American Center for Law and Justice

New Anti-Gay Initiatives In Europe Backed By American Religious Right

We wrote last week about the resurgent anti-LGBT, anti-contraception and anti-reproductive choice Religious Right political movement in Europe and their mutually supportive relationships with their American counterparts – part of an increasingly global culture war targeting LGBT people and reproductive health. As conservative culture warriors from around the world arrive in Salt Lake City for the World Congress of Families, there’s new evidence of this trans-Atlantic cooperation.

A group of European activists has submitted a proposed initiative under the European citizens’ initiative process to define “family” in European Union law. Marriage would be defined as a union between a man and a woman, and family would be based on marriage and/or descent.

The effort, being organized as the “Mum, Dad & Kids” initiative, includes this nugget in its legislative language, following a recitation of references to family in international agreements and familiar assertions that families are not about the feeling between adults but the relationship between parents and children:

It therefore appears adequate and reasonable to provide a specific legal status with specific protections to the union between a man and a woman; It appears equally adequate and reasonable that an equal status and equal protections should not be provided to other life forms that are different in fact and purpose from marriage.

The proposal would allow member states to have more inclusive definitions of marriage within their borders, but they would not be recognized under European Union law, and other countries would not be required to recognize them.

More specifically, the Mum, Dad & Kids proposal would eliminate Article 2 (2) of a 2004 European Union directive on freedom of movement within member states, which includes as part of its definition of family member a person in a registered partnership relationship that one of the member states treats as the equivalent of marriage. Similarly, it would eliminate from a 2012 directive on support for victims of crime a definition of family members that includes “the spouse, the person who is living with the victim in a committed intimate relationship, in a joint household and on a stable and continuous basis, the relatives in direct line, the siblings and the dependents of the victim.”

It is worth noting here that the World Congress of Families says it would never support a policy that “brings harm to innocent individuals.”

The Citizens’ Committee proposing the Mum, Dad & Kids initiative includes people connected to the World Congress of Families and American Religious Right groups. Among the members of the committee are:

Hildingsson opposes promotion of “gender ideology” and opposed the marriage equality referendum in Ireland. Her group worked with a global coalition of conservative groups to oppose an inclusive definition of family in the United Nations during deliberations on sustainable development goals. This summer, she met with Orthodox Church leaders from Europe and Russia to strategize against efforts by the European Union that aim, in the words of a report on the meeting, “to destroy the traditional notions of marriage and family and to legalize surrogate motherhood and abortion."

  • Grégor Puppinck directs the European Centre for Law and Justice, an arm of the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice. He was president of One of Us, an anti-abortion citizens’ initiative campaign – essentially an effort to grant full legal personhood to an embryo -- that was ultimately rejected by the European Commission but was an effective organizing, social media, and list-building effort for its promoters, collecting 1.8 million signatures. The One of Us Federation is now planning its first European Forum in Paris in January 2016.
  • Roger Kiska has a trifecta of Religious Right associations: he got his law degree from the far-right Catholic Ave Maria School of Law, worked at the European affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice, and now serves in Vienna as senior counsel and deputy director of ADF International – the global arm of the U.S. based Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
  • Ludovine de La Rochère, president of La Manif Pour Tous, the group that organized massive anti-marriage-equality rallies in France and has inspired anti-gay activists in Europe and Russia. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has worked closely with La Manif Pour Tous.
  • Edit Frivaldszky led efforts in Hungary for the One of Us initiative, and now directs the Human Dignity center, a non-profit organization for the protection of family and life.” She has been promoting a CitizenGo petition against sex education under the banner of stopping the spread of “gender ideology”— the European right-wing umbrella term for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

World Congress of Families Culture Warriors Battle Repro, LGBT Rights In Europe With Help From US Friends

This is one in a series of posts about the upcoming World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. Read our introduction to the World Congress of Families here.

Americans have long viewed Europe as a stronghold of progressive social policies. But as BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reported last year, there is a resurgent Religious Right political movement in Europe whose advocates draw moral, strategic, and financial support from their allies in the United States, including the American Center for Law and Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom and Personhood USA.

In Europe the culture war is taking the form of attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights — even sex education — or what conservative Catholics and their allies collectively deride as “gender ideology.” Right-wing groups are active at the European Union, Council of Europe, European Parliament and other international institutions. The ACLJ’s European branch led the signature drive for the “One of Us” campaign — an anti-abortion effort that used a new European Citizens Initiative process. The initiative was rejected but the organizing that went into it has energized anti-choice activists — the Knights of Columbus called it “the revitalization of Europe.”The World Congress of Families facilitates this reactionary cross-fertilization with conservative groups from around the world.

Earlier this year, the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) released a report on the growing threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union which also documented global connections among conservative groups and activists.  Also this year, voters in Slovakia passed a referendum to put a ban on marriage by same-sex couples in the country’s constitution, an effort supported by American groups including the WCF, Alliance Defending Freedom, CitizenGo, Personhood USA, and the World Congress of Families. Several years ago, many of the same people signed a petition supporting Romania’s constitutional amendment on marriage, which stated that “equating same-sex couples with families can only weaken the natural family — which does society’s vital work of procreation and childrearing.”

The World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City next week features a number of speakers who are intimately involved in this push to restrict access to abortion and prevent advances in LGBT equality.

As we noted in an earlier post, WCF will honor Luca Giuseppe Volonté of Italy’s Novae Terrae Foundation and Andrea Williams of UK’s Christian Concern. Williams, who allies with Alliance Defending Freedom, has encouraged Jamaica to continue criminalizing same-sex intimacy. Volonté, who is affiliated with a variety of right-wing groups, says conservatives in Europe are resisting marriage equality because they experience it as a “totalitarian” ideology.

Another speaker is Ignacio Arsuaga, the founder of CitizenGo and HazteOír, groups designed to bring online organizing techniques to European culture-war conservatives.  HazteOír made a name for itself mobilizing protesters against liberalized abortion legislation in Spain in 2010, and hosted the 2012 World Congress of Families in Madrid. In 2013 his group bused supporters into France to support anti-marriage-equality protests there.

Arsuaga’s CitizenGo is affiliated with ActRight, created by Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. Brown joined CitizenGo’s board in 2013.  Brown has backed anti-gay efforts in France and Russia and participated in events designed to strengthen ties between Europe’s right-wing and Putin’s Russia. As BuzzFeed’s Feder reported last year,

Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. 

Also participating in the Salt Lake City WCF will be Lech and Ewa Kowalewski, anti-abortion activists affiliated with Human Life International and the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements. They denounce the “contraceptive mentality” — for them even “natural contraception” is a contradiction because “contraception is never natural.” In 2014 they toured the U.S. as part of a worldwide “pro-life pilgrimage.”  They were on the International Planning Committee for World Congress of Families VI in Madrid.

Another participant is Maria Hildingsson, Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe, which the Catholic News Agency said last year is “the only independent organization clearly registered in the EU as Catholic.” It rejects “an individualistic conception” of human rights that is says are supported by “hegemonic powers which tend to impose their partial views on developing countries within the international economic and political arena.”

Hildingsson opposes promotion of “gender ideology” and opposed the marriage equality referendum in Ireland. Her group worked with a global coalition of conservative groups to oppose an inclusive definition of family in the United Nations during deliberations on sustainable development goals. This summer, she met with Orthodox Church leaders from Europe and Russia to strategize against efforts by the European Union that aim, in the words of a report on the meeting, “to destroy the traditional notions of marriage and family and to legalize surrogate motherhood and abortion.”

Another speaker, Silvio Dalla Valle, works with the Association for the Defense of Christian Values, which is “inspired by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church” and works in Italy and Eastern Europe.  He was on the planning committee for Moscow meeting that took place last year without the formal sponsorship of WCF but with participation by WCF staff and allies,and spoke last year at a WCF regional event in Bolivia. Dalla Valle is a co-founder of and legal adviser to the Osservatorio della Cristianofobia (Observatory on “Christianphobia”) a project to lobby the United Nations and European institutions to take a strong stance against persecution and discrimination against Christians. He received a “Global Leadership Award” from the Howard Center, the World Congress of Families’ parent organization, in 2010.

Lola Volarde, director for UN affairs at the Institute for Family Policy, is also participating. Volarde’s group promotes “natural family” policies in Latin America in addition to its work at the European Union level, and it opened its delegation to the UN in 2013. You can see Velarde speaking in Mexico last year.

Arsuaga, Velarde and Brian Brown are all on board of the Political Network for Values, a group launched last year that brings together advocates and elected officials from around the world to work for legal protection for life “from its moment of conception” and advocate for policies the promote marriage as “an institution between a man and a woman.” The group also declares its opposition to “the tyranny of relativism” and euthanasia.

Last month, the Political Network for Values held a summit in Washington, D.C. which was sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Institute for Family Policy, CitizenGo and others. The network says the regional summit “brought together in Washington DC more than 70 policy makers from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Spain, Hungary, Kenya and the United States.” The group was addressed by three members of the U.S. Congress, Jeff Fortenberry, Chris Smith and Vicky Hartzler, who talked about the “fight for religious freedom in the U.S.”


Right Wing Round-Up - 9/9/15

Meet The Extremists Behind The Latest Attacks On Planned Parenthood

As the Senate prepares to vote this afternoon on a bill to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood, People For the American Way has released a new report detailing the activists behind the latest round of attacks on the women’s health organization, their ideology and ultimate goals.

A group called the Center for Medical Progress has promised to release a dozen videos that it claims show that Planned Parenthood is “selling baby parts” for profit. That claim is easily debunked, but as PFAW details, the specific accusations are only part of the point:

The latest Planned Parenthood smear falls in a long line of attacks on the organization that have failed at proving any wrongdoing but succeeded at reinforcing long-held myths about the organization within the anti-choice movement. Previous attacks by activists related to the latest series of videos have made flimsy attempts to “prove” that Planned Parenthood targets people of color and harbors sex traffickers. Similarly, the latest attack hopes to reinforce the longstanding anti-choice myth that Planned Parenthood is a massive “industry” that preys on women for profit.

None of these specific claims have held up to the smallest amount of scrutiny, but that was never the point.

Instead, the Center for Medical Progress’ campaign is part of a long-running effort to undermine access to reproductive health care — including contraception, reproductive health screenings, sex education and legal abortion — by providing cover to legislators who want to dismantle women’s access to reproductive care.

The report also details the anti-choice activists behind the Center for Medical Progress, including Live Action’s Lila Rose, who has called for abortions to be performed “in the public square” and Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman, who once publicly celebrated the death of an abortion provider. These activists, PFAW notes, want not only to criminalize abortion in the United States but to undermine access to contraception. In doing so, they are willing to cut off basic medical care for hundreds of thousands of women.

You can read the full report, “The Activists And Ideology Behind The Latest Attacks On Planned Parenthood,” here .

Religious Right Teams Up With Anti-Gay Governments at United Nations

American Religious Right groups are teaming up with anti-choice and anti-gay governments and organizations from around the world in order to prevent a new United Nations development proposal currently being negotiated from including language that might lead to some recognition of families headed by same-sex couples, a possibility the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) describes as “tragic.” (C-FAM was formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.)

C-FAM’s “Friday Fax” warns:

Leftist governments, including the United States, are trying to convince the General Assembly to discard family language from the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] and instead use phrases that critics consider to be ideologically freighted, specifically “all families” and “various forms of the family.” These types of phrases have been rejected in recent years but the Obama administration has made it a priority to have them used in this important development document.

C-FAM argues that language declaring that “the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society” must be kept in place to prevent Europeans and Americans from having any “wiggle room” to “promote same-sex relations as families through the UN system.”

C-FAM reports that a group of African and Arab nations are leading efforts to strip language about “all families” from the final draft of the “Post-2015 Summit outcome” by proposing language that “EXCLUDES any international recognition to relations between persons of the same-sex as a ‘family,’ as in the case of homosexual civil unions and so-called gay marriage.”

Among the Religious Right organizations fighting tooth and nail to prevent even a possibility that same-sex families might gain recognition at the UN are: C-FAM; National Organization for Marriage; Alliance Defending Freedom Global (ADF was formerly known as Alliance Defense Fund); Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society (sponsors of the World Congress of Families); Human Life International; Personhood USA; Christian Family Fellowship; Family Research Institute; and the American Center for Law & Justice’s European affiliate, ECLJ.

Will The Right Reject (Again) A Report on the Threat of Far-Right Extremism?

A new report from New America, released a week after a white supremacist gunned down nine people in a black church in Charleston, finds that since the September 11, 2001, attacks, “nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.”

The New York Times reports that this threat is “familiar to police officers,” three-quarters of whom list antigovernment extremism as a greater threat to their communities than “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence:

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

“Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists,” said Dr. Kurzman, whose study is to be published by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and the Police Executive Research Forum.

We haven’t heard any right-wing reaction to this report yet. But we aren’t incredibly optimistic that it will be reasonable.

Back in 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on countering violent right-wing extremism, the Right went ballistic, with groups including the American Family Association, the American Center for Law and Justice and Concerned Women for America denouncing it as an attack on Christians and veterans.

Liberty Counsel, the Religious Right legal group, even went so far as to print out cards for its members to show their solidarity with the violent right-wing extremists supposedly attacked by this report:

Other right-wing groups started an ad campaign demanding that then-DHS chief Janet Napolitano resign for supposedly having labeled George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa and the pope as “the new terrorists”:

Under pressure, DHS ultimately retracted the report and cut back its team investigating non-Muslim violent extremism, infuriating the self-described conservative Republican analyst who had written the report.

Since then, conservative activists have repeatedly referred back to the report to claim that President Obama is treating all conservatives as potential domestic terrorists, a suspicion that has fed into a number of right-wing conspiracy theories about DHS. Liberty University’s Matt Barber even started defending violent extremists groups just because groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on their activities.

As recently as February, Rep. Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, was complaining on the Family Research Council’s radio program that the Obama administration is “more aggressive toward Americans, Republicans, conservatives, Christians, and concerned about them being threats to the country, which they’re not, than they are about the real threats to our country.”

Never mind that the report focused exclusively on the actual threat of violent, far-right extremism — something that even their strongest detractors aren’t accusing groups like Liberty Counsel and the AFA of being involved in. The Right saw an opportunity to stir up a fake controversy in order to raise money, reinforce the narrative of conservative activists as victims and provoke animosity toward President Obama. In the process they helped make it harder for DHS to investigate a very real threat to American security. But they ended up with a meme that lives to this day.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 4/9/15

  • By daring to note that some Christians are sometimes "less than loving," President Obama has apparently insulted and "attacked Christians" and must apologize immediately.
  • Some typically reasonable "reporting" from WorldNetDaily.
  • Lee Duigon says that "America needs an exorcism."
  • An Accuracy in Media survey shockingly finds that AIM supporters trust Fox News significantly more than all other media outlets.
  • Pat Buchanan boldly declares that "as the Romans demanded of the Christians, the LGBT fanatics want us to burn incense to their gods. The answer is no. If it comes to civil disobedience, so be it."
  • Finally, Glenn Beck sadly wonders if he has wasted his life: "Do you ever feel like maybe it is time to pack it up and go and do? I am one American that is tired of those who just talk. Unfortunately, I talk more than most combined ... I am sorry for venting. I am changing and because of that wonder if I am not wasting my limited time."

Tony Perkins Links HHS Contraception Mandate To Religious Persecution In Middle East

In testimony to a Senate subcommittee today, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins linked the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case to violent religious persecution in the Middle East and around the world, repeating his claim that there is a “correlation” between perceived discrimination against conservative Christians in the U.S. and oppression and violence against religious minority groups by groups like ISIS.

As we noted yesterday, Perkins was a troubling choice to testify in an international religious freedom hearing because he routinely exploits the very real persecution of Christians and other religious minorities throughout the world to attack President Obama and the LGBT rights movement, who he claims are persecuting Christians in the United States by preventing them from discriminating against gay people.

Perkins picked up on the theme in his testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s foreign operations subcommittee, responding to a question from Sen. Steve Daines of Montana by claiming that U.S. policies like the HHS mandate on insurance coverage for contraceptives that was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case send a “message to bad actors abroad that America no longer puts a high priority on religious freedom.”

“The lack of priority on religious freedom that we have placed here domestically in our policies does send a message internationally,” he said. “I think there is a correlation between…the growing intolerance toward religious freedom here at home, i.e. in the marketplace, is giving rise to persecution abroad. And the reason I say that is when we no longer make it a priority domestically, that sends a message to bad actors abroad that America no longer puts a high priority on religious freedom, so we don’t have to worry about them acting against us or moving against us based on that.”

“I mean, you look at the case of the HHS mandate, the Hobby Lobby case, which had to go all the way to the Supreme Court in order to exercise their religious freedom under the Religious Freedom Act,” he added.

That was too much even for Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel to the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, who responded that while he agreed with Perkins that the contraception coverage mandate represented “religious discrimination,” it was “not on the same level as religious persecution where people are having their throats slit, being crucified or being beheaded.”

This isn’t the first time Perkins has made such an absurd claim: He once suggested that President Obama’s support for overturning the Citizens United decision is somehow connected to the violent persecution of Christians in countries like Sudan.

Earlier in his testimony, Perkins also claimed that the Obama administration had left open the position of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom for “36 months,” sending “a message that we did not put a priority as an administration, as a country on religious freedom.” The position was indeed left open for a little over two years at the start of President Obama’s first term…because then-Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican who now runs the Heritage Foundation, placed a hold on Obama’s first nominee for the job.

New Report On Religious Right In Europe - And Its U.S. Backers

A new report from the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) examines the organized assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Europe from the Catholic hierarchy and its conservative allies. CESI was founded in 1997 to respond to violations of human rights, particularly women’s and minority rights, as well as militarization and economic dislocation.

“Neo-Conservative Threats to Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights in the European Union” examines the efforts of the Catholic hierarchy, its “satellite organizations,” and allied politicians to restrict access to abortion and LGBT equality in the European Union.  According to the report, “the Vatican hierarchy and its civil allies have recently re-organized and enhanced their efforts towards influencing public policies regarding family, sexuality and reproductive health.”

The report also references the mentoring role of U.S. groups that provide “inspiration and transfer of experience, tactics and strategies of action” to their European counterparts. As RWW readers know, we have been covering the support given by U.S. Religious Right groups and leaders, such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and its European arm (ECLJ) and NOM’s Brian Brown, for anti-gay activism around the globe. “What we have here is a small, marginal, but very well organized and financed group of advocates for a fundamentalist religious-political agenda,” says the report.

According to the CESI report,

“Institutions in Brussels are now increasingly used as channels to promote Catholic values and fundamentalist ideology, creating an atmosphere of increased neo-conservative influence on the political institutions…this kind of extreme advocacy in defense of traditional, catholic values simultaneously aims to limit rights and discriminate against ‘the others and different ones’…”

The report documents the global interconnections among conservative groups and activists. For example, Luca Volontè is on board of patrons of U.S.-based C-FAM, and is among the European contributors to C-FAM’s “Turtle Bay and Beyond” blog.

In June of 2014, Luca Volontè, Ignacio Arsuaga – the president of CitizenGO and HazteOir, and Ludovine de La Rochère – the president of La Manif Pour Tous, have publicly supported “The March for Marriage” in Washington, an event organized by The National Organization for Marriage. In a meeting that was held behind closed doors, together with the representatives of some 70 countries, they have begun working on establishing an International Organization for Marriage.

The report notes the movement’s use of online communications and organizing strategies, including the online petition platform called CitizenGO.

CitizenGO presents itself as a global community of active citizens who use online petitions and actions to defend and promote life, family and (religious) freedom. They emphasize promoting active citizen participation in public and political life on local, national and international level, so this platform, based in Spain, operates in eight languages (Italian, German, French, English, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish). Arabic and Chinese version are in the planning stage.

Skillfully using the principles of participatory democracy as a disguise, CitizenGo actually works as a politically intelligent instrument, gathering numerous prominent figures of neoconservative agenda in the EU and centralizing advocacy actions against the right to abortion, marriage equality, assisted reproductive technology and sexual education in schools. In organized advocacy efforts against adopting three reports on SRHR status and gender equality in the EU (Estrela, Lunacek, Zuber), they have managed to gather about 350 000 support signatures in few months, and, while lobbying for each individual report, they have mobilized citizens to send tensof thousands of e-mail messages to the representatives in the European Parliament. That kind of numbers in support, as well as the range of influence should mostly be credited to Ignacio Arsuaga, the president of the CitizenGO platform and the founder of the organization HazteOir, who spent many years adapting online organizing and advocacy techniques used by conservative groups in the USA to the political conditions in Spain and the EU.

NOM’s Brian Brown is on the board of CitizenGo, whose logo describes the group as a “Member of the ACTRight Family.” ACTRight was founded by Brown to raise money for conservative causes and campaigns.

In addition to conservative efforts Europe-wide, the CESI report also includes a focused look on political activities in Croatia, including the role of the Catholic hierarchy in support of a campaign for a referendum to put a ban on marriage by same-sex couples into the country’s constitution, the use of the U.S.-developed “TeenStar” abstinence-based sex ed program, and travel to the country by U.S. religious conservative activists Judith Reisman and Lila Rose.

The Religious Right Makes Friends Across The Atlantic

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder is out with an investigative report today on the rise of Europe’s own homegrown Religious Right. Feder cites People For the American Way’s research into funding going from American groups to the European Right — including from Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, and, surprisingly, the fringe anti-choice group Personhood USA — but also notes that a lot of the movement’s energy is travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic.

Feder reports, for instance, that last month’s sparsely attended March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., was followed by a very well-attended gathering of representatives from about 70 countries who “met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage.”

A review of tax disclosures conducted by the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way found that several U.S. groups — many of which boomed in the 1990s — had recently invested in conservative drives across Europe: The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson, sent $1.1 million to its European branch, the European Center for Law and Justice, in 2012, which is the most recent year for which tax disclosures are available. Another group founded by well-known American social conservatives called the Alliance Defending Freedom spent more than $750,000 on European programs that year. The Federalist Society, which promotes conservative legal philosophy, reported spending nearly $800,000 in “conferences and seminars” in Europe that year. Personhood USA, a small Colorado-based group that has tried to pass ballot measures that would give fetuses the legal status of “persons” — a strategy for rolling back abortion rights that is controversial even among pro-life activists — poured $400,000 into Europe in 2012, just after one of its ballot measures went down in flames in Mississippi. (Personhood USA President Keith Mason declined to answer questions from BuzzFeed about which organizations received the funds or what they were used for.)

But while there are links to the U.S., the movement is very much homegrown. Arsuaga said neither HazteOír nor CitizenGo get funding from U.S. groups — and they don’t need it. Arsuaga said 99% of HazteOír’s 1.9 million euro ($2.5 million) annual budget comes from donations from Spanish citizens. CitizenGo has been raising 30,000 to 40,000 euros (roughly $40,000 to $55,000) each month from the 1.2 million members it’s signed up worldwide since its October launch.

Today, American ties seem much more about a shared vision to build a global conservative movement rather than leaning on stronger and wealthier U.S. partners for support. Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. A follow-up meeting is planned for next year.

Many LGBT rights supporters mocked the March for Marriage’s paltry turnout. So these Europeans appeared as if they were there to encourage a beleaguered movement, not the other way around — they now possess the vigor that has evaporated from the U.S. movement as opposition to marriage equality has collapsed.

We have reported on how American anti-gay groups, frustrated in their mission at home, are quietly working to form alliances with activists, politicians and funders in Europe, Russia and South America.

The strange case of Personhood USA’s $400,000 expenditure in Europe in 2012 —which represented more than one-third of its total spending that year — offers a clue that a similar dynamic may be happening in the extreme anti-choice movement. While Feder notes that most of the funding for recent viral anti-choice campaigns in Europe has been homegrown, and Personhood USA refused to say what its European shopping spree went toward, the personhood movement could be hoping that it can reclaim some of its energy by looking overseas.

It’s also important to note that the anti-gay and anti-choice movements on both sides of the Atlantic have significant overlap. One example: Last year, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown — who has worked extensively with European and Russian anti-gay groups — joined the board of CitizenGo, a conservative platform modeled on that Feder reports recently helped to defeat a comprehensive sex-ed proposal in the European Parliament.

Flashback: When The Religious Right And Republicans Quashed An Investigation Into Right-Wing Extremism

Reports that the married couple who shot and killed two police officers, a bystander and themselves in Las Vegas this week were motivated by right-wing extremism have highlighted one of the more troubling trends in even the “mainstream” Right — denial that violent right-wing extremism even exists.

As Brian mentioned earlier today, a conservative pundit’s claim on the same day as the shooting that far-right violence is a “complete and total bogeyman” echoes the objections the attacks that many right-wing groups lobbed at a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on domestic extremism. Right-wing groups and their allies in Congress created a fuss about the report, claiming that it was an attack on conservatives, Christians and veterans.

The American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the American Center for Law and Justice piled on. Republicans in Congress demanded an investigation into how the report had come to pass. Spotting a good fundraising opportunity, Liberty Counsel even printed out “Proud to be a Right-Wing Extremist” cards to distribute to its members.

Eventually, the pressure led DHS to retract the report and later to cut back the team that produced it. Two years later, speaking publicly for the first time, the analyst who wrote the report — who happened to be a conservative Republican Mormon —  said that the attacks on his unit’s work had undermined law enforcement’s ability to address the “growing and dangerous problem” of violent right-wing extremism.

What happened at DHS as a result of the criticism?
My team was dissolved. All training courses and briefings presentations were stopped. DHS leaders made it increasingly difficult to release another report on this topic.

Why would DHS leaders dissolve your team and stop these analytic activities?

The subject had become too politically charged. As a result, DHS leaders adopted a risk adverse approach toward this issue. Perhaps they thought it was a matter of organizational preservation.

Do you think the dissolution of your unit that you discuss has negatively affected State and local law enforcement?

Certainly. There is one less agency to assist state and local law enforcement with this growing and dangerous problem at a time of heightened activity.

Yet, as recently as last year, Religous Right groups were still using their bogus criticism of the report as a talking point against the Obama administration.

Matt Barber Praises Slovakia For Resisting 'Demonic' Marriage Equality

As RWW and others have documented, American Religious Right figures are part of a global anti-equality movement.  Groups like the American Center for Law and Justice, National Organization for Marriage and World Congress of Families are working with right-wing movements in Europe to resist advances in LGBT Equality.

Today, Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel praises this week’s passage of an anti-marriage-equality constitutional amendment in Slovakia, where there is no legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.

While the U.S. seems bound and determined to destroy natural marriage and family, other nations around the world have figured out that radically deconstructing these fundamental cornerstone institutions – institutions necessary to the survival of any healthy society – will have devastating effects in the long-term.

Slovakia is the latest such nation. Lawmakers there have constitutionally banned counterfeit “same-sex marriage.”

...Let’s pray that this pro-family trend across the world continues. As the radical “LGBT” agenda continues to weaken America, obliterate religious liberty and hurt and confuse countless children and families, we can at least take solace in the fact that much of the world has not been duped by this demonic incursion of sexual anarchy.


ACLJ: Blasphemy Laws For Me, But Not For Thee?

Yesterday, Miranda reported on the seemingly contradictory views of the American Center for Law and Justice’s European and Slavic affiliates when it comes to blasphemy laws. The ECLJ has been vocal in opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but the SCLJ supported passage of a new anti-blasphemy law in Russia. The law provides for fines, “correctional labor” and up to three years behind bars for “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers.” SCLJ’s co-chairman Vladimir Rehyakovsky expressed some reservations about the final form of the law, but said it was “very important” to have such a law in place.

So, where does the ACLJ stand on blasphemy laws?  On one hand, it is proud of its opposition in international forums like the United Nations to blasphemy laws that are used by Islamist governments to restrict religious expression.  In 2011, the ACLJ said the UN’s Human Rights Committee endorsed an ECLJ-backed position that “no right exists to protect the reputation of an ideology, rather human rights belongs to individuals.”

But more than a decade ago, in response to an “Ask Jay” question posted on the ACLJ’s website, the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said it was “an unfortunate situation” that states no longer have laws against blasphemy, something he blamed on “the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people.”  Sekulow bemoaned the fact that “religion lacks protection in the law.”

Joe from Rhode Island asks: In Black’s classic law dictionary, blasphemy is illegal. When did it become legal to mock a person’s faith in God?

Jay answers: Black’s is the standard of legal definitions that law students are given around the country and Black’s is still cited in Supreme Court decisions. Not only in English common law but also in most states in the USA, blasphemy was prohibited speech. Clearly, the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people have changed that and that’s an unfortunate situation. But you’re absolutely correct, Black’s Law Dictionary is right. There are many definitions like that in Black’s, but religion lacks protection in the law. Not only is religion seen as irrelevant, but religion is trivialized and even mocked. This behavior has become an accepted part of who we are as a people and in some cases the Supreme Court hasn’t been particularly helpful in that context. The composition of the Supreme Court is obviously something we’re always watching because we know that with the more conservative court obviously some of our values will be more protected. Things have changed drastically if you look at our history, and it’s not even old history. Our country is still very young, but things are very different since our founding. We’re continuing to hope here at the American Center for Law and Justice that history will continue to change in a way that protects the rights of religious people across America. This is what we’re working toward. Selection of Supreme Court Justices is critical in the interpretation of these kinds of cases.

So it appears that the ACLJ is ready to champion free speech when it comes to opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but supports restrictions on blasphemy in place where Christians are in the majority.  Perhaps that double standard is not much of a surprise, given that the ACLJ, which portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, helped lead opposition to the construction of a Muslim community center in New York that critics inaccurately called the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The ACLJ is a legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and run by Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan in a manner that is very lucrative for the Sekulow family.

Religious Right 'Freedom And Liberty' Group ACLJ Backed Russian 'Gay Propaganda' And Blasphemy Bans

The American Center for Law and Justice, the group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson to be a right-wing counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, bills itself as a champion of the “ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.”

But the ACLJ – which has joined in the Religious Right chorus claiming that progressive policies are causing American Christians to lose their religious freedom – has never been so keen on the civil liberties of those with whom they disagree, especially in its work overseas. As we’ve noted in the past, the ACLJ led the fight to block the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan and through its African affiliate has backed efforts to prevent legalized abortion in Kenya and to keep homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

And in recent years, the ACLJ’s European and Russian branches have also supported key parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on gay rights and civil liberties, even as the group has served as a watchdog for Russia’s evangelical minority in the face of government persecution.

Both the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) affiliates voiced support for Russia’s 2013 gag order on gay-rights advocacy. In addition, following the 2012 Pussy Riot protest, the SCLJ called for a law criminalizing religious blasphemy. One of its leading attorneys then helped draft one proposed version of the law.

In 2012, the last year for which records are available, the ACLJ directed $300,000 to funding the SCLJ with the “goal of protecting religious rights and freedoms of individuals and associations in Russia.” Its bigger overseas project is the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ), based in Strasbourg, France, to which it gave $1.1 million in 2012. The ACLJ’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, founded the SCLJ's overseas branches and serves as the chief counsel of the European affiliate. A handful of sources list him as the chief counsel of the Russian affiliate as well, although it is unclear if he still serves in that capacity.

The ACLJ did not respond to a request for comment on the work of its work in Russia.

Shortly after the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest at a Russian Orthodox cathedral – for which they were ultimately sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism” – the SCLJ issued a press release endorsing the efforts of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, an Orthodox Church official, to criminalize blasphemy, which at the time was punishable by just a small fine. The press release argued that “seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health,” and recommending “harsh punishments” for people found guilty of blasphemy.

The press release called for Russian officials “to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.”

The cynical, blasphemous actions in the Church of Christ the Savior that took place this week aroused a broad public outcry. The participants of the women’s feminist punk group Pussy Riot ran into the church wearing masks and performed a blasphemous song with a political subtext right before the altar. They recorded the “performance” on video. Based on these recordings, a video clip was put together and posted on social networks, after which a flood of blasphemous and anti-church comments appeared online.

SCLJ recently raised the issue of the danger of dissemination through social networks of blasphemous information that insults the religious feelings of the faithful, at times openly inciting interreligious conflicts. Today we see that this concern is becoming even more acute and urgent. Criticism of certain religious views and beliefs is undoubtedly possible; however, insult and humiliation of the dignity of individuals who hold them or profess any religion is simply unacceptable.

The main problem is that the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation does not currently contain adequate penalties for such acts. The maximum punishment that can be brought down upon the participants in this blasphemous act at the Church of Christ the Savior is that they will be cited for an administrative offense and required to pay a small fine. However, the consequences of their activities may be very serious.

It should be noted that such cases are not rare. SCLJ staff members have often come upon similar situations in other regions of the country. Moreover, in many cases, seemingly innocuous mischief of a few aggressive individuals led to real religious conflicts that posed a threat to people’s lives and health.

Law enforcement agencies typically respond to incidents of this nature by glossing over any anti-religious motives. No one wants crimes motivated by religious hatred and hostility. Therefore, officials strain to limit charges to “hooliganism” and sometimes refuse to open a criminal case at all.

In this regard, SCLJ supports the initiative of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin to toughen laws against incitement of religious hatred and hostility, but also against insult to the religious feelings of the faithful and assaults against their shrines and temples. We also believe that there is an urgent need to introduce harsh punishments for disseminating such information on the Internet.

In September of 2012, members of the Duma introduced a bill that would criminalize “insulting citizens’ religious views and feelings.”

Despite SCLJ’s initial call for an anti-blasphemy law, the group’s co-chair Vladimir Rhyakovsky was apparently not thrilled with the first draft of the law. Rhyakovsky, a member of Putin’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, joined with a fellow council member to propose a revised version of the bill that proposed more moderate penalties for violation and created “zoned” free speech areas, but also, disturbingly, would have made the definition of “insulting religious feeling” even vaguer to cover such beliefs as “patriotism” and “commitment to traditional values.”

In June, 2013, Putin signed the final version of the blasphemy ban. The Moscow Times summarized its provisions:

The blasphemy law will punish “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers,” with potential punishment of up to three years behind bars, fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,430), and compulsory correctional labor, reported.

It also stipulates fines of 80,000-300,000 rubles and a prison term of up to three months for hindering the activities of religious organizations and preventing religious rites from being conducted.

A fine of over 200,000 rubles can be levied for deliberate destruction of religious or theological literature.

Ryakhovsky – speaking in his capacity as a member of the human rights council – said after the Duma passed the bill that while he felt that it was “very important” to pass such a law and acknowledged that some of the human rights council’s proposals had been adopted, he was still concerned that “the problem of legal ambiguity remains,” which could “lead to arbitrary application and interpretation of the law, and willful use of it by law enforcement agencies.”

“Whenever the law, and especially criminal law, contains room for arbitrary interpretation, it is fraught with negative consequences,” he said. “I believe that this law is better than the one that was originally proposed, but on the other hand – it is not what it should be.”

That an ACLJ affiliate advocated for a blasphemy law – even if its leader offered only tepid support for the final product – is especially unsettling given that the group has strongly opposed blasphemy bans in its work at the United Nations. In a comment to the UN’s human rights committee in 2011, the ECLJ urged the committee to adopt a strong condemnation of blasphemy laws, such as those in Islamist countries. “Blasphemy prohibitions and laws regarding the defamation of religions violate the very foundations of the human rights tradition by protecting ideas instead of the person who hold those ideas,” the ECLJ wrote in a memo cosigned by its director, Gregor Puppink.

“Freedom of expression includes the right to be controversial, insulting, or offensive, even when such expression targets ideas that are devoutly held beliefs,” the group added.

The SCLJ and its leaders may have had mixed feelings about the final version of the blasphemy ban, but they offered more enthusiastic praise to another bill that Putin signed the same day: a ban on the distribution of “gay propaganda” to minors, essentially a gag order on gay-rights advocacy.

After the Duma passed the “propaganda” ban, Ryakhovsky’s fellow SCLJ co-chairman, Anatoly Pchelintsev, told Voice of America that although he would “refine” parts of the bill, it addressed an important problem. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms,” he said.

Co-chair of the Slavic Center for Law and Justice Anatoly Pchelintsev told Voice of America that he believes there is such a thing as homosexual propaganda, and that it must be combated as much as possible. “You only have to turn on a few TV channels to become convinced: promotion of homosexuality is there in both direct and hidden forms.”

However, Pchelintsev believes there is no need to apply the law in all cases, since it is primarily minors who need protection against homosexual propaganda. “Adults are capable of understanding what is good and what is bad,” added Pchelintsev.

Pchelintsev says that he shares the opinion of Sergei Nikitin about the necessity of refining some of the terminology used in the bill. “You have to know what “propaganda” is before banning it.”

Pchelintsev told another outlet that he was “very pleased” about the move toward adopting the law because LGBT people should be allowed to “live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life.”

“I’m against homosexual propaganda, especially among minors. I am for strong families, but in this case I admit that there may be some kind of anomaly, it’s difficult to say in what way exactly—psychological, biological, or something else, but the problem exists—there are people like this. And let them live as they want to, but without propagandizing their way of life,” believes the scientific director of the Institute for Religion and Law, lawyer Anatoly Pchelintsev. “So I’m very pleased about the adoption of this law on the federal level. The key will be that it works and guarantees some kind of punishment. In my view, citation for an administrative offense is sufficient, violations like this do not fall under the purview of criminal law.”

The ACLJ’s European affiliate also voiced support for the “propaganda” ban. In an essay last year, ECLJ’s director, Gregor Puppinck, wrote that the law was “intended to protect children from messages about LGBT practices” that portray homosexuality as “favorable to or equivalent to marital relationships.” He portrayed Russia’s suppression of gay rights as a beacon of hope to France and the rest of Western Europe, showing that the trend toward gay rights is “strong, but not inevitable.”

ECLJ has worked closely with a number of French groups that have been touting Putin’s social conservative crackdown as a model for Europe. Last month, Puppinck joined a delegation of French activists in a visit to Russia to meet with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and members of parliament to discuss partnering in “protecting traditional values.”

Although participants in the meeting said that they avoided foreign policy subjects, the visit by the delegation just a few weeks after Russia’s seizure of Crimea provoked some controversy in France, including criticism from a French Catholic leader who said, “If they think that Russia protects human rights, they should go for a tour of Crimea.” The magazine Nouvel Observateur accused the delegation of endorsing Putin’s propaganda of “Russia as a paradise of Christian values.”

In response to the Nouvel Observateur piece the president of the leading French anti-gay group Manif Pour Tous denied that anybody of authority in her group had participated.

But the ECLJ was far from shy about its own participation. According to the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative in Strasbourg, it was Puppinck who requested that he organize the delegation of French activists who support “the traditional concept of the family and oppose abortion, euthanasia, etc.”

We haven’t been able to find any detailed accounts of the visit, but one member of the delegation, the Russian Orthodox church’s representative in Strasbourg, repeated the idea of Russia as the moral protectors of Europe. “Russia is a unique country in Europe,” said Abbot Philip Rybykh. “It seeks to protect the natural order of life, and not the various deviations from it.”

Another report notes that the delegates reached the conclusion that “Western societies would do well to emulate” Russia’s “religious awakening.”

Puppinck reportedly said during the visit that he was “very impressed” by Russia’s newly established “moral” policies, specifically citing the drop in the country’s abortion rate. Russia’s anti-gay policies and protecting Europe from the “contagion” of gay rights were also reportedly objects of discussion.

GOP Congressmen Jump On Phony Internet Scandal

Even though the right-wing conspiracy theory about President Obama handing over control of the Internet to foreign powers has been completely discredited, the myth continues to survive among conservative activists and Republicans in Congress, who have seized upon the debunked claim to attack the Obama administration.

WorldNetDaily reports today that Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice, one of the chief groups pushing the false attack, has garnered over 100,000 signatures on its petition demanding Congress take action against the phony scandal.

GOP congressmen are more than happy to help. Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois told WND that Obama is helping “authoritarian governments” push “their anti-freedom agendas” on the Internet, while Tennessee’s Rep. Marsha Blackburn warned that Obama’s move “will allow countries like China and Russia that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the Internet looks and operates.”

As we’ve noted before, the Obama administration actually turned down requests from China and Russia to give Internet oversight to a United Nations-led panel and instead completed a sixteen year plan to relinquish oversight to a non-profit backed by the US Department of Commerce.

But Republicans and right-wing activists don’t seemed to be bothered by the fact that the administration’s decision actually represented a rebuke to countries like Russia and China, and are more than happy to gin up fears that Obama is paving the way for the censorship of the Internet.

It took just days for more than 113,000 people to sign a petition by the American Center for Law and Justice opposing the plan.

Members of Congress confirmed that in just the past few weeks, some of the possible members of the multinational body — including Russia, Turkey, China and Malaysia — either have censored the Internet in their own nations or vowed to do it.

“This isn’t a theoretical debate,” warned Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., one of several lawmakers working on one of the legislative plans.

He’s joined by Reps. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

“There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas,” Shimkus said. “What possible benefit could come from giving the Vladimir Putins of the world a new venue to push their anti-freedom agendas?”

“This decision represents another hostile step by the administration on the heels of net neutrality and the FCC’s CIN Study that threatens our freedom of speech. Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the Internet looks and operates,” she warned.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which organized the petition effort, said the Obama administration is pushing into dangerous territory.

“This move would put the online liberty of Americans at great risk,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “By turning over this key oversight to an international community – which is likely to include countries hostile to America – the world’s most powerful instrument of free speech would be subject to censorship, could be taxed, and would make it easier for cyber-fraud schemes to expand in countries around the globe.”

Sekulow said the “success and freedom of the Internet would be in grave jeopardy if the Obama administration is allowed to carry through with its plan to turn over control of the Internet to a ‘multinational’ body.”

“Free speech is at the core of our Constitution. We’re working with members of Congress on legislation to keep the Internet – and our free speech – free,” he said.

Jay Sekulow Touts Phony Internet Scandal, Claims It Will 'Censor The Church'

As we have noted several times, right-wing groups are falsely claiming that the Obama administration has relinquished control of the Internet to a United Nations-controlled group. In fact, quite the opposite is true: Politico reports that the administration rebuffed calls from Russia and China to give authority to the United Nations-led International Telecommunication Union, and instead completed a sixteen year transition of Internet oversight to a US-backed nonprofit.

Naturally, Obama critics are now alleging that the president did the opposite of what actually occurred and handed over authority to the UN body.

Religious Right leader Jay Sekulow today emailed members of the American Center for Law and Justice to warn that “the President wants to hand over control of the Internet to a multinational group, including corrupt dictatorships in China, Russia, and Iran,” warning that the move could “mean censoring the Church if it reaches out to Islamic lands” and “exposing our own computers to greater risk of fraud and other cybercrimes.”

So there you have it: the Obama administration rejects efforts to relinquish Internet oversight to the UN, and conservative activists decide to attack him anyway by falsely claiming that he did the exact opposite of what he did.

There is simply no excuse for the Obama Administration’s latest move.

The President wants to hand over control of the Internet to a multinational group, including corrupt dictatorships in China, Russia, and Iran.


China, Russia, and Iran have all signaled they want greater control over the Internet, including control over what we see and write.

Does this mean censoring the Church if it reaches out to Islamic lands?

Does this mean exposing our own computers to greater risk of fraud and other cybercrimes?

America has kept the Internet free for a generation; let’s keep it free. Stand with the ACLJ and stand against the Obama Administration’s latest attack on your liberty.

No, Obama Hasn't Handed Over The Internet To China And Islamists

Need more proof that right-wing activists will keep pushing their conspiracy theories even after they have been thoroughly and decisively debunked?

Take the case of the recent announcement that the federal government will relinquish oversight of the Internet to a US-backed nonprofit, which has prompted conservatives to claim that the United Nations, China, and Islamic governments will now seize control of the Internet. As it turns out, the transition has been in the making for 16 years and actually stifles attempts to increase the authority of the UN-led International Telecommunication Union.

In spite of these facts, right-wing activists are now arguing that the exact opposite is happening.

Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice today unveiled a misleading petition suggesting that the UN will take control of the Internet.

The Obama Administration is giving up American control over the Internet, handing over its most important technical functions to a “multinational” body – perhaps even the U.N.

But do we want Russia or China influencing whether we can create websites? Do we want the U.N. controlling key aspects of the world’s most powerful mode of communication – our free speech?

America has kept the Internet free. Don’t let our nation sign over our freedom to dictators.

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

America has kept the Internet free for decades. There is no reason to trust that dictators from Russia and China will protect our freedoms. Maintain American control and protect our online liberty.

ACT! for America, Brigitte Gabriel’s anti-Muslim group, released an even more frantic and deceptive response to the announcement, warning that the administration’s move will lead to the imposition of Sharia law on the Internet.

“Our founding fathers are turning in their grave!” the group said about the Internet oversight transition. “The truth cannot be silenced!”


Once again President Obama is putting you and your family at risk by giving power to the United Nations (UN) to control the Internet and muzzle YOUR freedom of speech, putting you at a risk of legal action just for expressing your view on the Internet!

If you’re a politician in Washington, and you want to bury bad news, you release an announcement late on Friday afternoon.

On Friday, March 14th, at 3:30pm, the Obama administration announced that America was surrendering control to the UN over key aspects of the Internet (control that America had because we built it in the first place).

Unfortunately, the largest voting bloc in the UN is the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a Saudi-dominated bloc of 57 nations that has waged an aggressive campaign against free speech, freedom of the press and free expression.

For an American president to betray the American public, our founding fathers, our Constitution, and throw our freedom of speech at the feet of tyrants to decide what we can and cannot say under the threat of a law suit for hate crime is unconscionable – shameful – reckless and stretches the boundaries of betrayal.

Our founding fathers are turning in their grave!

We at ACT! For America believe that truth is invincible. The truth cannot be silenced! We believe that if we can reach enough people with our message in defense of our security, our liberty and our values, America will prevail over those who want to destroy our way of life.

We know that the Jihadists not only have our country, our values and our citizens in their crosshairs, but the truth itself. And Jihad is based on the belief that the truth must be hidden, bent and broken.

It is disturbing and chilling that the Obama administration could allow the OIC, along with the Shariah doctrine to which it adheres, to suppress free speech on a global basis via control of the Internet.

Up to now, American oversight of the Internet has ensured that it has run with efficiency and openness, without political pressure.

Authoritarian governments, such as those in Saudi Arabia and Iran, have already been working to control the Internet and now they will no doubt move to fill the power vacuum caused by America's unilateral retreat.

In the future, domains could be banned and new ones not approved for groups deemed undesirable by the OIC or its members.

Let us never forget all that our founding fathers sacrificed so that we can enjoy the democratic freedoms we have today. Let us not forget how so many of them gave their lives for this and that many of them died destitute. They were willing to give everything they had. We cannot let them down. We must stand up, fight this, and inform Americans about what our president has just done. Please help us get this message out by following this link right away to make the most generous tax deductible donation you can afford.

Barbaric regimes from Khartoum to Tehran, and Damascus to Riyadh, have cut off their own citizens' Internet access in the past, but they have been unable to undermine general access to the Internet, where no one needs any government's permission to launch a website. This hallmark of Internet freedom is now endangered.

Dictators and tyrants, who have always silenced their critics and suppressed independent media, have long had a goal of “international” control over the Internet. Now the stage is set for them to achieve that goal.

UN members have called for a UN agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to replace America’s authority and challenge an open Internet. One critic calls the ITU “the chosen vehicle for regimes for whom the free and open Internet is seen as an existential threat.”

ACT! For America isn’t going to take this lying down. If the Internet is silenced, liberty will be silenced. If those who oppose tyranny are prevented from delivering their message, it is the same as being bound and gagged.

We must continue to confront the enemies of freedom at home and abroad.

No, The New IRS Rules Aren't Targeting Conservatives

Since the IRS proposed new regulations of political activity by 501(c)4 nonprofit groups, the Religious Right has been up in arms, claiming that President Obama wants to use the regulations to “silence the Christians,” “silence conservatives,” and “eliminate his enemies.”

The only problem with this claim is that the proposed regulations wouldn't actually target conservative groups – they would affect all 501(c)4 groups equally, including many progressive groups like People For the American Way. In fact, progressive groups have been split on the issue from the beginning, with some speaking out publicly against the proposed rules.

In a blog post today, the American Center For Law and Justice (ACLJ) freely admits this, announcing, “Thankfully, this time some groups on the Left are starting to see just how invasive and damaging to free speech (everyone’s free speech) this proposed rule would be.”

But in the very same blog post, ACLJ associate counsel Matthew Clark insists that “[t]he new rules are clearly an attempt to legitimize the targeting of conservative groups, giving color of law to the Obama Administration’s mission to silence conservative viewpoints in the social welfare arena.”

In fact, the ACLJ has a petition on its website claiming that the Obama administration wants to use the rules “to crack down on the free speech rights of conservatives.”

So which is it? Is the Obama administration using the proposed regulations to “silence conservative viewpoints” or would the rules affect “everyone’s free speech” equally?

This is beginning to sound a lot like the previous IRS “targeting scandal,” in which conservative groups claim they were politically targeted despite the fact that the program in question also affected plenty of progressive groups.

No, The FCC Is Not Going To Be Stationing Monitors In Local Newsrooms

Last week, Ajit Pai, a Republican nominee serving on the Federal Communications Commission, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he alleged that the FCC was planning to "send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run" in newsrooms all over the nation.

Predictably, the claim has been picked-up by all sorts of folks on the Right who are now warning that it is part of an attempt by the Obama administration to shut down conservative media outlets; most recently Glenn Beck, who spent a large portion of his radio broadcast today freaking out about it, at one point declaring that he would renounce his citizenship if this is what America is becoming:

As luck would have it, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler recently sent a letter to the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee explaining that the right-wing fear-mongering over this study is totally overblown and inaccurate, as the FCC "has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters."

As Wheeler explained, the FCC has a legal obligation to identify "market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision and ownership of telecommunications services and information services" and make a report to Congress. The study in question aims to identify the "access/barriers to [Critical Information Needs] in diverse American communities" within "FCC regulated markets."

Beneath all the jargon, as far as we can determine the study will allow the FCC to monitor "television, newspaper, radio, and Internet" reports in communities of varying sizes at various periods in order to determine if there are barriers in place in the given media market that are preventing entry by entrepreneurs and small businesses. As part of this study, researchers working on it will interview "corporate management, local management, and lower level employees" at various media outlets in order to "ascertain the process by which stories are selected, station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to under-served populations."

The FCC is not going to be stationing agents in local news stations all over the country in order to monitor their reporting, as the Right has been frantically proclaiming. As Wheeler explained in his letter, the study is designed merely as "a tool intended to help the Commission consider effective, pro-competitive policies that would encourage new entrants" and is currently being modified so as "not [to] go beyond our responsibilities."

Will this clarification from the FCC stop the Right from continuing to make feverishly overblown and politically charged claims about the study? If history is any indication, most certainly not.

Right Wing Leftovers - 10/23/13

  • Al Mohler told a Mormon audience that "I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together."
  • The ACLJ now says the IRS scandal was the result of "some very ugly, very targeted statements by the president of the United States" in conjunction with a “climate of hostility” created by congressional Democrats and the media.
  • If you are an anti-gay Christian, the Liberty Counsel wants you to know that they are "standing for your liberty."
  • Comedy, Concerned Women For America style.
  • Finally, the folks at AFA are none-too-pleased with remarks made by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Bryan Fischer uses it as an opportunity to vent: "The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) are in fact part of an evil conspiracy to celebrate behavior that according to Romans 1 is 'contrary to nature,' consists of 'shameless acts' and causes participants to 'receiv(e) themselves the due penalty for their error.'"
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