Alexey Komov

Anti-Gay Activism Trumps Religious Freedom At UN 'Family' Event

Religious Right activists say they’re fighting to save religious liberty in America from the gay rights movement, but many of the same leaders are happy to partner with the most religiously repressive regimes in order to resist advances toward LGBT equality around the world.

Consider Monday’s “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World” event at the United Nations. It was sponsored by anti-gay and anti-choice groups like the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam, formerly known as the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute) and Family Watch International, which work to keep LGBT-friendly language out of international documents and agreements. Their cosponsors included the 25 countries that make up the Group of Friends of the Family (GoFF), a coalition of UN member states created last year to “reaffirm that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Among the freedom-loving members of GoFF whose representatives spoke at Monday’s “high-level event” was Iran, which the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has just accused of seeking to “eradicate” the country’s Baha’is.

In fact, there’s a lot of overlap between GoFF members and countries identified by the Commission, currently chaired* by social conservative strategist Robert George, as the worst in the world for religious freedom: Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Egypt, and Iraq. Also included in GoFF are countries where anti-LGBT religious and political leaders have been generating hostility and threatening the lives and freedoms of LGBT people, including Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan.

But there was no talk of that unpleasantness at Monday’s three-hour event, which featured GoFF delegates pushing to have the U.N. emphasize “pro-family” policies in the implementation of sustainable development goals. The GoFF “Statement in Support of the Family” was presented by Valentin Rybakov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Belarus, where, according to Human Rights Watch, authorities “pressure and arrest human rights activists and critics on spurious charges” and “regularly harass independent and opposition journalists.” Of course, there’s a similar situation in Russia, which doesn’t keep American Religious Right groups from swooning over Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies.

One of Putin’s defenders is C-Fam’s Austin Ruse. In a Monday email to his supporters, Ruse bragged that C-Fam “was asked by a number of Member States to organize this conference,” adding that “the family is under extreme pressure at the UN from those who want to redefine the family and to accept the notion that two people of the same sex can create a family and adopt children.”

At the UN, Ruse singled out Sudan and Saudi Arabia for praise, citing situations in which their representatives had “saved” UN documents from unwanted language on the family. For the record, the USCIRF calls Saudi Arabia “uniquely repressive” when it comes to religious freedom and says Sudan’s government “represses and marginalizes the country’s minority Christian community.”

During his remarks at the event, Ruse said the powerful force that “family” advocates are up against is the sexual revolution, which portrays family as a “patriarchal prison where pleasure and freedom go to die.” Without any apparent sense of irony, he declared that “tyrants have always known” that the family is “the real enemy to what they want” and its destruction is “how they get to the individual.”

Ruse announced the creation of a new coalition, Civil Society for the Family, which he said would be active in supporting GoFF’s work in defense of “traditional morality.”

The event also featured remarks from C-FAM’s Susan Yoshihara, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater, the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, Human Life International’s Shenan Boquet, CitizenGo and HazteOir’s Gregory Mertz, the Institute for Family Policy’s Lola Volarde, and anti-marriage-equality activists Sherif Girgis and Helen Alvaré. Religious leaders who spoke included California pastor and anti-gay activist Jim Garlow, Imam Shamsi Ali of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens and Catholic Bishop John O’Hara of the Archdiocese of New York, who assured the group that they have Cardinal Dolan’s “enthusiastic support.”

A few highlights from other speakers:

  • Sharon Slater, representing Family Watch International and the UN Family Rights Caucus, said she is deeply concerned about the “global assault” on the “health and innocence of children” from comprehensive sexuality education, which she called a “war on children and our families.”
  • FRC’s Peter Sprigg said that attempts to create a new definition of marriage that distances it from its roots in the “order of nature itself” are inconsistent with countries’ responsibility to protect and support the institution. Marriage, he said, “predates all other forms of government” and “it is not the place of government to redefine or interfere with the natural family.”
  • Gregory Mertz, representing what he said are the 4.3 million members of CitizenGo and HazteOir, online organizing platforms for social conservatives, said the definition of family is “routinely under attack” and that the U.N. ignores its obligation to protect it. Last year when GoFF’s creation was announced, CitizenGo asked people to sign a petition praising these “brave governments” in order to “show these courageous countries” that “we stand behind them 100 percent.”
  • Sherif Girgis, co-author with Robert George and Ryan Anderson of a book on marriage, said that undermining the “stabilizing norms of marriage” will hurt “every aspect of the common good that a stable marriage serves.”
  • Susan Yoshihara told a story about being shut down by school officials when she wanted to opt her young daughter out of a reading of a book that talked about families with two dads or two moms. She said there would have been more of a conversation before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, but that officials’ attitude now is “we won, you lose” — which she said was an example of why the law matters, and why it is important to resist changes in international law.
  • Helen Alvaré described defense of the family as both a rational and noble calling and said one can simultaneously affirm the “radical equality” of men and women while also recognizing their intrinsic complementarity, the topic of a 2014 Vatican conference for which Alvaré served as spokesperson. 

The statements from GoFF representatives were short and often repetitive statements about the centrality of the family to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The Russian delegate discussed Putin’s promotion of “traditional family values” and noted that the Commonwealth of Independent States, a confederation of former Soviet republics, has named 2017 the Year of the Family. The Russian representative also said it is important to UN organizations to stay within their mandates and for countries that support traditional families to speak up so that silence isn’t considered an acceptance of “dangerous trends.” He made a reference to pro-LGBT stamps issued by the UN Postal Administration in February, which infuriated some “traditional family” supporters. He said supporters of the traditional values need to be more active at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The representative of Sudan also talked about the divinely created complementarity inherent in “the nature of each sex.” He complained that many international documents on women do not recognize the natural family but “deliberately seek to weaken and erode it.” Efforts to promote alternative forms of the family are incompatible with universal principles in human culture “which distinguish us humans from the rest of God’s creation.”

The event had a bit of theater as well. A short video from Family Watch International showed a succession of people saying nice things about families, including Janice Shaw Crouse and Alexey Komov — who are currently attending another global social conservative event, the World Congress of Families in Tbilisi, Georgia — among others. In addition, half a dozen children took turns reading “A Declaration on the Rights of Children and Their Families: A Call from the Children of the World,” a document promoted by the UN Family Rights Caucus that they say has been signed “by thousands of children from every continent of the world.” Among its claims: Every child has a right to a married mother and father and the “right to innocence and childhood”— which is cited to attack sex ed programs and could be used to defend the kind of anti-gay “propaganda” laws that Russia and other countries are using to squelch advocacy for equality in the name of protecting children.

* UpdateHouse Speaker Paul Ryan announced on May 18 that Robert George has completed his second term and has been replaced on the Commission by the executive director of the Becket Fund, Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz.

Updated: George W. Bush To Receive Award From Anti-LGBT World Congress Of Families

The World Congress of Families, a loose alliance of organizations that seeks to stop advances in LGBT equality and reproductive rights throughout the world, announced today that former President George W. Bush will recieve an award at its annual event in Tbisili, Georgia, later this month.

Update: A spokesperson for Bush tells Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder that while the former president is “flattered,” he had previously declined an invitation to participate in the event and was “not aware of the award in question.”

Update II: Although he will not be attending the conference, Bush has penned a welcome greeting for the event:

Around the world, families provide that beacon of freedom and the source of help, hope, and stability for individuals and nations. As one of the pillars of civilization and the bulwark of liberty, families must remain strong and we must defend them. To ensure that future generations are prepared to face new opportunities and challenges, as President, I took steps to promote strong families, preserve the sanctity of marriage and protect the well-being of children. Laura and I have always believed in encouraging adoption and supporting the crisis pregnancy center programs to help us continue to build a culture of life.

I commend your efforts to recognize the importance of families in building nations. Your work improves many lives and makes the world better.

WCF, which is run out of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, an Illinois-based think tank, has been holding conferences since 1997. But it attracted greater attention two years ago when it planned to hold its annual congress at the Kremlin in Moscow, hosted by prominent allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and advocates of the country’s recent crackdown on its LGBT citizens . WCF’s leadership had supported Russia’s spate of anti-LGBT laws, including signing a letter in support of a law banning gay “propaganda” to minors. One WCF official, Larry Jacobs, said that the law was a "great idea” and that the “Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.”

WCF eventually withdrew its official support from that conference after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although the event went ahead as planned , with the participation of officials from WCF and other U.S.-based Religious Right groups. Last year’s conference was held in Salt Lake City, where organizers attempted to deny the organization’s work promoting homophobia globally, even as Rafael Cruz, the father of then-presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, used the event to warn that the LGBT community will “try to legalize pedophilia.”

Bush is set to accept the award at an event whose speakers include Putin allies, anti-LGBT extremists and a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

Along with Bush, this year’s WCF will feature prominent U.S. anti-gay activists including the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, who coordinated with WCF to travel to Russia to support the country’s anti-gay policies in 2013. Also scheduled to speak is Natalia Yakunina, the wife of former Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin, who was instrumental in organizing and funding the Moscow event, and Vladimir Mischenko, a top official at a foundation run by Yakunin.

The Tbisili event will also feature several speakers from WCF’s global network, including the Howard Center and WCF’s founder Allan Carlson, who helped define the idea that the organization promotes of a “ natural family” based on traditional gender roles. Also speaking will be WCF spokesman Don Feder, who warned at a previous WCF event that the human race is financing “ its own extinction” through birth control and who sidelines as an extremist anti-immigrant columnist.

WCF’s Russian representative, Alexey Komov, will also be speaking. Komov, an enthusiastic supporter of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, was a main organizer of the WCF Moscow event, and has reportedly helped to direct funding to a pro-Putin propaganda effort in the U.S. At a memorable press conference in Washington leading up to the Moscow conference, Komov lost his cool and started spouting conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks and the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Also on the docket is WCF’s regional director in Africa, Theresa Okafor, who at a previous WCF gathering said that “you wonder if there’s a conspiracy” between Western governments that support LGBT rights and the terrorist group Boko Haram to “silence Christians.” Okafor, who has promoted repressive anti-LGBT laws in a number of African countries, was honored with WCF’s “Woman of the Year” award at last year’s conference. Joining her will be WCF’s French representative, Fabrice Sorlin, a far-right politician who once compared Russia’s defense of “traditional values” to its repelling of “the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan.”

Bush’s receipt of an award from the World Congress of Families makes some sense: The social conservative movement in the U.S. has been appalled by the Obama administration’s stated commitment to promoting protections for LGBT people around the world and is nostalgic for the Bush administration’s support for the Mexico City Policy, which blocked overseas aid to family planning groups that provide abortions.

But does the former president really want to be elevating the profile of a group that promotes repressive anti-LGBT policies like the Russian propaganda law?

Religious Right's Russian 'Pro-Family' Ally May Be Helping Fund Pro-Putin Propaganda

A leading Russian operative with the U.S-based World Congress of Families may be helping fund an English-language website dedicated to providing positive coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a report today by The Interpreter, a website run by a think tank critical of Putin.

The Interpreter’s Anton Shekhovtsov reports on a series of leaked emails between the editor of Russian Insider, a new pro-Putin publication, and Alexey Komov, the World Congress of Families’ Russian representative, in which the editor seeks funding from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev for his website.

Shekhovtsov notes that both Malofeev and Komov have been involved in coordinating activities among European far-right groups, along with their “pro-family” activism:

The leaks reveal that Bausman, rather than relying on crowdfunding for Russia Insider, asks for money from Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev via his associate Alexey Komov.

There were several interesting articles devoted to Malofeev in the international and Russian media. In the context of this blog, Malofeev is known for providing financial assistance to the pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine (for this very reason Malofeev was sanctioned by the EU, Norway and Switzerland), organising homophobic conferences in Russia, assisting French far right politicians in getting Russian money, and building European far right alliances.

Komov is a no less interesting figure. He is an employee of several organisations founded and funded by Malofeev, as well as a representative of the homophobic World Congress of Families in Russia. He is also an honorary president of the Lombardy-Russia Cultural Association, Russia’s front organisation in Italy established by the far right Lega Nord party. Komov even gave speech at the party’s congress at the end of 2013 that elected Matteo Salvini as its leader.

Malofeev is the one who brought together the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown and a number of French far-right activists in 2013 at a “traditional values” roundtable in Moscow that just happened to coincide with the passage of a spate of anti-LGBT laws in Russia. Komov was the leading organizer of the planned World Congress of Families in Moscow last year (which ended up dropping the World Congress of Families name), and, as Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder reported, was found to be feeding information about the event to Malofeev.

As we have noted, the rush to embrace “traditional values” has been an important part of Putin’s propaganda efforts in Russia and the region.

What the World Congress of Families Tells Us About the Global ‘Pro-Family’ Movement

The World Congress of Families — an organization that hosts an annual global gathering of “pro-family” advocates —  brought together more than 3,300 people in Salt Lake City last week. The summit included authors and counselors focused on strengthening marriages as well as academics talking about the social and economic consequences of later marriages, declining birthrates and widespread divorce. It also included and anti-reproductive-choice activists from around the globe, as well as hundreds of “emerging leaders” expected to lead the movement into the future.

We’ve reported on individual speakers and will continue to do so as we dig through a week’s worth of notes and recordings — and a shopping bag full of books and other swag. But what’s the big picture? What does the WCF tell us about the state of the global Religious Right?

There were differences in priorities and approaches among the participants, but among the themes that emerged:

They See Themselves at War with the Enemies of God

Warfare imagery was common at WCF and the preceding gay-focused Stand4Truth event organized by people who needed just a little more anti-gay intensity than the WCF schedule promised. The “natural family” and “complementary” male-female gender roles were ordained by God, and therefore proponents of feminist or gender ideologies or notions of LGBT equality are not only political opponents but spiritual ones, out to destroy both the natural family and religious freedom.

Francisco Tatad, a former senate majority leader in the Philippines, said the threat to the family and human society is not simply those who deny God, but those who actually hate God:

The global attack on human dignity, on the integrity of the human person, and the family, is ultimately an attack on God. The war of religions is over, but the war on religion has hardly begun. And the target is no longer any individual religion in particular, but God himself. He has become the arch-enemy.

American Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez:

So I can share with you the fact that there is a spiritual battle, a spiritual battle, to annihilate the idea, the construct, God’s ordained institution of la familia. It is a battle. It even, before it’s a political battle or a legislative battle, it is, above all things, a spiritual battle.

And, engaging biblical allusions, it’s the spirit of Pharaoh, once again attempting to force and prompt families to make bricks without straw and to maintain families in the Egypt of bondage and fear. It is the spirit of Goliath, of intimidation. It is the spirit of Jezebel, an attempt to destroy the family via the conduit of sexual perversion and manipulation. It is the spirit of Herod, killing families through abortion, killing families through sex trafficking and violence against our children, disconnecting the child from mom and dad. These spirits are alive and well today, not only in America but across the world.

Rafael Cruz, father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, decreed that “a few rogue lawyers claiming to be the Supreme Court of the United States of America has no right to act in such a way as to restrict our freedom of religion.” Patterson told the story of a missionary doctor killed by Chinese communists in the 1950s, and declared about religious freedom, “Today the blood of thousands of martyrs calls out to all of us, ‘Do not squander the greatest and most costly gift bequeathed to you by the founders of this nation.’”

They’re Intensely Committed to Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles

The catch-all term used by the global Religious Right for just about everything it doesn’t like is “gender ideology” — something that can encompass opposition to sex education, contraception, abortion, cohabitation, marriage equality and legal recognition for LGBT people.

At WCF, speaker after speaker talked about the “complementarity” between men and women as something that was divinely ordained — grounded biblically in the Genesis creation story in which God made humankind male and female. God’s creation of two genders was cited as a sacred rationale for opposing gay couples being allowed to marry or be parents — and for denying the very existence of transgender people, who were portrayed as sick and pathetic. One of the most reliable ways to try to get a laugh at WCF was to make a joke about Caitlyn Jenner. Rafael Cruz even pulled out the old chestnut that God had created “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

Glenn Stanton, director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, said new findings on gender differences support his basic premise: “that men and women are different, and that men and women need each other in those differences.” As a scientist, he said, he believes there is evidence across cultures of a universal male and female nature. And as a Christian, he said, the issue is a theological one, grounded in the creation story declares humans male and female, who together “uniquely, mysteriously image the nature of God in the world.” He displayed a William Blake painting, “Satan Gazing Upon the Caresses of Adam and Eve” and said:

Satan came to attack humanity, not just by approaching Eve or Adam but what William Blake is telling us here is to attack a couple. He sees that man, he sees that woman, he sees them loving one another, and he says, ‘I know who loved one another, the Trinity, God, and I hate them, so I must break this up.’ The original attack was not on two human beings, it was on a man and a woman. And that attack continues today, because Satan knows what male and female represent.

Theresa Okafor, a WCF representative from Nigeria who was honored at the conference, said the complementarity of the sexes “comes from God.” She complained that Western feminist ideas threaten the family by demonizing patriarchy, blurring lines of gender and making women feel that they are autonomous from men. (In contrast, she cited as one positive example of strong cultural support for the family in Africa the fact that a woman who went to the police to report being beaten by her husband would be told to go home and settle with him.)

Every WCF participant received a copy of the Mormon Church’s 1995 Proclamation of the Family, which portrays men’s roles as providers and women’s as nurturers to be essential to God’s plan. It declares, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist whose blog identifies her as “One Hundred Percent MD. Zero Percent PC.” She insisted, “A man cannot be transformed into a woman, or a woman into a man. It is simply impossible” and decried that popular culture’s focus on transgender issues was perpetuating a “lie” and a “delusion.”

They Don’t Want To Be Called Anti-Gay While Being Anti-Gay

Well, at least some of them, anyway. Before the conference started, WCF responded to its critics by claiming that being pro-family was not the same as being anti-gay, and declared that it would never support policies that harm individual people. But in fact the program was full of people who have a record of demonizing LGBT people, including those who have actively supported laws that not only criminalize gay sexual activity but even make it a crime for gays to meet with each other or advocate for their rights.

Portraying LGBT people as a threat to children has a decades-long pedigree, including the activism of Anita Bryant, California’s Prop 8 and succeeding state constitutional amendment campaigns, and this week’s vote in Houston, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was rejected after an ugly, dishonest campaign portraying it as an open door to child molesters. Gwen Landolt, a Canadian who has been active in WCF, called it intolerable that innocent children are being “used as tools of social engineering” by being fostered or adopted by gay couples. And she said that children’s character is being deformed because schools are teaching that homosexual relationships are the equal of heterosexual ones.

As BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder pointed out, there’s division within the movement about the usefulness of strident rhetoric that, for example, equates gays with pedophilia. That division was clear at WCF. The opening keynote address was given by Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ballard explained that Mormon theology of the family is integral to the church’s defense of “traditional marriage,” but he also touted the church’s willingness to back the Utah compromise, an agreement reached earlier this year in which the church supported legal protections against housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in return for the inclusion of broad religious exemptions. Said Ballard,

We demonstrate our best humanity when we show love and kindness to all of God’s children. We demonstrate our discipleship when we refuse strident tones, when we refuse derisive labels, and when we enter the public square seeking fair outcomes through understanding and mutual respect.

Ballard’s standard was violated frequently at WCF, including during its closing keynote from Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma University, whose address was an angry rant against liberal “ideological fascism.” Piper angrily asserted that “the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.” Some conference participants objected to the Utah compromise; Austin Ruse of C-Fam has called it “lunacy” for the Mormon Church to engage in a nonaggression pact with the LGBT movement.

Another voice heard on the opening day of the conference was that of Gov. Gary Herbert, who welcomed participants to Utah, declaring “We are a great state with wonderful people and wonderful families of different varieties in this state.” That was a nod toward the kind of inclusive definition of family that is being ferociously fought by WCF partner groups at the United Nations and other international bodies.  Activists like C-Fam’s Ruse and Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater bragged at WCF about their work to eliminate references to “various forms of the family” from international human rights documents.

They’re Not Going Anywhere: They’re Organized and Organizing and God is on their Side

There was some difference of opinion among WCF speakers, based on where they are from and whether they are more focused on abortion or LGBT issues, about the extent to which they are currently losing or winning the global culture war. But there was virtual unanimity that with God on their side and a commitment to collaborative organizing, they will ultimately be victorious in defeating the LGBT movement, resisting the advance of “gender ideology,” and resurrecting as a cultural norm, protected and promoted in law, the “natural family” — a mom and a dad and a whole lot of children.

Allan Carlson, retiring after years at the head of WCF’s sponsoring organization, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, talked about his forthcoming book, which portrays the weakening and strengthening of family systems in America since 1630 as following 50 year swings.  According to Carlson, we could be “on the cusp of a great wave of new family morality,” poised for a generational upswing— a return to early marriage, appreciation for the complementarity between men and women, and higher fertility. Carlson said the sexual revolution “regime” is “crumbling even at the point where it seems to be winning.”

Warren Cole Smith, a vice president of the Colson Center and co-author of “Restoring All Things,” recounted the story of a friend who received a call from someone nearly in despair after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, saying “it’s over.” Smith recalled his response:

What is over? What exactly is over? Has God left his throne? He has not. Is He not still sovereign? He is. When the Obergefell decision came down from the Supreme Court, did God say, ‘Wow, I sure didn’t see that coming.’? Friends, He did not say that….

The story of the universe God is still writing, the arc of history is still unfolding. Unlike what our friend said, it is not over. And I’ve read the last chapter of the book, and guess what? God wins.

That’s not to say that between now and then we won’t have lots of battles to fight and lots of problems so solve. But I want to be clear, I think we should be happy warriors in this process, knowing that God is indeed building the house. God is indeed on our side. And we have the great joy of participating in what God is doing in the world, if only we will.

The World Congress of Families, with its dozens of partner organizations and more than 3,300 participants from 65 countries, is a dramatic demonstration of the institutional cultural, legal, and political infrastructure that has been built by conservative religious organizations not only in the U.S. but around the globe, with financial and strategic support flowing in all directions. 

Seasoned activists and the hundreds of “emerging leaders” had the opportunity to get training in starting a new organization and raising money online from Ignacio Arsuaga, whose HazteOir and CitizenGo platforms have put social-media organizing techniques developed in the U.S. into the hands of conservatives in Europe and elsewhere with campaigns in an expanding number of languages. Conference attendees could take a workshop on messaging from Frank Schubert, the mastermind of fearmongering strategies used by campaigns against marriage equality in the U.S. They could study networking and coalition building with Alexey Komov, the Russian activist who says that Russia and Eastern Europe, having been helped by Western countries to throw off communism, can now return the favor by helping the West defeat the new totalitarianism of the sexual revolution.


Utah Event Revives The Strange Case Of The Moscow World Congress Of Families

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.

Social conservatives from around the world will gather next week in Salt Lake City at the World Congress of Families, an event being held in the U.S. for the first time this year. In the background of the event will be the specter of last year’s World Congress in Moscow, which sort of did and sort of didn’t happen.

In 2013, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting “propaganda” of homosexuality to minors, human rights groups were aghast but many in the Religious Right cheered. While Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people and free speech was widely regarded as a cynical effort to stir up nationalist sentiment at the expense of sexual minorities, his allies in the U.S. Religious Right did not see it that way.

Among the strongest supporters was the World Congress of Families. WCF, along with several other American groups participating in the Utah conference, signed a statement of support . WCF’s Larry Jacobs called the Russian law a “great idea” and said that the “Russians might be the Christian saviors to the world” for their leadership in “standing up for these traditional values of family and faith.” WCF’s representatives in Russia likewise hailed the law and worked with American activists including the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown to advocate for a law tightening the country’s ban on adoptions by foreign nationals who live in countries where gay marriage is legal.

The World Congress of Families was taken with Putin’s enthusiastic embrace of social conservatism that it planned to hold its 2014 congress at the Kremlin in Moscow, with the financial support of top Putin allies. The planning got off to a rocky start after we reported on WCF’s support of Putin’s anti-LGBT policies, and things got even rockier when Alexey Komov, the WCF’s Russian point-man waded into 9/11 trutherism at a press conference promoting the event.

Those plans began to fall apart when Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting U.S. sanctions against at least two of WCF’s key Russian allies. WCF formally “suspended” the event, but the Russian organizers went ahead and held the conference anyway. A number of the U.S. activists who were planning to go to the original conference, including the National Organization for Marriage's Brian Brown, went to the replacement. WCF’s Don Feder and Larry Jacobs, officially attending in their personal capacities, spoke at an opening press conference. At the end, conference-goers passed a resolution advocating the passage of “gay propaganda” bans modeled on Russia’s throughout the world.

Underlining the fact that the Moscow conference was never really cancelled, WCF’s point-man in Russia, Alexey Komov, was until recently scheduled to host a training session at the Utah event on “Hosting a WCF Conference”:

The training has since been removed from the event’s schedule.

Also speaking at the conference will be Vladimir Mischenko, a top official in a foundation run by Vladimir Yakunin, the Putin ally who helped to fund the Moscow conference. (Putin has since kicked Yakunin to the curb .) The World Congress of Families will also be presenting its “International Pro-Life Award” to Father Maxim Obukhov, who helped to bring the event to Moscow last year.

The World Congress of Families’ executive director, Janice Shaw Crouse, has gushed about the Moscow conference , calling it “a tremendous success, inspiring and excellent in every regard,” saying she “regretted the necessary decision to cancel our partnership with our Russian friends.”

She added:

We have many dear colleagues in Russia, and many of them are leading members of the Russian Orthodox Church. They saw their country devastated by Communism. After the fall of Communism, they recognized that if their nation was ever to rise to greatness again, it would be because of a strong family structure. These Russian friends have fought to re-establish the family as the foundation of Russia. We support their efforts, we encourage them, and we are proud of their efforts.

The Moscow event was supposed to be something of a homecoming for the World Congress of Families, which grew out of an alliance between the Howard Center on Family, Religion and Society's Allan Carlson and Russian activists concerned about a “demographic winter” of low birthrates in their country. Those ties have remained strong, especially since President Vladimir Putin has cozied up to the Orthodox Church and put new stock in social issues as part of his efforts to consolidate control in Russia and expand his power throughout the region.

World Congress Of Families: Contraception Bringing 'Death,' 'Extinction' Of Humanity

At a World Congress of Families regional event in Belgrade in April, the group’s communications director, Don Feder, declared that a worldwide effort is needed to overthrow the “sexual revolution,” including the widespread acceptance of contraception, which he said leads to “death” by “preventing life from happening" and will ultimately lead to the "extinction" of humanity.

WCF, which will hold its annual conference in Salt Lake City this year, has from its inception pushed fears of a “demographic winter” caused by low fertility rates, a message that has been especially effective in European and Slavic countries where where right-wing movements encourage panic about immigration. Last year’s conference in Moscow, which WCF withdrew its official sponsorship of in resonse to the conflict in Ukraine but maintained an organizing role in, was organized under the theme “Large Families and the Future of Mankind.”

Feder told the gathering in Belgrade that the world is at risk from widespread contraception use “financed by governments, corporations or international agencies.”

“Many species have become extinct,” he said. “Our species may be the first to finance its own extinction.”

“We won’t find our way out of the forest of demographic winter until the sexual revolution is overthrown,” he continued, “its premises rejected, its prophets exposed, its dogma debunked. Ladies and gentlemen, ultimately the sexual revolution is about death: death through abortion, death through contraception (preventing life from happening), death through sexually transmitted diseases, death through pornography, death through promiscuity, all of this in place of monogamous marriage and childbearing.”

Also attending the Belgrade event were WCF’s Russian representative Alexey Komov and its French representative, far-right politician Fabrice Sorlin. Another speaker was Archipriest Dmitri Smirnov, a top official for “family” issues with the Russian Orthodox Church who has worked closely with WCF in the past.

The event was organized by representatives of the Serbian far-right Dveri movement, which worked with WCF to get a Belgrade gay pride parade canceled in 2013.

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.

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."

World Congress Of Families: Criticism Of Putin Is Liberal Media Hysteria

Representatives of the World Congress of Families held a news conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday to talk about their 2014 summit, which will be held in Moscow in September.  The WCF and the Religious Right groups it partners with are ardent promoters of anti-gay legislation worldwide, and they love Russia's anti-gay President Vladimir Putin. 

Earlier this week the WCF announced that the opening session would be held in the Congress Hall of the Kremlin Palace, that a special parliamentary session will also be held in the Russian Duma and a special scientific forum at St Petersburg State University. At today's press conference it was announced that the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is expected to address the gathering.

WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs, C-FAM’s Austin Ruse, Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse, and Alexey Komov, WCF’s man in Russia, were delighted about anti-gay legislation that has passed in Moscow and were defensive about western criticism of Putin’s regime.

Given the record of the event organizers, none of that was very surprising. What was surprising is the way the press conference was hijacked by conservative activist Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, who pointed out that Putin was a product of the Communist-era KGB; he took the organizers to task for partnering with Putin and produced a list of political prisoners he said are being held in Russia.

Kincaid’s strident criticism of Russia’s history provoked Komov into a screed against real and imagined problems from American history, from the slaughter of Native Americans to political prisoners in Guantanamo, complete with references to the supposed killing of 200 witnesses to the JFK assassination and the question of who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Komov suggested that during the era of Ronald Reagan, the U.S. was free, pro-Christian, and pro-capitalist, while Russia was mired in communism. He suggested that under Obama and Putin, a role reversal is under way. He said he would hesitate to say which country is more free, Russia or the U.S.

UPDATE: Kincaid has posted video of the exchange. Watch:

Jacobs was clearly uncomfortable with Komov’s rant, perhaps because, as he had mentioned earlier, WCF has yet to finalize confirmations from Members of Congress who they hope will attend the Moscow summit.

Speakers said they were proud of what Crouse called Russia's "leadership role" on behalf of the family, and proud of what Ruse called the "massive network" of people organizing around the world on behalf of the family and in opposition to "the agenda of the sexual left."

Asked about bipartisan criticism of the increasingly anti-democratic nature of Putin’s rule, Ruse suggested that some people are “stuck in cold war amber” and are consumed by a “visceral hatred of all things Russian.” He energetically supported Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, saying “there is no human right to tell the gay narrative to schoolchildren.” And he dismissed concerns about Putin’s moves against freedom of the press, saying Russians had no “historical memory” of that kind of freedom.

Janice Shaw Crouse said she had “no problem whatsoever” with the prosecution of members of Pussy Riot, falsely claiming that they had disrupted a church service with the performance that landed them in jail.

All the speakers claimed that freedom of press and dissent is alive and well in Russia, saying that they have criticized Putin’s crackdown on homeschoolers and that bloggers are free to criticize the government. And they portrayed Russia as a sort of paradise where gay couples can stroll hand in hand without fear. (For another view, read Jeff Sharlet's recent reporting from Russia in GQ.)

Komov slammed “radical LGBT activists” who he said were trying to turn the Olympics into a “gay pride parade.” Komov said he opposed violence against gay people, but he insisted there was no correlation between passage of anti-gay laws and anti-gay violence in the country, dismissing the idea as “hysteria” from “the liberal media.”

Komov also opined that the Olympics were no place for gay rights: “Olympics is the place for sports and health and normal values that unite everyone ...And we know that if we want Olympics to be sports and health, we know, statistics show us that homosexual lifestyles are not healthy.”

UPDATE: Video of the comments taken by Kincaid:


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