Utah-based Brigham Young University (BYU) established the World Family Policy Center (WFPC) and developed a relationship with C-Fam, contributing funds to C-Fam programs. Also in 1997, Dr. Allan Carlson, formerly President of the Rockford Institute, a conservative institution committed to spreading the values of Western Christendom, established the Howard Center as an independent agency of the Rockford Institute. The Howard Center adopted a broader vision than that of the Rockford Institute—one that would carry out Carlson’s vision for inter-religious cooperation.
The Howard Center, though not highly involved in the coalition’s work at the UN, helps to shape its message through international gatherings organized with the WFPC.
The platform and collaboration of the pro-family coalition has in part been solidified through the two World Congress of Families meetings convened by the WFPC and Howard Center and co-convened by the evangelical Family Research Council and C-Fam. The first World Congress was held in 1997 in Prague, and the second was held in Geneva in the fall of 1999. Estimates put the second World Congress attendance at between 800 and 1,575 participants, twice that of the previous conference.
The Howard Center and WFPC are planning a third Congress for 2002 (WCF III). Austin Ruse is on the 24-member Planning Committee. The pro-family coalition works closely with conservative Islamic governmental delegates at the UN, including delegates from Algeria, Libya, Iran, Pakistan and the Sudan, although its connections with Islamic NGOs are not as strong. Some conservative Muslim leaders spoke at the WCF meetings, such as Dr. A. Majid Katme, the coordinator for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. At least three Muslims sit on the twenty-four member planning committee for the WCF III, including Ambassador Moktar Lamani, the Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the United Nations.
The World Congress of Families serves as a vessel to bring worldwide hate groups together, as one can see from perusing the sponsors for their international events. The Religious Right has lost the culture war in the United States, and they realized over the past decade that they would have to expand internationally in order to keep their pocketbooks solvent and their ideology relevant. They prey on nations mired in institutional poverty, and they aid foreign governments who find scapegoats that distract their citizens from turning a keen eye on their leaders’ role in their plights quite handy.
Both the World Congress of Families and C-Fam have been vocally supportive of Russia’s anti-gay laws, with the WCF expressing support in a press release not long after the Duma’s final vote on the “propaganda” law. The World Congress also held a roundtable in US House of Representatives office space recently in order to teach American “pro-family” activists how to export their hate around the world. Austin Ruse, president of C-Fam, expressed regret that the United States wouldn’t be able to start the sort of pogrom against LGBT people that Russia has, as he praised Russia in their efforts. It’s likely that the international activities of these groups contributed heavily to the SPLC’s decision to label them hate groups.
As time goes by, and as the Religious Right’s social campaign becomes even more irrelevant in the United States, it will be vital to track the movements of the WCF and C-Fam, as we’re already seeing the results of what happens when American Religious Right activists are given free rein to spread their hateful, diseased worldview abroad.
The Ruth Institute recently cut ties with the National Organization for Marriage, possibly due to the fact that the National Organization For Marriage hasn’t won anything in quite a long time and may not be able to afford “side-projects” anymore. Another possible reason has to do with Ruth’s leader, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who may be viewed by NOM leadership as an unpolished lit fuse who isn’t media-ready, as this compilation of her greatest hits shows (via GLAAD):
– Says that “the parallels” between Nazi Germany and contemporary America “are really quite chilling” and what happened in Nazi Germany “is happening to us.” (0:18-0:35)
– Claims that if marriage equality becomes legal, “Fathers will be marginalized. They will be considered non-essential.”
– Despite polls that prove otherwise, says Catholics don’t really “accept the category of gayness.” (0:38–0:45)
– Says being gay is a “completely shameless activity.” (0:20–0:27)
– Has called marriage equality for same-sex couples “a hostile takeover of the whole civil society” (9:35–9:44)
Jeremy Hooper has also spent many hours detailing how much of a liability Roback Morse, with her unhinged, hateful rhetoric, was to NOM’s messaging. Roback Morse believes that gays don’t really exist, and that gays need “guardrails” to keep us from stumbling into what she views as the activity of being gay. It’s probably appropriate that Ruth is its own entity so that she can lead the hate group she always dreamed of.
The Liberty Counsel‘s inclusion on the list has been a very long time coming. Mat Staver and Matt Barber are two of the most ridiculously bizarre anti-gay figures out there, Porno Petes with clown college law degrees, essentially. Liberty Counsel, in its legal capacity, is a go-to outfit for conservative Christians claiming persecution (AKA having to play by the same rules as everyone else), most notably in the past several years in their defense of kidnapper Lisa Miller, who left the country with her daughter, rather than having to share custody with her former partner, Janet Jenkins. Liberty Counsel has also been very active in fighting to preserve anti-gay parents’ rights to torture their kids with harmful, discredited “ex-gay” therapy, which creates the very real possibility that those kids will be scarred for life. For these guys, ideology comes WAY before morality.
But Liberty deserves inclusion on the list simply for their bizarre, untrue, hate filled anti-gay tirades, delivered daily by the aforementioned Staver and Barber. These two men are champions of asserting that any advance made by LGBT people is an assault on Christians, despite the fact that millions of Christians disagree with their beliefs. Just in recent months, Barber has suggested that anti-gay bigots are just like Jesus; claimed that Christians who support LGBT people are apostates; suggested that gay people are essentially monsters; claimed that President Obama is trying to purge Christians from the military; and put forth the strange theory that gay marriage caused the Biblical flood. In the same timeframe, Staver has come up with doozies of his own, such as his belief that, once marriage equality is nationwide, everyone will go gay, and his worry that, once “ex-gay” therapy is banned for minors nationwide, wingnut parents will have to resort to taking their kids to “back-alley” ex-gay parlors for the therapy they so desperately want to inflict on their children.
Other new groups added include the Pacific Justice Institute, Generations With Vision and Christ The King Church, which we will examine more deeply as the need arises.
I predict that the Ruth Institute will always be virulent, but that they won’t have much effect on the outside world for very long. The other three I examined? They’re determined, and they’re true believers. It’s time for American gay rights supporters to turn our eyes to the rest of the world, because our LGBT brothers and sisters’ lives are literally depending on it.