'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

April 11, 2011

Beware of any religious organization with Family in its name

Chain the Dogma

Beware of any religious organization with Family in its name

by Perry Bulwer

That title may seem overly dramatic, but 'family' really is a loaded word today and not everyone promoting so-called family values is actually family-friendly or safe for children. This warning came too late for the St. Regis hotel in Vancouver that I recently discovered had donated rooms to a missionary family on their way to China. The hotel features them on their blog and Facebook page, without any apparent awareness that they are part of an extreme evangelical Christian cult that is responsible for tearing apart thousands of families, including my own, over the last four decades.

More on that particular family in a bit, but perhaps you are wondering if they are connected to one of the Family-named religious groups the Southern Poverty Law Center recently published an intelligence report on: 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda. The Center will be listing several of those groups as hate groups, including four with Family in their name: American Family Association, Family Research Council, Family Research Institute and Illinois Family Institute. A fifth group, Abiding Truth Ministries, has a website called Defend the Family, which promotes hate and bigotry. Online you will often find references to Defend the Family International, which is always a reference to that group, but commonly confused with The Family International, also known as the Children of God founded by David Berg. Likewise, The Family, the political cult in Washington is often confused with Berg's cult. I once saw a U.S. senator's website that was commenting on The Family political cult, but linked to The Family International's website.

Speaking of politics, a federal election is happening here in Canada right now and voters are being courted by the inevitable appeals and promises to families common to many electoral campaigns. Appealing to families makes political sense since almost everyone is or was part of a family, but not all politicians mean the same thing when they talk about families, which come in many forms. That fact seems to be lost in this election. Not only are the three main parties promoting family-friendly agendas, they have each used the same photo of a multicultural, middle-class family in their campaigns. Obviously, it is wise to be sceptical about such appeals and political promises in the midst of elections. Political promises are rarely kept, not all voters fit that demographic, and not all politicians mean the same thing when they talk about families.

In the U.S., President Obama recently concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and the government would no longer defend that law in court. In response to that a New York Times editorial stated: “Republicans like to cast themselves as the protectors of 'family values.' But ... [d]enying same-sex couples and their families the ... spousal benefits and protections granted other married couples is not a family-friendly policy. It is discrimination, plain and simple.” Someone should tell that to Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada who is trying to win a majority government in this election.

Although same sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2005, Stephen Harper attempted to reopen a parliamentary debate on the issue after he was elected Prime Minister in 2006. That never happened, as he was leading a minority government until this latest election was called so did not have the clout to pull it off, but it showed that he obviously did not agree with the Supreme Court that same sex couples were families too, with the same equal rights as other families. I doubt he has changed his mind on that as he is a member of the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance.

The Family International, a.k.a. the Children of God, was founded by David Berg who previous to that was briefly a pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (strange bedfellows, a pedophile cult leader and the Prime Minister of Canada). Partly because of negative publicity in the 1980s related to wide-spread child abuse, Berg, who died in 1994, changed the group's name to the more friendly sounding Family of Love, and then to The Family International. Berg's early followers were mostly single young adults and teens who were convinced by his dogmatic biblical literalism to leave their families to serve God in his 'Revolution for Jesus'. In those early days, Berg preached vehemently against the traditional family, using scripture to reinforce the idea that:

... God’s in the business of breaking up little selfish private worldly families to make of their yielded broken pieces a larger unit—one Family! He’s in the business of destroying the relationships of many wives in order to make them One Wife—God’s Wife—The Bride of Christ. God is not averse to breaking up selfish little families for His glory, to make of the pieces a much larger unselfish unit—the Whole Family—the entire Bride—the One Wife instead of many wives!

“One Wife” is one of The Family’s foundational doctrines, one of the most fundamental tenets of their theology. It is based on an internal document written by Berg to his followers, which remains required priority reading for new members and formed the basis for even more bizarre and controversial sexual doctrines. Far from institutionalizing the nuclear family, as one ignorant apologist falsely wrote about the group, The Family’s leadership has never hesitated to separate husbands and wives or manipulate the parent-child relationship. If The Family International places any importance at all in the nuclear family, it is only within the following context, described by Wendell W. Watters, M.D.:

The family plays powerful roles in human society. In addition to its nurturing and protective functions, the family is the primary agency for carrying out the socialization process by which social norms and values become incorporated into the character structure of the growing child. Indeed, so powerful is the family in human society that many revolutionary political movements have, in their initial stages, attempted to destroy its power to maintain the status quo, by appealing directly to children over the heads of their parents.
Jesus said: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). In another gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying: "For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-­in-law" (Matt. 10:35). The Hitler youth movement was a major component of Nazi policy, while the early years of the Communist government in the former Soviet Union were marked by an attempt to appeal directly to the young. The present-day religious cults are noted for creating rifts between parents and their adolescent children. However, once a movement achieves its revolutionary goals, as in the case of Christianity and communism, it reverses this position and attempts once more to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power.

Wendell Watters, M.D., Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992), 47-49.

That is exactly the pattern that Berg and his Christian evangelical cult followed. The only difference is that his 'Revolution for Jesus', which was supposed to herald the second coming of Jesus in 1993, with Berg and his Children of God as the vanguard, never materialized. Failed predictions do not stop evangelicals, however. After changing their name to The Family International, they now try to have it both ways. They continue to encourage teens and young adults to leave and even hate their families just like Jesus said, while at the same time promoting in their public relations websites and materials a false image of a child-friendly, family-focused missionary movement.

The blog for the St. Regis Hotel in Vancouver provides an example of that false image. The hotel management proudly proclaims it donated two nights stay for a missionary family with eight children on their way to China. The blog post describes their mission project: “EPIC (Empowering Parents in China) is a grassroots effort to provide Chinese parents with supplemental programs to help develop a more child-focused teaching methods...”. The post then tells us that: “Their mission is tied into the umbrella group The Family International...”. The blog post includes a photo of the family and to the uninformed they look so sweet and harmless, until you scratch the surface and begin looking a little deeper, which the hotel management failed to do. That is why my title warns not to trust religious groups with Family in their name.

Deceiving businesses has always been one of the main sources of support since the inception of The Family International as the Children of God. Even as Jesus Freaks in the early days, while most members were proselytizing on the streets, some specialized in soliciting directly from businesses. They would dress in business attire and use slick promotional materials and deceptive presentations, almost always featuring photos of children, to con companies into giving goods or money. They have had decades to perfect this fraud. Those donations are always used for the group's benefit, contrary to their usual claims that they are helping others. And even in cases where they do pass on some of the goods to others, they usually skim off the best for themselves first, which has been their practice all over the world. They then use the fact a company has donated to them as proof of their legitimacy for other companies they are targeting, or to win approval or favour from local authorities in their community.

I am certain that is what happened at the St. Regis Hotel. The manager was duped, with the help of smiling children, into helping them instead of being suspicious about a family that would take eight young children to China in the middle of the school year and with no apparent means of support other than begging. He apparently simply took their word that they were part of a legitimate group without doing any kind of background check, or if he did he didn't get past the first few online search results, which are the group's own websites. If he had looked just a little deeper he could have easily found all kinds of information warning about the terrible abuses of children The Family International is infamous for.

He also would have a difficult time finding any information at all about EPIC, the so-called grassroots project to provide child-focused teaching methods. First of all, the fact they call it a grassroots project ought to have aroused suspicion. If it has grassroots it probably has no transparency or accountability to anyone. Calling themselves a grassroots project is just another example of the obfuscation this group uses to deceive people about who they really are. It must have been enough for the manager to hear that they were tied to a large missionary group, but if he had looked into that group first he would have learned that The Family International, far from using child-focused teaching methods, denied true intellectual freedom to an entire generation of children who were forbidden to attend school or university. They were home-schooled by untrained teachers with an inadequate curriculum that was intended to indoctrinate rather than educate. But the manager did not do that background check and now his hotel is being used to promote, both on its blog and Facebook page, the activities of a notoriously abusive group founded by an alcoholic pedophile responsible for tearing apart thousands of families.

By the way, I posted two comments to the blog and emailed the manager twice, once with links to information about the group, and again without links to avoid any spam filter. Not only were my comments not published, but a comment most likely from another group member supporting that family was published. So far, the manager seems unconcerned that he is providing public relations cover for a child abusing organization. Perhaps more comments from the public on the hotel's blog and Facebook page will help convince him to stop promoting child abuse.

UPDATE:  April 18, 2011

After I published this article the manager of St. Regis Hotel, Jeremy Roncoroni, finally contacted me by email to explain that the reason he did not approve the comments I submitted to the hotel's blog was because he did not want that blog to be a forum for discussion of the issues I raised. However, he did approve a positive comment about the group after he censored mine, and his email contained no indication that he would take further action. He merely excused himself by saying that "the family in question came to us through a personal request" as if that explained and excused everything. As I told him in reply, he seemed to be missing the point of my comments, which was to inform the hotel's management that they were providing support and positive public relations for a deceptive religious group with a long history of well documented child abuse.  I did not think it was necessary for me to spell it out for him and ask him to remove the post from his blog, but because he had ignored the information I had sent him (he either did not understand or did not care) I did have to specifically ask him. After he received my reply, in which I provided personal details of my own abuse in and recovery from The Family International, he responded less than an hour later, simply stating, "the blog has been removed, thank you". He gave no indication he would do the same for the posting that appears on the hotel's Facebook page.


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  1. Religious belief ought to be considered as a form of insanity.

  2. http://www.alternet.org/story/151584/how_the_right-wing_group_behind_michele_bachmann%27s_creepy_porn_pledge_pushes_female_submission

    Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have signed on to the para-church group's “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY” – a right-wing political policy document which calls on candidates to support a federal "Marriage Amendment," oppose same-sex marriages, pornography, abortion, no-fault divorce and adultery and to encourage "robust childbearing and reproduction" in order to ensure U.S. global economic and political domination.

    The public outrage is justified. The Marriage Vow pledge, which ironically makes a show of rejecting “Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control" is one of the most misogynistic and totalitarian political policy proposals in recent history.

  3. China media: Doomsday cult wants to slay 'red dragon' Communist Party

    By Reuters NBCNews.com (blog)December 14, 2012

    BEIJING -- China has launched a crackdown on a religious group it says is a cult that has called for a "decisive battle" to slay the "Big Red Dragon" of the Communist Party and spread doomsday rumors, state media said Friday.

    In recent weeks, hundreds of members of the "Almighty God" group have clashed with police, sometimes outside government buildings, in central Henan, northern Shaanxi and southwestern Gansu provinces, according to photos on popular microblogs.

    The group has "incited followers to launch a decisive battle with the 'Big Red Dragon' to make the 'Red Dragon' extinct and to establish the reign of the kingdom of the 'Almighty God,'" the provincial Shaanxi Daily said on its website.

    It added that the sect's followers have been distributing leaflets saying that the world will end in 2012.

    Sect leaders executed
    China's Communist Party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability.

    It has particularly taken aim at groups it considers to be cults, which have multiplied across the country in recent years.

    Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

    "The State Bureau of Religious Affairs has already documented the group's cult nature, has outlawed it and is presently harshly cracking down," the Shaanxi Daily said.
    It did not say how many followers the sect had.

    The State Bureau of Religious Affairs did not answer repeated calls from Reuters seeking comment.

    Former President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign in 1999 to crush the Falun Gong religious group, banning it as an "evil cult."

    This happened after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.


  4. "The Family International, also known as the Children of God founded by David Berg. ...The Family, the political cult in Washington is often confused with Berg's cult. I once saw a U.S. senator's website that was commenting on The Family political cult, but linked to The Family International's website."

    How can you be sure it isn't affiliated? I'm not so sure.

    1. You are right to be skeptical. I can't be sure either. When I wrote that I was just referring to the apparent differences in those organizations with similar names, which can easily confuse people. More in-depth research might very well expose connections. If you're familiar with the history of the Children of God, now The Family International, you know that infiltrating the power elite, whether political or military, was (is?) one of their evangelical tactics.

  5. Everything you need to know about the anti LGBTQ World Congress of Families (WCF)

    Southern Poverty Law Center, October 21, 2015

    The following research was compiled in collaboration with Ipas, Political Research Associates, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    The World Congress of Families (WCF) is one of the key driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right’s global export of homophobia and sexism.

    From its headquarters in Rockford, Illinois, WCF pursues an international anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ agenda, seeking to promote conservative ideologies—and codify these in regressive laws and policies—that dictate who has rights as “family,” and who doesn’t.


    A project of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, WCF was founded in 1997 by conservative Christian scholar Allan Carlson, who is retiring as president of both organizations. Carlson—a champion of what WCF dubs the “natural family”—argued that heterosexual, procreative marriage is the “bulwark of ordered liberty” and that its preservation and promotion is the only way to prevent a future marked by “catastrophic population decline, economic contraction, and human tragedy” (all symptoms of the “evils” of feminism, socialism, and secularism).

    “We envision a culture—found both locally and universally—that upholds the marriage of a woman to a man, and a man to a woman, as the central aspiration for the young.”

    -From The Natural Family: A Manifesto, by Allan Carlson and Paul Mero

    Using deceptive “pro-family” rhetoric, WCF’s campaign for the “natural family” is being used to promote new laws justifying the criminalization of LGBTQ people and abortion, effectively unleashing a torrent of destructive anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation, persecution, and violence around the world that ultimately damages—and seeks to dismantle—any and all “nontraditional” families (e.g. single parents, same-sex couples, grandparents, non-biological guardians, etc.).

    WCF’s international conferences, or “Congresses,” function as key sites of right-wing strategy development and dissemination. These events typically attract thousands of participants, and build WCF’s international influence by bringing together sympathetic elected officials, religious leaders, scientists, scholars, and civil society from around the world. The headlining speakers are typically high profile leaders of the U.S. Christian Right, representing larger, better-resourced organizations that sign on as WCF partners.

    WCF international convenings:

    1997 – Prague
    1999 – Geneva
    2004 – Mexico City
    2007 – Warsaw
    2009 – Amsterdam
    2012 – Madrid
    2013 – Sydney
    2014 – Moscow*
    2015 – Salt Lake City

    A substantial part of WCF’s modest budget comes from membership dues contributed by these partners. The list of official WCF partners includes many of the leading right-wing organizations in the U.S., including Alliance Defending Freedom, Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, Family Research Council, Family Watch International, Focus on the Family, and National Organization for Marriage. The combined annual budget for WCF’s partner network amounts to over $200 million.

    Key Partners include:

    Alliance Defending Freedom (Scottsdale, AZ)
    Americans United for Life (DC)
    The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (NYC & DC)
    Concerned Women for America (DC)
    The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (Nashville, TN & DC)
    Family Research Council (DC)
    Family Watch International (Gilbert, AZ)
    Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO)
    Human Life International (Front Royal, VA)
    National Organization for Marriage (DC)
    Population Research Institute (Front Royal, VA)
    Priests for Life (Staten Island, NY)

    continued below

  6. In addition to large-scale international gatherings, WCF seeks to promote its global war on women and LGBTQ people by influencing policy at the United Nations and through smaller, regional events. In 2009, WCF hosted its first African conference in Abuja, Nigeria, and with the help of partner organizations, WCF is eagerly expanding its influence throughout the Global South.

    Several of WCF’s smaller conferences have also taken place in Russia, contributing to the increasingly anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ climate there. WCF’s 2014 Congress was scheduled to take place in Moscow, but the event was ostensibly cancelled due to concerns over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In fact, the meetings went ahead as scheduled, disguised under a different name: “Large Families and the Future of Humanity International Forum,” held the same dates that WCF VIII was originally scheduled, despite international concerns regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty.

    Human Rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International have consistently observed that wherever they go, WCF and its network represent a grave threat to the human rights of LGBTQ people and women. This battle has historically taken place in conservative, international venues, offering speakers and participants an element of impunity—what’s said in the company of friends, outside the media spotlight and beyond the critical gaze of human rights defenders, often goes unchallenged. Now, for the first time since its formation, WCF is hosting one of its large-scale convenings here in the United States.

    Among the featured speakers scheduled to present at WCF IX (October 27-30, 2015 in Salt Lake City, UT) are some of the U.S. Right’s leading opponents of LGBTQ and reproductive justice. They include Brian Brown, Austin Ruse, Samuel Rodriguez, and Sharon Slater—individuals who have made it their business to cultivate cultures of violence and persecution for LGBTQ people and women around the world.

    Featured WCF IX Speakers include:

    Gary Herbert, Governor of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
    Glenn Stanton, Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO)
    Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage (Washington, DC)
    Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (Sacramento, CA)
    Austin Ruse, C-Fam: The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (New York City, NY)
    Stan Swim, Sutherland Institute (Salt Lake City, UT)
    Sharon Slater, Family Watch International (Gilbert, AZ)
    Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life (Washington, DC)
    Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz (Carrollton, TX)
    Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council (Washington, DC)
    Mark Regnerus, Austin Institute (Austin, TX)
    Lila Rose, Live Action (Washington, DC)
    Alveda King, Priests for Life (Staten Island, NY)
    Eric Teesel, Manhattan Declaration (New York City, NY)
    Mark Tooley, Institute on Religion & Democracy (Washington, DC)
    Steve Mosher, Population Research Institute (Washington, DC)

    Sponsoring and active groups in the World Congress of Families

    Alliance Defending Freedom

    The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is a $40 million per year organization based in Scottsdale, AZ. It was founded in 1994 by a cohort of some 30 leaders in the Christian Right to defend religious freedom, including such luminaries as the late D. James Kennedy (of the former Coral Ridge Ministries; now D. James Kennedy Ministries), Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and American Family Association founder Don Wildmon. It has a staff of at least 40 in-house lawyers and a network of over 2,400 allied lawyers. Its board of directors is stacked with partners from powerful law firms and captains of industry.

    continued below

  7. When working inside the U.S., ADF paints itself as a bulwark against threats to “religious liberty” and is staunchly anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ. It has battled adoption rights and fostering of children for gay parents, fought against LGBTQ people serving openly in the U.S. military, and involved itself in litigation that would continue to criminalize sex between consenting gay or lesbian adults.

    Having made significant inroads domestically, ADF moved into Europe, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and now this year into Latin America. ADF’s roster of over 2,400 affiliated lawyers claim to have been involved in over 500 cases in six continents and 41 countries.

    In 2012, ADF opened their first international office in Vienna, Austria, which enabled them to easily toggle between the various European courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. They have also inserted themselves at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna, the European Parliament in Brussels, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. When seeking to influence law or an election in these countries, as was the case in Slovakia recently when the group opposed a ballot question expanding human rights, ADF will contract a local political or religious leader to become the face of their initiative.

    ADF has recently become active at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the judicial agency responsible for monitoring human rights accountability in Latin America, and the Organization of American States. In 2013, ADF successfully lobbied Latin American delegates at the OAS to kill a treaty that included provisions that could have stemmed the growing violence against LGBTQ people in those countries.

    Additionally, The group has an office at the United Nations, where it holds consultative status.

    Attorney Alan Sears is the current CEO and president; he served in numerous positions in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations as well as in the Department of Justice under Edwin Meese. In 2004, Sears co-wrote a book called The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Liberty, in which he and his co-author Craig Osten (ADF vice president) claim that homosexual behavior on campus “has taken a dangerous new turn” and promotes pedophilia. The two are, they claim, “intrinsically linked.”

    ADF has been a partner of World Congress of Families through the years, most recently listed on the 2014 partners’ list. This year, as last year, ADF’s chief counsel and ADF International executive director Benjamin Bull, who in 2013 applauded India’s ban on consensual sex between gay adults, served on the WCF-IX planning committee.

    Americans United for Life (AUL)

    Founded in 1971, the self-proclaimed “legal architects of the prolife movement” AUL is a Washington, D.C.-based ultra conservative organization that supports a broad spectrum of initiatives against sexual and reproductive rights under the banner of “helping” women. This includes developing conservative model legislation, lawyer trainings, attempting to tear down Planned Parenthood through conspiracy theories, and supporting so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which attempt to counsel women out of abortions. Ultimately, AUL’s goal is to end all abortions in the United States—even in cases of rape or incest—under the claim that doing so is “beneficial” to women and their health.

    continued below

  8. Although AUL claims to work internationally, most of its legislative work is U.S.-focused, with particular success working against abortion rights at the state level. Each year since 2005, AUL has put together a workbook for legislators titled Defending Life, which includes a compendium of draft bills to guide conservative lawmakers as they develop their own anti-abortion proposals. In 2014, AUL claimed responsibility for contributing to more than one third of all the anti-abortion bills enacted since 2010. In 2014, the Guttmacher Institute, which supports sexual and reproductive health, reported that “more state level abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011-2013 than in the previous decade.”

    Charmaine Yoest, daughter of well known antiabortion activist Janice Shaw Crouse (the executive director of this year’s World Congress of Families gathering) has led AUL for the last seven years. Yoest has a background in politics; she has worked for the Reagan administration and supported Mike Hukabee’s 2008 presidential campaign. Prior to her leadership of AUL, Yoest was the Family Research Council’s vice president for communications. The New York Times described her in 2012 as “sounding reasonable rather than extreme,” though she wants to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape or incest, opposes birth control, and claims that embryos have legal rights. Yoest will be speaking at WCF-9.

    Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam)

    C-Fam, as it’s known, was originally established in 1997 as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (known initially under the acronym CAFHRI), and had ties to the extreme anti-abortion group Human Life International (HLI) and HLI-Canada. Now, as then, C-Fam’s mission is “to monitor and affect the social policy debate at the United Nations and other international institutions,” which they do, often engaging in disruptive tactics and strident language as well as spreading false claims in its battles against feminism, abortion, reproductive rights, and LGBT people.

    C-Fam maintains offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., but it’s also extremely active around the world. Austin Ruse took over as C-Fam director in 1997, less than two months after its initial director Ann Noonan was fired. Ruse’s background is in journalism, prior to becoming, as he put it, “a professional Catholic” involved in religious and political activism.

    Ruse -- C-Fam’s most visible spokesman -- has made many inflammatory statements over the years, including a claim that a priest from the Holy See delegation at the UN guaranteed him absolution if he “took [Hilary Clinton] out -- and not on a date.” Last year, while hosting a show on American Family Radio, he said that “hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.” He has also publicly voiced support for Russia’s draconian anti-LGBT laws and called “‘the homosexual lifestyle’ harmful to public health and morals.”

    Ruse, who has been on the WCF planning committee for fifteen years, is chairing a panel at the WCF conference this year. His wife, Cathy Ruse, who is senior counsel at the Family Research Council, is speaking on another panel.

    Focus on the Family (FOTF)

    Focus on the Family (FOTF) is one of the largest and most influential evangelical organizations in the United States, with a total revenue of over $88 million reported in 2013. It maintains a massive web presence and produces several programs that air on Christian radio stations around the world. In addition to its Colorado Springs, Colorado headquarters, FOTF has affiliate offices in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan.

    continued below

  9. Founded by anti LGBTQ Christian author and psychologist James Dobson in 1977 and currently led by Jim Daly, Focus on the Family has fought against global LGBTQ equality and reproductive rights for decades. Glenn Stanton, the organization’s “director of global family formation studies” has described homosexuality as abhorrent: “It’s a particularly evil lie of Satan because he knows that it overthrows the very image of the Trinitarian God in creation, revealed in the union of male and female.” He’s also suggested that same-sex parenting turns children into “human guinea pigs.”

    Tom Minnery, then FOTF’s senior vice president, was a member of the WCF III planning committee. That same year,In 2004 FOTF launched Focus on the Family Action—now known as CitizenLink—to further promote its Christian Right agenda. CitizenLink is the organization’s political arm, working to “advance Christian values in laws, elections and our culture.” Currently, there are 38 state-based Family Policy Councils formally associated with CitizenLink. With the support and guidance of CitizenLink, these affiliates’ campaign efforts include eliminating abortion access, enforcing abstinence-only sex ed, restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, and promoting creationism in schools.

    FOTF continues to promote harmful and pseudoscientific “ex-gay” therapy. It partnered with (now-defunct) Exodus International in 1998 on a national advertising campaign arguing that gay and lesbian people could become heterosexual. From 1998 to 2010, FOTF collaborated with Exodus and “ex-gay” pseudoscience purveyors at the National Organization for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) on a series of “ex-gay” conferences called “Love Won Out.” FOTF also created Spanish-language versions of “Love Won Out” for Latin American audiences. After Exodus’ executive director, Alan Chambers, backed away from previous claims of a “cure” for homosexuality in 2012, FOTF shifted its support to Restored Hope Network, Exodus’ hardline successor.

    FOTF first joined forces with WCF as a co-sponsor for WCF III in 2004. Glenn Stanton is a featured speaker at WCF IX.

    Family Watch International (FWI)

    Family Watch International’s director Sharon Slater attended WCF’s 1999 convening in Geneva, Switzerland, and the event launched this suburban Mormon mom into a life of Christian Right activism. She founded Family Watch International (FWI) in Gilbert, Arizona that same year, and currently claims the group has members and supporters in over 170 countries. FWI maintains a small budget and low domestic profile, but it is highly active internationally and at the United Nations (UN), where it operates under the name Global Helping to Advance Women and Children (Global HAWC).

    Though she presents herself as a humanitarian and advocate for women, children, and families, Slater is an aggressive anti-LGBTQ anti-choice activist. “Policy briefs” available on the FWI website claim that children raised in same-sex households have “serious problems” and support discredited and often dangerous “ex-gay” therapy to try to make people heterosexual. While claiming that FWI does not condone violence against “homosexuals and transgenders,” Slater has compared homosexuality to “incest, sexual abuse, and rape . . . drug dealing, assaults, and other crimes.”

    Through Slater’s work at the UN—which she uses to claim “expert” status on UN policy—and her networking across the African continent (facilitated in part by WCF), she exerts substantial international influence on issues such as family planning, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ rights. She also exploits FWI’s UN consultative status to limit the advancement of comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services including abortion, and basic rights and protections for LGBTQ people.

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  10. As the keynote speaker at a Nigerian Bar Association conference in 2011, Slater reportedly urged delegates to resist pressure from the UN to decriminalize homosexuality. She also said that they risked losing their religious and parental rights for endorsing “fictitious sexual rights,” such as the right to engage in same-sex relationships without facing imprisonment.

    FWI and the UN Family Rights Caucus—also led by Slater—will co-host a “Family Rights Leadership Summit” in Salt Lake City, on Monday, October 26, the day before WCF IX begins. At previous closed-door events like this, FWI has brought together UN delegates from around the world to equip them with the language, tools, and strategies of the U.S. Christian Right’s agenda.

    Human Life International (HLI)

    Founded by Father Paul Marx in 1981, Human Life International (HLI) garnered a reputation for its extreme, hyperbolic pronouncements and conspiracy theories against abortion. Often opting for shock over substance, HLI has over the years mailed graphic medical images, displayed fetuses in jars to schoolchildren, appropriated the Holocaust to describe abortion and stem cell research, and claimed that Jews led the pro-choice movement. It is, however, one of the oldest and largest US clergy-led anti-abortion organizations working overseas.

    Since 2011, HLI has been headed by Father Shenan J. Boquet. HLI is primarily focused on anti-abortion efforts, but its outreach has also included working against LGBT rights. HLI’s has built a cadre of committed anti-abortion priests overseas, by hosting large international conferences, providing trainings, creating and distributing educational materials, supporting so-called crisis pregnancy centers that counsel women against abortion, and opening global field missions. Their three main offices are in Front Royal, Virginia,; Miami, Florida (this office is focused on outreach in Latin America and the Caribbean); and Rome, Italy. HLI has regional programs and many affiliated organizations in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. It is currently most active in Africa.

    HLI is also active at the regional level, especially in Latin America. They are increasing their work with the Organization of American States (OAS). In April 2015, it participated at the OAS Seventh Summit of the Americas weeks before the General Assembly in Washington (2015).

    In past years, HLI has participated in World Congress of Family gatherings and signed on to anti-abortion public statements issued by WCF. This year, both HLI’s director of mission communications and its director of international coordination are speaking at WCF.

    National Organization for Marriage (NOM)

    The National Organization for Marriage was formed in 2007 specifically to pass California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in that state. Since its founding, NOM has worked tirelessly against marriage equality, civil unions legislation, and adoption of children by same-sex parents.

    The founding board of NOM included right-wing heavy hitters Luis Tellez (Opus Dei, Witherspoon Institute); Maggie Gallagher (longtime conservative pundit); and Robert George (chairman of the board emeritus). George is a law professor at Princeton and one of the drafters of the so-called Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto that calls for conservative Christians to engage in civil disobedience against laws if they disagree with them. Robert George, as head of the Witherspoon Institute, commissioned the widely-debunked Mark Regnerus study which used erroneous data to claim that children do not do well with same-sex parents. George also leveraged his position on the editorial board of the Mormon-owned Deseret News to have that paper be the first to cover the release of the study.

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  11. Since 2011, Brian Brown, former director of the Family Institute of Connecticut and a co-founder of NOM, has served as the group’s president. Since it was formed, NOM has involved itself in myriad state battles over marriage equality, while also refusing to release its donor lists, often in violation of state campaign laws. After a five-year battle with Maine, NOM finally released its list in August of 2015. Since 2012, the group’s funding has been precarious; barely making $5 million in 2013, when it also cut ties to its educational project, the Ruth Institute.

    Over the past few years, as more states started to recognize marriage equality, Brown has shifted NOM’s focus overseas. He worked closely with the French anti-LGBTQ movement in 2013, and also addressed a committee of the Russian parliament regarding Russian adoption bans, in which he spoke about the dangers of allowing gay people to adopt children, saying that “every child should have normal parents.”

    Brown was also on the WCF planning committee in 2014 in Moscow, Russia, and he will be speaking at WCF IX.

    Sutherland Institute

    The Sutherland Institute is a conservative public policy think tank based in Salt Lake City, Utah that opened in 1995 with the primary objective of influencing public policy in the state with its hardline conservative agenda. Named in honor of George Sutherland, one of four justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who tried to strike down Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, the Institute is a member of the ultra-conservative State Policy Network (SPN).

    The Center for Media & Democracy (CMD) reported in 2013 that SPN and its affiliates push a right-wing agenda that aims to curtail things like marriage equality and healthcare reform. The Sutherland Institute’s website addresses several issues and includes long “fact sheets” that attempt to explain how granting LGBT people the right to not be fired or denied housing is granting them “special rights.”

    Sutherland’s former president, Paul Mero, also served as vice president of WCF’s parent organization, the Howard Center, and is still active in WCF’s executive committee. Mero worked for former Congressman William Dannemeyer, for whom he “co-ghost wrote” a book warning of the dangers of gay rights in America. Dannemeyer once stated that those with AIDS shouldn’t work around newborns because they “emit a spore” that causes birth defects. Under Mero’s leadership, the Sutherland Institute was one of the leading opponents of the campaign to protect LGBTQ Utahns from discrimination, which also served to act as a trial balloon for the national Christian Right’s talking points surround religious exemptions from civil rights laws for individuals and business owners.

    In 2013, Sutherland Institute partnered with a Focus on the Family affiliate, the local Eagle Forum, and United Families International (among others) to launch the Fair to All campaign, which claimed that laws banning businesses from hiring or firing people (gay or straight) because of their sexual orientation was akin to creating “special rights.” It also pushed the argument that a business owner’s religious beliefs should exempt them from being bound by civil rights laws.

    Following Mero’s sudden departure from the Sutherland Institute in August 2014, Stanford Swim—son of the Institute’s founder—and a member of the Howard Center’s board since 2007—stepped in as interim president. Swim also serves as president of the GFC (God, Family, Country) Foundation, whose largest contributions go to the Sutherland Institute. Swim is chairman of the WCF IX organizing committee and will be a featured speaker.

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  12. United Families International UFI

    Based in Gilbert, Arizona, United Families International has its roots in two separate organizations founded in 1978 by longtime activists Susan Roylance , (currently on the board of World Congress of Families) and Jan Clark. By 1983 the two organizations merged to become United Families of America. The name changed in 1995 as the organization expanded its focus outside the United States to combat perceived threats to the “natural family” (see glossary).

    Those threats, according to UFI, include pornography, “explicit” sex education programs (UFI promotes “abstinence only”), and “homosexual activism.” UFI also opposes abortion and feminism (it fears feminism eliminates gender), and worked against the ratification of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2008. UFI is extremely active at the United Nations, where it holds consultative status with the Economic and Social Counsel. It has sent teams to major UN conferences and has represented itself around the world, where it claims it is “working to educate delegates from many countries on the issues affecting families.”

    On its website, UFI provides “educational materials,” like its 35-page report on sexual orientation that claims differing sexual orientations are “developmental disorders” that can be “prevented or successfully treated.” The report provides a litany of damaging falsehoods about homosexuality, including such claims as “pedophilia is widespread among the homosexual community;” that gay people are a danger to children and should not be allowed to adopt; that gay people experience “high rates of promiscuity;” and that homosexuality is “destructive” to society.

    United Families Utah director Laura Bunker became the president of UFI in 2013. She announced in January 2015 that UFI now has a South Korea chapter.

    Over the years, UFI has worked with WCF, serving as co-convener for a 2002 WCF special session in New York City, where Janet Museveni, the first lady of Uganda, spoke. UFI was listed in 2014 as a WCF partner and was involved in the planning for WCF-IX.

    Glossary of terms used by World Congress of Families

    Words matter. The attachment of particular beliefs and ideologies to certain words, phrases, and images serves as a powerful form of communication, and an important part of most campaign strategies. Just as advertising seeks to link certain language to particular products, in politics, certain messages are forever associated with set ideological frameworks.

    The World Congress of Families (WCF) functions to propagate certain associations to its various partners and participants in an effort to control its message. The language WCF uses is intended to define the terms of debate in such a way that it favors the agenda set forth by the Religious Right while disguising its anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice underpinnings with seemingly innocuous terms. The following glossary seeks to clarify the meaning and intention behind select words and phrases used by WCF and its partners.


    WCF defines the “natural family” as the “fundamental social unit of society,” and describes a family unit as one that is centered on “the voluntary union of a man and a woman in a lifelong covenant of marriage.” According to WCF, one of the primary purposes of this union is to “welcom[e] and ensur[e] the full physical and emotional development of children.”

    This definition is problematic because it excludes families created by gay and lesbian couples, single parents, grandparents, extended families, and countless other formations. In doing so, it attempts to write “nontraditional” families out of existence by denying them visibility, access to resources, and rights.


    In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), “family” is defined as “the natural and fundamental group unit of society …

  13. ... entitled to protection by society and the State.” WCF attempts to manipulate the UDHR’s language in order to validate and promote its “natural family” agenda.

    The insertion of “family rights” into international policy is part of a long-term effort on the part of WCF and like-minded organizations to deny human rights protections to LGBTQ people, and others, who don’t fit their definition of “natural family.” By asserting and prioritizing the rights of a social institution (the family), conservative factions are effectively neglecting the human rights of individuals—particularly individuals subject to violence, abuse, and neglect within families.


    The concept of complementarity is used to reinforce notions of gender essentialism—that men and women are fundamentally different and that distinctions between masculine and feminine characteristics are ordained by God as part of the created order. Thus, only men and women are intended for intimate partnership.

    This rhetoric is used to discount LGBTQ partnerships, suggesting that same-sex relationships are contrary to nature, “ill-fitting”, and therefore wrong. The idea of gender essentialism is increasingly invoked by the Christian Right as they shift their attention toward trans and gender-nonconforming people—newly popularized scapegoats as marriage equality expands.


    The Religious Right is increasingly using existing constitutional protections of freedom to (and from) religion to assert that one’s “deeply held religious convictions” are just cause for—among other things—denying services to LGBTQ people and refusing to provide reproductive healthcare that includes contraception and abortion.

    While true religious freedom—as originally written into law by Thomas Jefferson—was designed to be a shield for all individuals’ beliefs and non-beliefs against both imposition against them by the government and imposition by them towards others, this new redefinition of religious freedom functions as a “right to discriminate,” allowing conservative Christian individuals and business owners to wield their beliefs like a sword against others. Laws that were originally intended to protect religious minorities are now manipulated, inverting who is the oppressor and who is the victim. Having lost a great deal of ground in the fight against LGBTQ rights in recent years, and without any prospects of overturning civil rights laws directly, the Christian Right is swiftly seeking to undermine or circumnavigate human rights by elevating one particular belief set over all others in the law.


    The term “demographic winter” is used in reference to the notion that the human species is doomed to disaster because of an imminent and radical population decline. Demographic winter alarmists—led by WCF partners such as the Population Research Institute—suggest that abortion, birth control, homosexuality, feminism and other ”unnatural” deviations have led to this crisis for the ”natural family.”

    Ample research has repudiated arguments that demographic shifts will result in “global catastrophe” (as WCF communications director Don Feder has warned). In many Western nations, where non-white immigrant population growth is outpacing white birthrates, demographic winter warnings are tied to nativist fears of cultural shifts that are ultimately rooted in white supremacy, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. The rhetoric often invokes right-wing Christian ideology, suggesting that the “sexual revolution,” feminism, and the widespread cultural decision of women to limit their fertility are the egregious sins to be blamed for the pending fall of civilization.