Leaders of the Christian Right Gather to Plot the Next Stage of Their Assault on Civil Society
The World Congress of Families, an international network of anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion activists, will gather in Budapest later this week for this year’s global summit. American Religious Right activists, who increasingly see the culture war as a global struggle, will strategize with colleagues from around the world to advance their shared goals: restricting legal recognition for LGBTQ people and families, denying women legal access to abortion, and opposing sex education. Joining them, according to the schedule, will be U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was reportedly listed before his name was removed from the public schedule.
World Congress of Families organizers picked Hungary as a way to show support for the government of strongman leader Viktor OrbÃ¡n, who WCF calls “the hero of pro-family and pro-life leaders.” OrbÃ¡n has been widely criticized for consolidating power by restricting independent media, the courts and civil society organizations, and re-writing the Constitution. But given Religious Right leaders’ embrace of Vladimir Putin in spite of his own autocratic moves, not to mention their fervent support for Donald Trump, it is not surprising that they are also fans of OrbÃ¡n.
WCF groups play a major role in making life more difficult and dangerous for LGBTQ people around the globe. Here’s a quick look at some of the Americans scheduled to speak at this year’s event, which has been called the Budapest Family Summit; we’ll follow up with a similar look at participants from Europe and around the world.
- Brian Brown, head of the National Organization for Marriage and the International Organization for the Family, which is now the parent group for the World Congress of Families.
- John Eastman, an all-purpose right-wing law professor who chairs NOM’s board, has praised Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act and called the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling overturning state laws criminalizing consensual gay sex “despotic.” He has also urged Congress to overturn birthright citizenship.
- Frank Schubert, the mastermind behind NOM’s strategy in Prop 8 and other state campaigns to defeat marriage equality by portraying it as a threat to children.
- Austin Ruse, President of C-Fam, partners with the world’s most repressive regimes to block international recognition and protection of LGBTQ people and families and oppose any recognition of women’s right to abortion.
- Sharon Slater, who runs Family Watch International, works with Ruse to oppose choice and LGBTQ equality within the UN system and other international bodies.
- Jim Garlow, a California pastor, anti-gay activist, and Trump booster who has said Christians do not have to follow laws or Supreme Court rulings that violate the laws of God.
- Alveda King, a member of the Trump-supporting POTUS Shield network, who said last year that Hillary Clinton wanted to “usher in the Antichrist.”
- Keith Mason of Personhood USA, which advocates for initiatives that would outlaw all abortion and threaten legal contraception, and has fought reproductive rights at the UN and in Europe.
- Janice Crouse, a longtime conservative activist who directed the 2015 World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, where she tried to play down the network’s anti-gay extremism. (Crouse’s husband Gilbert, an economist at HHS, is also on the speakers’ list; their daughter, anti-choice activist Charmaine Yoest, has been appointed by President Trump to a political position at HHS.)
- John Mueller of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who participated in a “demographic summit” sponsored by WCF Russian partner FamilyPolicy.ru.
- Josiah Trenham, a California-based Orthodox priest, who is a regular WCF speaker and a signer of the Cape Town Declaration, the International Organization for the Family’s anti-LGBTQ manifesto.
- Robert Oscar Lopez, an anti-marriage-equality activist who has compared gay parenting to slavery, was hired last year by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Ted Baehr and Robert Baehr of MovieGuide USA, which warned in 2014 that the sexual revolution was causing chaos and could lead to a Nazi military takeover of the U.S.
- Jack Hanick, a former Fox News producer who was hired by a Putin ally known as “God’s Oligarch” to create a conservative Orthodox television network modeled on Fox News.
- Matt Robbins, former president of American Majority, which has received millions from right-wing funders to help train conservative candidates; Robbins now works as a consultant.
- Lynn Wardle, an anti-marriage equality law professor at Brigham Young University who challenged right-wing Rep. Jason Chaffetz in 2012 from the right, portraying himself as a strong defender of the family and religious liberty.
- Patrick Fagan, formerly associated with the Free Congress Foundation, Heritage Foundation and Family Research Council, directs the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at the Catholic University of America. He has said the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn laws banning contraception because “functioning” societies should “punish” and “shame” people who have sex outside of marriage.
- Jor-El Godsey is president of Heartbeat International, a network of “pregnancy centers” that claims it can replace Planned Parenthood even though it does not offer or “promote” birth control.
Many of the speakers have attended previous World Congress of Families events, including last year’s WCF summit in Tbilisi, Georgia, at which a major theme was railing against the secular, decadent West, and the 2015 summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, the first to be held in the U.S.