Howard Center for Family Religion and Society

Religious Right Cheers On Vladimir Putin As Anti-LGBT Violence In Russia Surges

While most of the news on Russia this week has been focused on the country’s ongoing financial collapse, it is important to highlight a report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday documenting the rise of anti-LGBT violence in Russia along with the ways the government, which recently passed new laws curbing LGBT rights, has ensured virtual impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks. Following the report’s release, Russia added a LGBT legal aid group to a list of NGOs that must register as “foreign agents.”

The uptick in violence against LGBT Russians certainly won't discourage Religious Right activists from supporting Putin, many of whom also seem more than willing to ignore his deadly incursion into Ukraine , support for laws curbing the freedoms of Russian evangelical Christians and other human rights abuses.

Nothing, it seems, can dissuade many of Putin’s American supporters, several of whom recently attended an anti-LGBT conference at the Kremlin, from believing that the U.S. should adopt anti-gay laws modeled on Russia’s, such as a ban on gay “propaganda” and adoption by same-sex parents.

In fact, many Religious Right activists in the U.S. believe that Putin is on a mission from God to save Russia, and the world, from the LGBT community.

Crush on Putin

It is no secret that many conservatives have fallen under Putin’s spell.

Matt Drudge has called Putin the “leader of the free world.” Sarah Palin has fawned over the Russian leader’s wrestling abilities. Franklin Graham has hailed Putin for “protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda” and having “taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families, the group that helped organize the Kremlin meeting, praised Putin last year for “preventing [gay people] from corrupting children.”

Religious Right leader and Iowa GOP kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats has upheld Putin as a world leader in morality. Josh Craddock, who represents Personhood USA at the United Nations, came back from the Kremlin conference cheering on Russia as a “light to the world.” Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver expressed offense last year that Obama would dare criticize Putin.One Fox News host wished that Putin could be president of the United States, even for just 48 hours.

Any violence against Russian gays, one Religious Right group explained, is probably “provoked by homosexual activists.” Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively, who has taken credit for inspiring Russia’s “propaganda” law, dismissed anti-LGBT violence in Russia as a “hoax” and told right-wing radio show host Linda Harvey that if violent anti-gay incidents occur, other gay people were likely the perpetrators.

God Will Favor Russia Instead Of America, Thanks Obama

Anti-gay activists think that God has decided to bless Russia, thanks to Putin’s leadership, while punishing the U.S. for passing rebellious gay rights laws. Pat Buchanan clearly articulated this mindset in a column in April titled “Is God Now On Russia’s Side?,” in which he likened the U.S. and Western Europe to Sodom and Gomorrah and cheerfully proclaimed that “Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

In a February column, Don Feder of the World Congress of Families gushed that Putin had become the new Ronald Reagan: “As my friend and Russian pro-family leader Alexey Komov likes to say: 'Under Reagan, America helped to save us from communism. We'd like to return the favor.'”

Lively made the case last year that Putin is “the only world leader capable of standing up to the West” and could “inspire all the morally conservative countries of the world to adopt a similar law that he just adopted.” In the same interview, Lively called Obama the Antichrist.

“The country that’s acting like it’s part of the kingdom of the Antichrist is the United States of America, and Russia is standing against homosexual marriage, they’re standing for traditional family values,” Religious Right radio host Rick Wiles said in September. “The United States is exporting its wickedness, we’re using our power and might to force nations to change their laws to accept abortion, to accept homosexual marriage and homosexual rights, so which country is part of the Antichrist system and which is not?”

Wiles even predicted that the U.S. would soon go to war against Russia “with an atheistic, Jesus-hating, pro-homosexual, pro-lesbian, pro-transgender military and we're going to go up against another military carrying a Christian cross.”

Bring Anti-Gay Laws To The U.S.

Anti-gay activist Matt Barber said earlier this year that it was “encouraging” to see more anti-gay measures coming out of Russia, adding that he would like to see laws that “stop this homosexual activist propaganda from corrupting children in our nation and we need to see that right here in the United States.”

Peter LaBarbera called Russia’s “propaganda” law an “acceptable” and necessary way to stop companies like Disney from “promoting lesbianism to kids,” while American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios said the speech-inhibiting law was just “common sense.”

One of Putin’s most vocal cheerleaders, American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer, has called him a “lion of Christianity” and repeatedly demanded that the U.S. enact similar bans on gay “propaganda.”

Since the U.S. hasn’t embrace such an anti-gay crackdown, Religious Right activist William Murray writes, Americans are now “fleeing” to Russia in order to avoid LGBT equality at home.

At Moscow Conference, Don Feder Warned That Sexual Revolution Will Lead To Human Extinction

Last month, a number of Americans joined anti-gay and anti-abortion-rights activists from around the world at a Kremlin-backed conference on “Large Families and the Future of Humanity” in Moscow. The conference was originally organized under the name of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families, but WCF “suspended” its planning of the event after Russia seized part of Ukraine…then the event went ahead as planned with only nominal changes.

Two WCF officials, Don Feder and Larry Jacobs, attended the conference officially in their personal capacities, and Feder gave a speech on how the sexual revolution will make the human race extinct, the text of which he helpfully posted yesterday on BarbWire.

Some choice excerpts:

The effect of the Sexual Revolution on fertility has been profound, far-reaching and possibly irreversible.

For the first time in history, just under half the world’s population of child-bearing age uses some form of birth control. By 2015, the global contraceptives market will generate an estimated $17.2 billion annually.

Generally, this is financed by governments, businesses or international agencies. Many species have become extinct. Ours may be the first to finance its own extinction.

Just as the declining birth rates are the result of the Sexual Revolution, the later is a product of something called Cultural Marxism – a movement associated with Antonio Gramsci (he of the “long march through the culture”) Georg Lukacs, the Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse. Cultural Marxism was their answer to the failure of worldwide revolution after the First World War. Gramsci theorized that the family and the church gave workers a “false class consciousness” that made them immune to the appeals of Marxism.

The solution, then, was to destroy family and religion – and what better way to do that than to foster licentious (“free love” in the vernacular of the era), and a society oriented toward mindless pleasure, rather than childbearing, family formation and the search for higher meaning.

While there’s no proof that dramatically declining fertility is what Cultural Marxists wanted, if you think about it logically that’s the natural consequence of undermining faith and family and a highly eroticized society where family is viewed as an obstacle to self-fulfillment and children as a burden.

We won’t find our way out of the forest of demographic winter until the Sexual Revolution is overthrown – its premises rejected, its prophets exposed and its dogma debunked.

Ultimately, the Sexual Revolution is about death – abortion, contraception (preventing life from happening), sexually-transmitted disease, pornography and promiscuity, in place of marriage, fidelity and childbearing.

Moscow Forum Attended By American Activists Ends With Call For More 'Gay Propaganda' Bans

UPDATED

According to the foundation run by Russian oligarch Constantin Malofeev, this week’s international gathering of anti-gay, anti-abortion-rights activists in Moscow ended with delegates issuing a proclamation that blasts liberal social policies in Western countries and calls for Russian-style “homosexual propaganda” bans to be passed throughout the world.

The forum in Moscow was originally organized under the name of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families, which officially “suspended” its planning of the conference after Russia invaded Ukraine, although two World Congress of Families officials were until recently listed as organizers on the event’s website and attended the gathering. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown also spoke at the event yesterday, and American representatives from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Personhood USA, and Family Watch International were also scheduled to speak.

It’s unclear if any of the Americans at the conference officially backed the resolution.

In the resolution — which was posted on the website of a foundation chaired by Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin, which also helped fund the event — the delegates express their “profound concern because certain countries are pursuing  tenacious policies and an unprecedented propaganda campaign, all of which is leading to the ultimate destruction of the Natural Family − an institution that in a civilized society is the foundation of order, state’s prosperity and social peace.”

In the resolution, delegates vow to "uphold the interests of children and to work for the adoption of legislative bans on all types propaganda concerning homosexual relationships in the environment of children and juveniles” and to support research on “the negative social and psychological effects of raising children in same-gender couples.”

The delegates also vow “demand initiatives and directives from the governments and heads of state to ensure protection of the natural family, childhood, and motherhood in both, domestic and foreign policies.”

UPDATE: Joe Jervis points out that an English translation of the resolution is available. I've updated the quotes above and you can read the whole thing here:

An Urgent APPEAL
To the Nations of the World

To all people of goodwill in the everywhere: To leaders of all faiths, To the architects of public opinion, To those at the helm of professional, women’s and youth organizations, To the UN General Assembly, To the heads of state and legislative bodies and To the mass media.

 We, the Participants of the Moscow International Forum “Large Family and Future of Humanity” (September 10-11, 2014), express our profound concern because certain countries are pursuing  tenacious policies and an unprecedented propaganda campaign, all of which is leading to the ultimate destruction of the Natural Family − an institution that in a civilized society is the foundation of order, state’s prosperity and social peace. 

 The preservation of mankind is based on a system of family and kindred ties that are formed through the bonds of marriage between a male and a female and the children born to them.  This and only this alone, is capable of ensuring the reproduction, stability and continuity of human civilization. All other kinds of sexual relationships or alliances intentionally that exclude the birth of children are meaningless for they are devoid of the notion set down in the very definition of the word “family.” And no political or economic interests can serve as a pretext for replacing the true and time-tested concept of “family” by any kind of surrogate.  

It is precisely this understanding that was set down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1948), as well as in the constitutions of more than 100 countries and reflected in the holy scriptures of various religions. This understanding determines the philosophy and creativity of humanists and thinkers of the past and the contemporary epoch.

  We regretfully declare that the systemic policy pursued by the ruling elite in the developed countries of the world in order to implement the “theory of the post-modern society” – in essence, a “society of unrestrained consumerism,” a policy of creating a society of individuals who are absolutely unconcerned about the future and who are focused only on satisfying their selfish desires of the moment. Actually, such a society is ultimately aimed at destroying faith in God, as well as belief in good. These post-modern policies focused on the material wealth are destroying what is human in the human being (as created by God), at wrecking the spiritual dimension in Man – all of which are his distinguishing features in Living Nature.

  We appeal to all people who acknowledge the significance and values of the Natural Family for preserving human civilization:

  • To unite before the threat of total dehumanization of society, to set up a barrier on the road of ideology-lined, state-supported interference in the private lives of people, in an attempt to foist specific sexual lifestyles and preferences of the minority upon the majority;
  • To strive to set forth legislative initiatives in the laws and constitutions of all countries that clearly define the naturally predetermined relationships in the Family as relationships between the male and female, their children and their relatives;
  • To advocate and support the Natural Family as the sole source of preserving the civilization, the life of Mankind;
  • To make use of all thematic international Days (…protection of children, the family, etc.) whose slogans and mottos refer to traditional values, for demonstrating their disagreement with and dissent for State-supported destructive tendencies in the sex and family life, especially of the young people, and consolidating the understanding of a Natural Family as the foundation of human life at the level of the individual, society, state and civilization;
  • To oppose  the cynical utilization of women as surrogate mothers in the interests of same-gender liaisons and alliances;
  • To uphold the interests of children and to work for the adoption of legislative bans on all types propaganda concerning homosexual relationships in the environment of children and juveniles;
  • To initiate and support scientific research to study the conditions  and prospects of developing a Natural Family, as well as studying the negative social and psychological effects of raising children in same-gender couples;
  •  To support public efforts aimed at ensuring integrity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, to protect children from influences taken against their individuality, and to uphold the child-rearing rights of parents – both father’s and mother’s;
  • To demand initiatives and directives from the governments and heads of state to ensure protection of the natural family, childhood, and motherhood in both, domestic and foreign policies.

  We  urgently call upon the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary General and the UN Supreme Commissioner for Human Rights that, while formulating the programs of the United Nations, to follow the letter and the spirit of Article 16 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which underscores the understanding of the Human Family as the only possible and acceptable notion to human civilization, and to proclaim in the foreseeable future a Special Year or Program in support of the Natural Family.

  We call upon all people who agree with the given Appeal to sign it and support it for the sake of preserving life and civilization on our Earth.

 

 

American Religious Right Leaders Join Moscow Event, May Not Be Able To Avoid Foreign Policy

This week, a number of American Religious Right activists are participating an in international forum on “large families and the future of mankind,” which is organized and funded by a number of close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and kicked off its session at the Kremlin yesterday with the reading of a personal message from Putin himself.

Among the Americans speaking at the forum, according to a preliminary schedule, are the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Austin Ruse, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater and representatives from Personhood USA, the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Janice Shaw Crouse is also scheduled to attend, although possibly no longer as a representative of Concerned Women for America, a group critical of the Moscow conference with which she seems to have parted ways.

The conference was originally organized under the name of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families, but after Russia invaded Ukraine, the group began to lose support from its American allies and announced that it had “suspended planning” on the event, noting that it “takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family.”

In reality, very little but the official name of the conference seems to have changed. World Congress of Families officials Don Feder and Larry Jacobs are attending in their personal capacities, and insist that their group is not “financially sponsoring” the event and would not have its name attached to it. But WCF’s sponsorship was always nominal — the group has a very small budget of its own and instead acts as an agent for bringing together better-funded activists and organizations. Even before WCF dropped its official involvement, it had given credit to a number of Russian allies for funding the conference.

Although the focus of the conference is the promotion of “large families” (and with it the resistance to LGBT equality and abortion rights), it may be impossible for attendees to ignore the foreign policy implications of the event.

As we have noted, Putin played up the supposed dangers of LGBT rights in his efforts to prevent Ukraine from joining the EU — a geopolitical ploy that had dangerous consequences for the LGBT communities in Russian and Ukraine.

Constantin Malofeev, the oligarch who helped to organize and fund the conference this week, brought this up in his speech to the event yesterday, presenting the “propagation of homosexuality and gay parades” as a defining factor in the battle over Ukraine:

In Ukraine, which is our fraternal country, association with European Union was not signed last year because, in this case, the Ukrainians learned that they had to allow propagation of homosexuality and gay parades. So, the new regime in Ukraine, the first thing they did was to allow a gay parade in Kiev. So we are defending our position. We are protecting fathers, mothers and children.

He also attacked the United States for including Yelena Mizulina, the force behind many of Russia’s harsh new anti-gay laws, on its economic sanctions list. (Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin, who along with his wife Natalia also spoke at and helped fund the conference, is another U.S. sanctions target).

And if we are part of the sanctions for Ukraine. But Madam Mizulina was included in the sanctions as one of the first, and this is just because she defends the family values.

And as Richard Bartholomew points out, today’s schedule includes a panel titled “Family Policy in Ukraine: Conclusions and Warnings for Russia.”

An ever-present theme at the first day of the conference was the idea of Russia as a bulwark protecting the world against the U.S. and Europe’s encroaching liberalism. The Moscow Times writes that the theme came up in both Yakunin and Mizulina’s remarks:

In choosing conservative values, Russia represents "the final hope" for the modern world, which has been corrupted by the Western debauchery of individualism, consumerism and globalization, participants of a Moscow forum agreed Wednesday.

Yakunin, whose wife Natalya moderated the proceedings, attended the forum, taking to the stage to talk about Russia's departure from the Western model of development that, according to him, does not lead to either material or spiritual well-being.

Mizulina, who chairs the Duma's committee on family, women and children's issues and has advocated a law requiring women to get their husband's permission in order to have an abortion, lashed out at the West.

"I am sure that in contemporary Europe it would not be possible to hold a forum like this," Mizulina told the audience after reading a welcome note from State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin.

"Even if they are held there, they are not hosted at the Kremlin, like in Russia, but somewhere on the outskirts," she said.

UPDATED: 'Cancelled' World Congress Of Families Kremlin Conference Begins Today, Possibly With Special Guest Star Brian Brown

Constantin Malofeev’s group has posted photos of one of today’s panels on Facebook, which show that Brian Brown did indeed present at the event.

Australian Politicians Back Out Of World Congress Of Families Event, Citing Far-Right Ties

A World Congress of Families event in Melbourne this week was supposed to feature speeches by three Australian government officials, including social services minister Kevin Andrews. Instead, all three have backed out in the face of criticism of the Illinois-based group’s promotion of harsh anti-gay and anti-choice laws around the world.

In addition, the Australian politicians had come under fire for the conference’s sponsorship by Catch the Fire ministries, a group run by far-right politician Danny Nalliah who has blamed wildfires on abortion rights and frequently lashes out against "multiculturalism." (Nalliah also happens to be an ally of bizarre birther WND columnist and RWW favorite Lord Monckton).

Andrews’ decision to back out of the WCF event is especially galling since the group had been planning to present him with its “Natural Family Man of the Year” award. In a somewhat confusing statement, Andrews criticized those asking him to back out of trying to “shut down debate” while agreeing with them that the WCF summit represented “intolerance.” The Sydney Morning Herald:

Mr Andrews issued a statement on Friday announcing he had decided not to attend the conference after learning it would be hosted by the far-right Catch the Fire Ministries.

"Tolerance is a critical value in a western liberal democracy like Australia. It was for this reason that I intended to address the World Congress of Families meeting in Melbourne tomorrow," Mr Andrews said in the statement.

"The calls for me not to attend demonstrate the intolerance of the Greens and the left - instead of arguing their case in the public arena they seek to shut down debate."

"Equally, I cannot support intolerance from other quarters. As I have been informed today that the event is now to be hosted by Catch the Fire, I have decided not to attend."

The World Congress of Families will be holding its next big conference in Salt Lake City next year. It will be interesting to see whether American politicians also choose to stay away.

Why Are 'Sexual Radicals' Accusing Poor Matt Barber, Rick Scarborough And Daniel Lapin of Being Anti-Gay?

In the latest installment of the right-wing victimhood saga, the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has released an open letter accusing “sexual radicals” of launching a “smear campaign” against them in advance of a planned conference in Melbourne later this week.

“Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the positions of the World Congress of Families,” the letter says. “Specifically, it is alleged that advocacy of the natural (or normative) family is somehow unfair to other families and that we ‘shame’ single-parent families, homosexual ‘couples’ and the divorced.” (Scare quotes in the original.)

"The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past," the letter continues. "Like all social experiments that attempt to create a 'new man,' these are doomed to failure."

Yes, who could accuse the signers of the letter of shaming LGBT people? Among the 80 signatories are such notable LGBT allies as Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, who started his very own website to publish off-the-charts anti-gay vitriol; Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who has said that homosexuality is a form of “barbarism”; Russian World Congress of Families activists Alexei Komov and Pavel Parfentiev, who have cheered on their country’s new spate of anti-gay laws; and Rick Scarborough, who claims that AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality.

Also joining the defense of the World Congress of Families are the Family Research Council’s Patrick Fagan, the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, former House majority leader Tom Delay, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Benjamin Bull, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, along with a number of international allies of WCF.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign has just released a new report detailing WCF’s support for repressive anti-gay laws throughout the world.

Theme Of 2015 World Congress Of Families Conference Will Be 'Religious Liberty'

The Associated Press reports that the theme of the next World Congress of Families, which will be held in Salt Lake City next year, is “religious liberty.”

“Religious liberty” is the hot topic for the Religious Right these days, but it doesn’t mean the same thing to the World Congress of Families and its allies that it means to the rest of us.

WCF has defended oppressive laws throughout the world, including a pair of recent Russian laws that were so extreme that they were condemned by even U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom chairman Robert George —  a prominent opponent of marriage equality in the U.S. — as "part of the Putin government’s assault on freedom of religion and expression."

The group applauded Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people, saying, “The Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world” and helped to bring in American validators like the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown to encourage a spate of anti-gay laws. WCF and its allied activists in Russia promoted and defended the most notorious of these laws, a gag order on pro-gay-rights speech — or “propaganda” — to minors, and worked with the law’s author to plan the Kremlin conference.

WCF, nonetheless, had to cancel its conference at the Kremlin this year — which was to be funded by major Vladimir Putin allies — after participants started to back out fearing a foreign policy headache.

WCF board member Janice Shaw Crouse, who is also a senior fellow at Concerned Women for America, has defended Putin’s prosecution of the members of the band Pussy Riot, which led to the passage of a ban on religious blasphemy.

Earlier this year, WCF presented an award to its Africa regional director, who backed a ban on free association among gay people in Nigeria.

The Salt Lake City conference’s website says the event will be organized by the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based group whose president, Paul Mero, used to be an executive at the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, which runs the World Congress of Families. Mero was the coauthor of WCF founder Allan Carlson’s book, “The Natural Family: A Manifesto.”

Last year, after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two marriage equality cases, Mero presented his view that freedom is incompatable with gay rights. Society cannot truly be free, he wrote, if our laws “codify bad behavior” like homosexuality, because “bad behavior is the enemy of freedom.”

However these two cases are ultimately decided, I have to wonder aloud if the average American today even understands the requirements of a free society. I’ll remind you of what I have stated repeatedly: A free society requires us to become our better selves. In other words, a free society cannot long endure an aggregate of bad behavior. If the people decide one day that stealing is actually fine, we would eventually lose our freedom. If the people decide one day that lying is okay, we would eventually lose our freedom. Or, if the people decide one day that infidelity in our most personal relationships is normal, we would eventually lose our freedom.

Bad behavior is the enemy of freedom. Yes, a free society is very patient and very forgiving. Individually, each of us has great liberties to work out our lives for the better. We stumble and we fail, but as long as we keep trying to better ourselves, in character and virtue, freedom remains undisturbed. It’s only when we give up on becoming our better selves, only when a majority of people argue that character and virtue don’t matter, only when a nation decides to redefine the best within us to mean anything we need it to mean in justifying bad behavior that our freedom is in jeopardy.

There’s a lot we could talk about there but the idea itself raises another question regarding “gay rights”: How does homosexuality help us to become our better selves? What benefit to society is derived from two men being able to marry?

Again, a free society is very tolerant by nature. Everyone has wide latitude in working out their personal lives – and every one of us behaves badly to one degree or another. That’s a given. It’s part of life. But what a free society can ill afford is when the people decide to codify bad behavior in the law. Our laws increasingly reflect our dysfunctional selves, not our better selves. The argument over “gay rights” and same-sex marriage is ultimately an argument over whether or not we enshrine bad behavior in our laws. Being “gay” might be about personal feelings and sexual attractions for some. But our laws only know human behavior – and a free society requires that our laws sustain and encourage the best within us, not our selfish worst.

One Year After Passage Of Gay Propaganda Ban, American Right Continues To Look To Russia As A Guide

The Human Rights Campaign released a report today to mark the first anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of his infamous ban on “gay propaganda” and related anti-LGBT legislation. HRC reports “an uptick in violent attacks on LGBT people” since the bills’ passage that has accompanied a spike in “anti-LGBT sentiment” in the public square.

Yet despite the dangerous consequences of the increasing use of LGBT people as scapegoats — both in Russia and in neighboring Eastern European and Central Asian countries — and the place of anti-gay politics in Putin’s expansionist agenda, many on the American Religious Right continue to celebrate Putin’s crackdown on gay rights and even to hail it as a model for the United States.

The issue has been divisive on the Right. For instance, Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid — hardly a fan of gay people — got into a memorable shouting match earlier this year with World Congress of Families representatives, who he accused of cozying up to Putin.

It has also put some groups in tough positions. The World Congress of Families was forced to suspend its planned conference at the Kremlin, which was to be funded by a handful of people close to Putin, after Russia seized Crimea and groups including Concerned Women for America started backing out.

But we continue to hear right-wing activists heaping praise on Putin for his enthusiastic anti-gay politics and increasing embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Just last week, Phyllis Schlafly praised Putin for “warming up to religious freedom” as “Americans are rejecting it”:

And earlier this week, WorldNetDaily announced that people around the world are “fleeing” to Russia to escape homosexuality in their own countries .

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer continues to push for the U.S. to adopt a “propaganda” ban like Russia’s:

Anti-gay activists including Pat Buchanan,Peter LaBarbera,Franklin Graham,Scott Lively,Keith Davies,Linda Harvey,Randall Terry,Gordon Klingenschmitt,Janice Shaw Crouse, Austin Ruse, Bob Vander Plaats , Rick Scarborough and, of course, the WorldCongress of Families have defended Russia’s anti-gay crackdown or called for similar laws in the U.S.

And, of course, some have directly lent their support to the passage of anti-gay laws in Russia: the World Congress of Families has an active network in Russia and Eastern Europe and just days before Putin signed the propaganda ban recruited the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown to warn Russian lawmakers about the risks of gay rights.

The support for laws that have dangerously scapegoated LGBT people in Russia is especially ironic coming from a movement that claims that the gay rights movement in the United States is persecuting them .

World Congress Of Families Funder Convenes Far-Right Group To Discuss Ridding Europe of 'Satanic Gay Lobby'

Yesterday, Andy Towle spotted a report in the Austrian Independent about a meeting in Vienna this week “discussing ways to rid Europe of the ‘satanic gay lobby’” that was “hosted by a Russian oligarch” and attended by far-right politicians from throughout Europe.

A secret meeting discussing ways to rid Europe of the 'satanic gay lobby' was hosted by a Russian oligarch and attended by a host of far-right MPs and ultra-conservative Eurasian ideologists in Vienna at the weekend - just across the road from where the Life Ball was taking place the very same night.

The meeting was hosted by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeew and his Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and was attended by nationalists and Christian fundamentalists from Russia and the West. These were thought to include the chief Russian ideologist of the Eurasian movement Alexander Dugin, the nationalist painter Ilja Glasunow, and MPs from far right parties including the Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

According to Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, who say they managed to confirm the event tok place from two independent sources, the meeting was hosted at Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein under conditions of extreme secrecy.

As it happens, the Russian oligarch who convened the meeting is Konstantin Malofeev, who is also heavily involved with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families. According to a talk WCF's managing director gave in February, Malofeev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation was to be a major sponsor of WCF’s since-postponed conference in Moscow this year and Malofeev was a member of the conference’s planning committee.

It was also Malofeev who hosted the meeting in Moscow that National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown attended last summer, just in time to cheer on the Russian parliament’s approval of new anti-gay laws. (Brown had been invited to participate in the event by "Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families").

The Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger notes that Aymeric Chauprade, a newly elected member of the European Parliament from France’s far-right National Front party, also attended the event. (Chauprade confirmed his attendance to Le Figaro.) Chauprade, a foreign policy advisor to National Front leader Marine Le Pen, also participated in the meeting last year with Brown and Malofeev.

It’s hardly unusual for politicians and activists to have a private meeting, but the existence of this summit to combat the “satanic gay lobby” underscores the fraught role that anti-gay activism is currently playing in European and Russian politics. Many on the European far-right see Russia’s anti-gay crackdown as a key part of their resistance to the European Union and liberalism in Europe.

As Malofeev put it at the meeting last year, Russia is the “center of salvation for conservative, Christian, European values.” Or as Chauprade said, “Patriots around the world, as committed to the independence of nations as they are to the foundations of our civilization, turn their eyes at this time towards Moscow.”

World Congress Of Families To Honor Nigerian Activist Who Claims Gay Rights Advocates In 'Conspiracy' With Boko Haram

Yesterday, the World Congress of Families announced the recipients of its annual Lifetime Achievement Awards and “Natural Family Man and Woman of the Year Awards.”

Naturally, WCF – which recently suspended planning on a conference at the Kremlin due to the crisis in Ukraine – has chosen to present the awards to an array of activists who have been working to suppress reproductive rights and to push harmful anti-gay policies around the world.

The recipients include an Australian cabinet minister, the leader of a British social conservative group who has campaigned against gay rights in Jamaica and Russia, and a Venezuelan activist close to the Vatican who has warned that expanding gay rights in Latin America will lead to “people dying of AIDS like flies.”

Also receiving an award is WCF’s own African regional director, Theresa Okafor of Nigeria, who also heads the conservative groups Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH) and Life League Nigeria.

Okafor’s group backed Nigeria’s recent ban on all same-sex relationships, which included a ban on gay people meeting in groups of two or more. The ban quickly led to arrests of reportedly dozens of people alleged to be gay. In January, FACH joined a coalition of NGOS that commended Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan for signing the law. In April, FACH shared on its Facebook page videos of a press conference it organized in support of the bill in which speakers called homosexuality “abhorrent” and compared it to alcoholism.

In a speech to the World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in “a conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram. “Unfortuntately, in Nigeria where I come from, we have these fundamentalists, the Boko Haram – I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news – bombing churches. They seem to be helping some people in Western countries who are out to silence Christians. The Boko Haram are targeting Christians in Nigeria, so you wonder if there’s a conspiracy between the two worlds,” she said.

In the speech, Okafor defended moves toward harsh anti-gay laws in Nigeria and Uganda and speculated that efforts to defend LGBT rights in Africa are “another ploy to depopulate Africa.”

In 2011, Equality Matters ran down Okafor and FACH’s anti-gay activism:

FACH is an umbrella organization that includes a variety of right-wing organizations such as the Association of Concerned Mothers, Nigerian Association for Family Development, Doctors Health Initiative, Life League Nigeria, the Christian Association of Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Nigeria.

Among her achievements, Okafor counts keeping sex education out of Nigerian schools while eschewing the “conspiracy to strip Africa of its cherished values by international organizations like Planned Parenthood and the United Nations.”

Okafor also managed to convince the conservative World Congress of Families to hold its first “African conference” in Abuja, Nigeria in 2009, a gathering that this unambiguously homophobic article from a Nigerian outlet hailed as “aimed at giving the Nigerian perspective to a troubled world lurching from one moral crisis to another.”

Okafor also recently refuted the notion that LGBT people experience prejudice in Nigeria.

“I have heard accusations that they are being discriminated against,” Okafor said, “but this is completely false because if you think deeply about it, it is not the person that is being despised, it is the conduct.”

Okafor has also worked closely with the American group Family Watch International.

World Congress Of Families Spokesman Defends Russian American Adoption Ban

In an interview with WorldNetDaily this weekend, World Congress of Families communications director Don Feder defended the author of Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban, also a key proponent of the ban on American adoptions, and claimed that she had been “punished” with sanctions because the Obama administration is “controlled by the gay lobby.”

Yelena Mizulina, head of the Duma’s committee on families and an organizer of the World Congress of Families’ upcoming Moscow conference, was among the Russian officials hit with economic sanctions after the seizure of Crimea. Along with her role promoting the propaganda ban and a crackdown on adoptions to countries that allow marriage equality, Mizulina helped push the 2012 ban on Russian adoptions to the U.S.

Feder told WorldNetDaily that Mizulina was “absolutely right” in her push to ban American adoptions because children could end up adopted by same-sex couples. “The Russians are very traditional people,” he added. “They have a strong religious orientation. They haven’t got caught up in the whole politically correct thing that has captured so many people in this country.”

“They don’t want to see Russian children placed with homosexuals,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t blame them.”

Feder claimed that the Obama administration used the Crimea crisis as a “convenient excuse” for “payback” against Mizulina.

“This administration is clearly controlled by the gay lobby,” he said. “Whatever organized homosexuals want, the administration gives them.”

He added that he was appalled by the Obama administration’s commitment to defending LGBT people around the world from violence and persecution: “You have to shake your head in wonder. Promoting gay rights is now a major US foreign policy initiative!”

World Congress Of Families Suspends Kremlin Summit, Still Supports Russia's Anti-Gay Crackdown

The World Congress of Families announced in a press release today that it is suspending planning on an upcoming summit at the Kremlin due to concerns about “travel, logistics, and other matters” related to “the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea.”

The WCF’s planned Moscow summit – which was funded in part by advocates with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin –  came under increased scrutiny after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine, with one American group, Concerned Women For America, publicly announcing that it would pull out of the event .

Adding another layer of complication, two of the primary Russian organizers of the event were put under US economic sanctions last week in response to the Ukraine invasion.

In the press release, WCF makes clear that it still supports Russian president Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people. “At a time when Western governments are moving backward to a pagan worldview, Russia has taken a leadership role to advance the natural family,” it says.

As we have documented extensively, WCF has been active in pushing anti-gay laws in both Russia and Ukraine, aiding Putin’s effort to use anti-gay politics as a wedge issue against American and European influence.

ROCKFORD, Ill., March 25, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Planning on World Congress of Families VIII - the Moscow Congress (scheduled for September 10-12, 2014) -- has been suspended for the time being. The situation in the Ukraine and Crimea (and the resulting U.S. and European sanctions) has raised questions about the travel, logistics, and other matters necessary to plan WCF VIII.

The foregoing is not meant to reflect negatively on the Russian people, churches or individuals who have taken a leadership role in the fight to preserve life, marriage, and the natural family at home and as part of the international pro-family movement.

We are proud of the accomplishments of our Russian Partners, and applaud the moves of the Russian people, through their elected representatives, to protect life, the family and the innocence of children. At a time when Western governments are moving backward to a pagan worldview, Russia has taken a leadership role to advance the natural family.

The World Congress of Families takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family. The family is above national concerns and should unite all people of good will who recognize the centrality of the family as the foundation of civilization. Our Russian Partners and others we have worked with in the Russian Federation have our prayers and encouragement in their pro-family work.

Two Russian Officials On Sanctions List Closely Involved In Upcoming World Congress Of Families Summit

Two Russian officials whose places in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle have made them subject to US economic sanctions are also intimately involved in the upcoming World Congress of Families summit at the Kremlin, organized by the Illinois-based World Congress of Families and supported by a number of prominent US Religious Right groups.

It’s hardly a coincidence that two major backers of the summit would end up on the sanctions list. As we have reported, Putin and his allies have leaned on social conservative causes, especially opposition to gay rights, to solidify support at home and provoke anti-EU hostility in Ukraine. It’s not surprising that the World Congress of Families summit, which brings together anti-gay and anti-choice groups from around the world, has proved a popular cause among some of the Russian president’s greatest allies.

Yelena Mizulina, a member of parliament who was the force behind Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” ban, was among the seven Russian officials on whom the White House imposed economic sanctions last Monday. Mizulina has worked closely with the organizers of the upcoming World Congress of Families summit: She joined an organizing meeting for the event in October and is scheduled to lead a panel discussion on “pro-family legislation” at the conference.

Mizulina has made no secret of the fact that her focus on opposing gay rights is closely intertwined with her interest in distancing Russia from the United States and the European Union. At an event in Moscow in June, which was also attended by the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, Mizulina framed Russia’s crackdown on gay rights as a battle between Russia’s protection of “traditional family identity” and a decadent Europe that has embraced “sexual minorities”:

[T]oday the whole world is looking at Russia with hope that Russia will hold fast and not give in to this unusual pressure from European governments and will conserve its own traditional family identity. It’s perfectly clear that Europe today, faced by the collision of two very serious values—the right of children to a family and the right of sexual minorities to a family—is making its choice in favor of sexual minorities.

A few days after the White House announced its sanctions on Mizulina, it imposed sanctions on a number of other Russian officials, including Vladimir Yakunin, a close ally of Putin who is also a major funder of the World Congress of Families summit.

At a recent press conference promoting the upcoming gathering, World Congress of Families director Larry Jacobs went out of his way to thank a list of the event’s major sponsors, including two groups connected to Yakunin: the Saint Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which is headed by Yakunin, and the Sanctity of Motherhood program, which is run by Yakunin’s wife Natalia Yakunina. Both Yakunin and Yakunina are on the “Russian organizing committee” for the WCF summit, and brochure for the event features the two alongside Putin as staples of the “pro-life and pro-family movement in Russia."

As Wayne Besen pointed out shortly before the sanctions were imposed, Yakunin is “one of Russia’s most outspoken America-bashers.”

So far, just one American group, Concerned Women For America, has dropped out of the summit in response to Russia’s siezure of Crimea. (Although it’s unclear of CWA senior fellow Janice Shaw Crouse, who is also a member of the board of the World Congress of Families, will remain involved.) We wonder if the presence of two of the event’s organizers on the sanctions list will cause any other American groups involved in the event – including Focus on the Family, the National Organization for Marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Christian Broadcasting Network – to drop their support as well.

Concerned Women For America Drops Out Of World Congress of Families Moscow Summit

As we’ve been reporting, the American Religious Right has found itself in a tough spot following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, since many Religious Right leaders have not only praised Putin’s anti-gay, anti-choice policies but are planning to attend a World Congress of Families summit at the Kremlin later this year.

Now, one such group that previously praised Putin has announced that it will pull out of the Moscow summit. Buzzfeed reported yesterday that Concerned Women for America will no longer be participating in the World Congress of Families event because, as the group’s CEO Penny Nance said, “I don’t want to appear to be giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin.”

CWA’s choice is especially surprising because its senior fellow, Janice Shaw Crouse, is amember of the board of the World Congress of Families and has been a vocal defender of Putin’s social policies. Last month, Crouse even appeared at a press conference promoting the Moscow summit.

Now the question becomes whether other American groups will follow Nance’s lead. An organizing meeting for the event in October included Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Benjamin Bull of Alliance Defending Freedom, Justin Murff of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute.

A draft program for the event that was obtained by Buzzfeed includes speeches by ADF president Allan Sears, Focus president Jim Daly, Mike Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Brown, Ruse and Murff, among others.

In addition, the World Congress of Families receives funding from “partner organizations” including the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and Americans United for Life.

The World Congress of Families’ Larry Jacobs said at last month’s press conference that members of the U.S. Congress would also attend the event, though he would not specify which ones since he said their confirmations were not yet finalized. The draft program also accounts for speeches from unidentified members of Congress. to speak.

As we’ve noted, the planned summit is more than just a trip to Moscow. It’s being held at the Kremlin with funding from key Putin allies and will include a joint forum with Russia’s parliament. In addition, the World Congress of Families itself has been working to support Putin’s crackdown on LGBT rights in Russia, along with his push to keep Ukraine out of the European Union. Riling up hostility to gay rights, in particular, has become a powerful wedge issue for Russian-aligned, anti-EU activists in Ukraine.

Ruse articulated the apparent attitude of many American groups when he told Buzzfeed that although the Ukraine invasion “muddied the water,” he had not been concerned about working so closely with the Putin regime until now, “because the Russian government has been quite good on our issues.”

Nance is aware of the message that her group’s participation in the summit would send. Will anybody else follow her lead?

How the World Congress of Families' Anti-Gay Activism Aided Anti-EU Propaganda In Ukraine

Late last week, Don Feder of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families sent out a press release announcing that his group was “concerned about the crisis in Ukraine” and would “pray for world leaders to come together to promote peace and resolve the conflict.” The group also announced that it would go ahead with a planned meeting in Kiev later this year; it did not mention whether its planned summit at the Kremlin in September was still on.

But the World Congress of Families’ involvement in relations between Ukraine, Russia, and the European Union is more complicated than Feder’s release lets on. Although WCF has distanced itself from Feder’s foreign policy opinions, Feder has been very clear where his loyalty lies in Ukraine’s unrest. In a column earlier this month, Feder attacked the “Maidan mob” that had ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and bashed the EU’s “willingness to accept same-sex ‘marriage,’ abortion on demand, and anti-religion ethos.”

And the WCF itself has allied with anti-EU activists in Ukraine to push anti-gay causes, putting itself right in the middle of a powerful anti-EU wedge issue .

Many right-wing groups, including the World Congress of Families, have enthusiastically praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new focus on opposing gay rights and abortion access, promoting large families, and close alliance with the Russian Orthodox church, while conveniently ignoring the role these “family issues” play in his consolidation and expansion of power. When Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine two weeks ago, that dynamic became harder to ignore.

In fact, the World Congress of Families, an offshoot of the Howard Center on Family, Religion and Society, has done more than ally with Russia’s leaders as they seek to impose harsh anti-gay policies in their own country. The group has also brought its advocacy to Ukraine, where it has worked to push anti-gay legislation backed by pro-Russia, anti-EU groups in the lead-up the governmental crisis, which was precipitated by Yanukovych’s decision to back out of an association agreement with the EU in favor of a customs union with Russia. Putin strongly opposed closer ties between EU and Ukraine and offered Yanukovych’s government financial incentives to fortify its relationship with Russia.

In November, Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder (no relation to Don) published an extensive report on how Russia was pushing “homophobic nationalism” in Ukraine as part of its campaign to prevent the country from strengthening its association with the European Union. Those efforts were aided by pro-Russian lawmakers pushing a “homosexual propaganda” ban similar to the one passed last year in Russia. A similar bill had passed in parliament with wide support in 2012, but had become a potential sticking point in negotiations with the EU. An EU parliament member explained to Buzzfeed:

“I don’t think the more pro-Western [politicians] would necessarily be that much in favor of LGBT rights,” said Ulrike Lunacek, a member of the European Parliament from Austria and co-president of its intergroup on LGBT rights and sits on its foreign affairs committee. “But it’s very clear that the more pro-Russian side is using the … propaganda law that [means] you’re not allowed to talk about LGBT rights to enhance their political situation in the country. Very often the politicians in these countries … [use] the argument against LGBT rights to cover up problems that exist on the economic level.”

That is, Ukraine’s proposed “homosexual propaganda” law had support from advocates on both sides of the EU issue; but it was the anti-EU politicians aligned with Putin who were using it as a wedge issue to promote a larger geopolitical agenda.

In July, 2013, a pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker reintroduced the “homosexual propaganda” ban. Three months later, in October, WCF announced that Feder, the group's communications director, would travel to Kiev to meet with “key Ukrainian leaders, including members of parliament.” Speaking at a press conference in Kiev in October, Feder warned Ukrainians against following the US into the “abyss” of gay rights.

“Everywhere you look, from Washington to the United Nations to the European Union to the courts, the family is threatened,” he said. “There are forces in your country that want to put you on the road America’s taken. I urge you to resist them.”

He went on to warn that gay rights advances in the United States were leading to legalized pedophilia, “a campaign to abolish gender distinctions,” and ultimately “the criminalization of Christianity.”

“What starts by asking for tolerance ends by demanding obedience,” he warned.

The video below contains Feder's full speech; we have edited out the interjections of a translator.

Feder was surrounded at the news conference by Alexey Komov, WCF’s main organizer in Moscow, Fabrice Sorlin, a far-right French activist allied with WCF who has praised Russia for stopping gay rights advances like it fought off “Mongol hordes,” and by Aleksander Skvortsov of an NGO called the Parents Committee of Ukraine.

Skvortsov’s group doesn’t just oppose gay rights; it also pressed the Ukrainian government to reject an agreement with the EU because, as Skvortsov put it, “it will lead to the inevitable homosexualizing of Ukraine.” A couple of weeks after the press conference with Feder, Skortsov’s group burned a rainbow flag to protest the planned EU agreement. In November, when Yanukovych rejected the EU deal, tens of thousands of Ukrainians marched in protest; but Skortsov helped organize a flash mob dance in celebration of Ukraine’s rejection of  "homodictatorship.”

WCF was also involved in the effort to pass the gay “propaganda” bill that threatened to harm EU negotiations. In May, WCF’s “ambassador to European institutions” Pavel Parfentiev worked with Skvortsov’s group to write a memo to the Venice Commission defending the proposed “homosexual propaganda” bills in Russia and Ukraine, claiming such laws are “fully compatible with international human rights law provisions.”

In early November, shortly before Yanukovych rejected the EU deal, Parfentiev joined Skortsov at a press conference urging Ukraine not to sign an association agreement with the EU without amending it to prevent Ukraine from adopting gay rights laws. “I find it surprising that Ukrainian leaders did nothing to protect the family and family values ​​in the Ukraine Association Agreement with the European Union,” Parfentiev reportedly said, adding that EU gay rights protections present “a very real threat to the family and morality in Ukraine.”

“You need to work to change the treaty or simply refuse to accept it,” he said.

At the press conference, Skortsov also announced the creation of a campaign called “Stop It Now,” to counter “homototalitarianism” throughout the world. The campaign’s website contains various colorful materials educating readers about the myriad of dangers gay rights supposedly present to society.

The New York Times reported in December about how pro-government demonstrators were using opposition to gay rights as a wedge against an agreement with the EU:

"We are against the spiritual expansion of the West,” said another protester, Andrei A. Shyropov, a teacher. “We are against the Euro Sodom,” he continued, using a phrase rhyming with and mocking the name the supporters of European integration have given to their movement, the Euromaidan, which means “Eurosquare” in Ukrainian.

Valentin B. Lukyanik, an organizer of the march Friday, said the economic benefits of European trade were outweighed by “the expansion of European values that destroy the family.”

The World Congress of Families and the American groups it allies with– including Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage – seem to be conveniently ignoring the role that anti-gay activism is playing in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist plans, including his efforts to wrest Ukraine’s loyalties away from the European Union.

Will American Religious Right Groups Go Ahead With Their Kremlin Summit?

As President Obama and world leaders debate whether to go ahead with this year’s planned G-8 meeting in Sochi after Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, American Religious Right leaders are facing a diplomatic dilemma of their own.

In September, social conservative leaders from around the globe, including representatives of several major American Religious Right groups are planning to hold the annual World Congress of Families gathering at the Kremlin. The gathering is supported by political leaders in Russian Orthodox Church and will include a joint session with the Russian parliament.

American social conservatives have rallied – with varying levels of enthusiasm – to support Russian President Vladimir Putin as his government has passed aseries of anti-gay laws and joined with the church to take up other “family values” issues. These activists, in praising Russia’s renewed push on issues such as gay rights, have largely chosen to ignore the role that social issues are playing in Putin's larger plans.

Issues such as gay rights, abortion rights, and population growth aren't a side project for Putin – they're closely entwined with his tightening grip on power and what Julia Ioffe calls his “appetite for expansion.” For instance, as Buzzfeed's Lester Feder has reported extensively, Russia and its allies in Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe have riled up anti-gay sentiment as part of a larger agenda of fomenting distrust of the EU and the West. Putin’s anti-gay crackdown has also been useful in promoting nationalist sentiment within Russia and to provide a useful scapegoat as he tightens his grip on power.

When Larry Jacobs of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families gushes that “the Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world” or when former Fox News producer Jack Hanick, who has been active in anti-gay causes in Russia, says that “God called on” Russia to “stand up for traditional values,” they are playing into Putin’s own narrative.

In October, leaders from major U.S. Religious Right groups including the National Organization for Marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family traveled to Moscow for a planning meeting for the upcoming conference, where they met with Yelena Mizulina, a member of parliament at the head of the Kremlin's social conservative push and coauthor of the infamous "gay propaganda" bill.

In addition, nearly every major Religious Right group in the country is an official paying “partner” of the World Congress of Families; groups including the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage, pay an annual $2,500 fee to support the organization, which is an offshoot of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.

The American Right has found Putin's Russia to be an ally of convenience as they work to build an international movement opposing gay rights, choice, and religious pluralism. But how far are they willing to take the relationship?

Pussy Riot's American Detractors

Two members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who in 2012 were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for staging a protest in a cathedral, were detained again in Sochi, Russia, today. The two were released after a few hours, during which they say that they were beaten by police .

While people across the world have held up the Pussy Riot prosecution as an example of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s human rights abuses, the group has had some strong detractors in the American right. Just as with Russia’s recent crackdown on LGBT people, the ordeal of Pussy Riot has divided the American conservative movement. While Texas senator Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero, last month criticized the prosecution of the band (whose name he nevertheless wouldn’t say), some of his allies on the Religious Right have cheered Putin on.

Shortly after the sentencing of Pussy Riot’s members, Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America – also a board member of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families – wrote a column arguing that the band was guilty of “religious bigotry” and should “accept responsibility for [their] actions.” At a World Congress of Families event earlier this month, Crouse repeated that she had “no problem whatsoever” with the Pussy Riot prosecution.

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a close ally of the World Congress of Families that works to oppose gay rights and reproductive rights advances at the United Nations, has repeatedly defended the Pussy Riot prosecution on its blog, calling them a "small group of female hooligans" and comparing them to 1960s political "terrorists."

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan also defended Putin’s actions against Pussy Riot, praising the Russian president for “trying to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation it had been for 1,000 years before Russia fell captive to the atheistic and pagan ideology of Marxism.”

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer praised Putin’s supposed protection of “Christian values,” calling him a “lion of Christianity.”

As we discuss in our “Globalizing Homophobia” report, the anti-gay part of Putin’s agenda has caught the imagination of American social conservatives, who have rallied to support the Russian president’s defense of “Christian values.”

Putin’s targeting of Pussy Riot is closely linked to this crackdown on gay rights that has been enthusiastically embraced by American conservatives. Both are part of a broader campaign to stir up popular sentiment against minority rights: On the very same day that the Russian parliament passed its infamous “homosexual propaganda” ban, it also responded to the Pussy Riot controversy by imposing an anti-blasphemy law that imposes a three-year prison sentence for “offending religious sensibilities.”

World Congress Of Families Spokesman: Putin Will Save America From 'Heady Elixir Of Sexual Rights'

World Congress of Families spokesman Don Feder is once again defending Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people. In a column posted at GrasstopsUSA yesterday, Feder defends Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda,” saying it merely prevents “two homosexuals” from standing “outside an elementary school with a banner that says: ‘Hey kids, sodomy is swell – and you should try it!’” (In fact, journalists have been fined under the law for reporting about openly gay people). He also claims that Russia is interested in cracking down on LGBT people in order to prevent HIV.

Feder echoes the assertion of Alexey Komov, a Russian anti-gay activist and the main organizer of WCF’s upcoming Moscow conference, that Putin is the new Reagan, come to “save” America from “communism,” including the gay-rights rulings of American judges “drunk on the heady elixir of sexual rights.”

There should be an event at the Sochi Olympics where advocates posing as journalists, celebrity nitwits and politicians can compete to see who can wail the loudest and longest about the supposed horror of Russia's dreaded anti-gay law, while Pussy Riot plays in the background. Extra points will be awarded for absurd and offensive analogies to the Holocaust.

A word about that law, which wasn't initiated by Putin and passed the State Duma without a single dissenting vote: It does not outlaw homosexuality. Dozens of gay clubs operate openly in Moscow. The only prohibition is publicly promoting homosexuality to minors.

For example, two homosexuals are not allowed to stand outside an elementary school with a banner that says: "Hey kids, sodomy is swell – and you should try it!" Each violation by an individual is punishable by a fine that's the equivalent of $50.00. Violations of the Nuremberg laws, which had nothing to do with Jewish parades in Berlin, were punished by imprisonment and hard labor.

Why would Russia, with a declining population, be concerned about promoting these "non-traditional lifestyles" to children? Might it have something to do with the British medical journal The Lancet's report that a male homosexual is 18 times more likely to contract HIV than a heterosexual – or those notorious homophobes at the Centers for Disease Control disclosing that in 2010, men who have sex with men (as they delicately put it) accounted for 63% of new HIV infections in the U.S.?


The left believes in popular sovereignty – within narrowly defined limits. In the United States, between 1998 and 2012, the voters of 32 states passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. This represents 50 million votes for maintaining the integrity of the institution on which civilization depends. On average, the referenda passed by two-to-one majorities.

Despite that overwhelming expression of popular sentiment, state and federal courts (SCOTUS included) have been working overtime to negate the will of the people. When he's through remaking Russia, perhaps Rushdie will help to "bring about a healthy democracy" in America.

Christians who refuse to participate in a travesty that violates their deeply held beliefs are pulverized by judges and bureaucrats drunk on the heady elixir of sexual rights .

When did engaging in non-traditional sexual relations become a human right? Where is the sodomy clause in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights?


In a recent address, Putin observed: "Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values." The Russian President admonished, "Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation." Putin could never make it in U.S. politics, being too grounded in reality.



As my friend and Russian pro-family leader Alexey Komov likes to say: "Under Reagan, America helped to save us from communism. We'd like to return the favor."

Ted Cruz vs. The Religious Right: Is Putin Tyrant Or Savior?

Is it possible to talk about human rights abuses in Russia in the context of the Olympics and not once mention Russia’s anti-gay laws, the rising tide of anti-gay violence, or the controversy over the impact that Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law might have on athletes and visitors? Sure, if you’re Sen. Ted Cruz speaking at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation. 

Cruz, darling of the Religious Right and Tea Party, slammed Russia’s “increasingly autocratic” president at the January 28 Heritage event.  He portrayed Vladimir Putin as a tyrant systematically working to crush Ukrainian independence and reassemble the old Soviet Union. And of course he took the opportunity to slam the Obama administration, which he said was not standing up forcefully for human rights.

Following Cruz to the microphone was Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Swett, a “proud Democrat,” detailed a litany of anti-democratic laws adopted in Putin’s Russia, including “religious freedom” and “extremism” laws that give the government wide latitude to discriminate against minority religions, including Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostal Christians.  She said the Russian government is undermining civil society with severe restrictions on protests and the return of Soviet-era tactics like sentencing dissidents to psychiatric treatment. Swett did mention the anti-gay “propaganda” law in her list of Putin’s anti-democratic actions.

There are a couple remarkable things about this panel, other than finding myself in agreement with Cruz about something (Putin is an anti-democratic strongman).

First, in his 26-minute speech and during the Q&A, at an event about human rights and the Olympics, Cruz did not breathe a word about the raging controversy over Russia’s attacks on the rights and lives of LGBT people. The closest Cruz came was mentioning, as an example of Putin’s efforts to crush dissent, his moves against “a punk rock band.” Cruz joked about his unwillingness to say the band’s name (Pussy Riot).

Second, Cruz is clearly at odds with anti-gay and anti-abortion leaders in the U.S. who have been busily praising Putin as the defender of traditional values and savior of Christianity. Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, for example, has said Putin is being allowed to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer has called Putin “the lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values, the president that’s calling his nation back to embracing its identity as a nation founded on Christian values.”

In fact there is a whole gaggle of Religious Right leaders who have, as Miranda has reported, fallen all over themselves to praise Putin and his anti-free-speech, anti-gay crackdown. And some of them have done more than just praise Putin. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage traveled to Russia to build support for anti-gay legislation. The Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society is excited about heading to Moscow for its 2014 “World Congress of Families” summit.

Cruz was eager to criticize the Obama administration for not advocating more strongly for human rights in Russia, but what does he have to say about his Religious Right pals who are actively praising and enabling Putin’s anti-democratic moves? And who have attacked the Obama administration’s efforts to promote the human rights of LGBT people abroad? We’re listening.

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