Mark Regnerus

Ted Cruz Extends Anti-Gay Endorsement Bonanza With Religious Right Intellectual Leader Robert George

As we have noted repeatedly, Ted Cruz has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsements of and associated with a lot of extreme anti-gay activists, including the kind who scream from the stage that gay people should be executed. But not all anti-gay activists are of the ranting sort; some are prominent lawyers who draft legislation and devise legal strategies for restricting equality. Today, Cruz trumpeted the endorsement of the most prominent of these “respectable” anti-gay activists, Robert George.

George operates from Princeton University, where he teaches law and directs the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is a prime mover behind the effort to brand opposition to abortion and LGBT equality as religious liberty questions. He is a very busy man. In fact, it seems as if there are few anti-equality efforts that don’t bear his fingerprints in some way.

It goes on and on. According to his bio at the Witherspoon Institute, where he is a senior fellow:

Professor George serves on the boards of directors of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and the Center for Individual Rights. 

George’s dual role at the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation were noted during the controversy over the infamous Regnerus study, which has been widely discredited but it still cited by anti-equality advocates as “evidence” that gay people and couples should not be allowed to adopt or be parents. Witherspoon sponsored the research to the tune of nearly $700,000 and Bradley kicked in $90,000.

George’s influence extends beyond his own work. A former student and George protégé, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, has become a leading voice in opposition to marriage equality; they co-authored with Sherif Gergis the book “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.”

The Cruz campaign released a gushing endorsement from George, who says that Cruz was one of his most brilliant students and is among “the most principled and dedicated public servants” he knows. George’s endorsement of Cruz will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the mutual admiration society that passed for George’s interview of Cruz for EWTN last November. The two commiserated about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, which George called “another tragic mistake in imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country.”

George recently joined other conservative Catholics in denouncing Donald Trump, who they said degrades our politics and culture and threatens their ability to use the Republican Party to promote Catholic social doctrine. Notably, George did not endorse Cruz until after Marco Rubio suspended his campaign. Rubio’s faith outreach director, Eric Teetsel, was formerly executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, and George is included in the acknowledgments section of Teetsel’s own book on (one man, one woman) marriage. 

Meet The Anti-Gay Foundation Behind The Utah World Congress Of Families

The executive director of this year’s World Congress of Families (WCF), which meets this week in Salt Lake City, has said that despite organization’s efforts to oppose LGBT rights around the world, opposition to same-sex marriage “has never been an emphasis” of the gathering. But opposition to marriage equality is a major priority of one foundation that appears to be a major financial backer of the Utah conference.

Although the WCF is a project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, this year’s event is being organized by the Utah-based Sutherland Institute, and a donation page for the event directs contributions to the institute. The institute has also apparently been soliciting funds specifically for the World Congress of Families event, with the Michigan-based Earhart Foundation giving it $20,000 last year earmarked for the conference.

While we won’t have further information on the funding of the event until this year’s tax forms are filed, the Sutherland Institute has at least until recently been supported largely by one Utah family’s charitable foundation.

The GFC Foundation (it stands for God, Family and Country) is run by Sutherland Institute’s chairman and interim president Stan Swim, whose father  the Sutherland Institute’s founder — and grandfather were also Utah-based philanthropists. Swim serves on the WCF’s board of directors and signed the deal to host the upcoming conference. Swim’s foundation has helped to fund previous World Congresses in Warsaw and Amsterdam. In the five years from 2009 through 2013, the most recent for which tax documents are available, GFC contributed $392,500 directly to the Howard Center.

GFC is a major funder of the Sutherland Institute, and the two organizations share some leadership. In addition to Swim’s dual roles, Sutherland Institute’s former president Paul Mero has long served on the foundation’s board. In 2011, the foundation provided almost half of the institute’s $1.3 million in revenue; in 2012, it provided over half of the $1.4 million that the institute brought in. In 2013, GFC nearly doubled its contribution to Sutherland, giving the organization $1.2 million, making up the bulk of the grants it distributed that year. The institute’s 2013 tax documents are not yet publicly available, so it’s unclear what portion of the organization’s budget GFC’s grant represented.

The Sutherland Institute has also been a top beneficiary of the Foundation for the American West, another charitable group established by the Swim family, which in turn receives substantial yearly contributions from the GFC Foundation. The GFC Foundation contributed about $1.2 million to the Foundation for the American West from 2009 through 2013; the Foundation for the American West contributed roughly the same amount to the Sutherland Institute during that time.

Along with funding the Sutherland Institute, the GFC Foundation appears to be directly involved in organizing this week's conference: A recent WCF newsletter instructed organizations wanting to exhibit at the Salt Lake City event to contact a GFC events staffer.

Although the Sutherland Institute is the primary beneficiary of the GFC Foundation’s largesse, the other social conservative causes that the foundation backs provide further hints about its ideology. Along with regular contributions to Mormon educational institutions and to Utah cultural programs, the GFC Foundation has been a major contributor to groups fighting marriage equality.

From 2011 through 2013, the foundation contributed $270,000 to the National Organization for Marriage as it attempted to fight back the gradual march toward marriage equality in the states. During that time, it also contributed $150,000 to the Ruth Institute, which was then a program affiliated with NOM. It also contributed $150,000 to the Marriage Law Foundation, which is run by a top Sutherland Institute staffer, making up about 60 percent of that organization’s budget.

Notably, the GFC Foundation has helped to fund some of the social science research that is being used to argue against marriage equality. In 2013, the foundation contributed $30,000 to the Institute for Family Studies, the think tank run by conservative family scholar Brad Wilcox and $7,500 to the Austin Institute, the think tank run by Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’ 2012 study of gay parenting, in which Wilcox played a key role, has been used by activists around the world to push back against gay rights, despite the fact that it has been exposed as severely flawed. GFC has also given five-figure grants to Wilcox’s Ridge Foundation and the Witherspoon Institute, which helped to fund Regnerus’ study. (Regnerus and Wilcox will both, incidentally, be speaking at this week’s event.)

The GFC Foundation has also been a major backer of the Utah Eagle Forum, the state affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly’s organization, led by the irrepressibly anti-gay Gayle Ruzicka. The foundation contributed $10,000 to Ruzicka’s group in 2013 and $20,000 each year in 2009 and 2010. In the intervening years, whether by coincidence or not, the Swim-affiliated Foundation for the American West filled the gap, giving Utah Eagle Forum $20,000 each in 2011 and 2012.

The GFC Foundation’s apparent work through the Sutherland Institute to host the World Congress of Families fits neatly into this pattern of funding the fight against advances in LGBT rights.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 10/21/15

  • Linda Harvey wants to take back the color pink: "Women, let’s rise up and tell these groups that pink is for real women, and real women do not help fund abortion."
  • Former Rep. Dan Burton is now lobbying for the Church of Scientology.
  • Glenn Beck is very sad that George W. Bush does not like Ted Cruz, but is not surprised since Bush is a total "progressive."
  • A new Ruth Institute brochure on same-sex parenting unsurprisingly leans heavily on a discredited study by Mark Regnerus.
  • Now you know: "There are no muddled lines or gray areas about it. A committed follower of Jesus Christ should not celebrate Halloween."

World Congress of Families In Denial Over Promoting Homophobia Globally

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

The World Congress of Families has been stung by intense criticism over its promotion of anti-gay bias and policies around the world, and has mounted a public relations campaign portraying itself as interested in civil discourse and uninterested in slamming gay people. If only it were true.

WCF Executive Director Janet Shaw Crouse has said the group’s support for traditional notions of family “does not mean disrespect for anyone else.” Crouse says, “We do not and will not engage in ‘gay-bashing’ or ‘hate’ language." In its 2014 “Call for Civic Dialogue” WCF said:

In its history, the WCF has never taken a position for or against anti-sodomy laws, nor has it attempted to roll back the rights gained by these individuals and organizations…. The WCF never has and never will advocate for any policy that brings harm to innocent individuals….

These assertions are grossly disingenuous and deceptive. WCF depends on, and celebrates, its association with what it calls “exemplary” anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council, American Family Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, and many others who aggressively resist the advance of LGBT equality in the U.S. and overseas -- and promote policies that most definitely bring harm to innocent individuals. For example, WCF and its allies played a significant role in organizing the stridently anti-gay “pro-family” movement in Russia. And not taking a position on laws that subject LGBT people to long jail terms and worse is hardly something to brag about.  

WCF’s “civil dialogue” claim is laughable on its face, especially given that the group is providing a speaking platform to Rafael Cruz, who has no policy expertise to share but has gained folk-hero status on the Religious Right with outlandishly inflammatory attacks on LGBT people and other political opponents. Cruz, father to presidential candidate Ted Cruz, called it “appalling” that a gay woman could win elected office, said that Satan controls the U.S. government and that the devil was responsible for the with Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. He has repeatedly lied about religious freedom, claiming that the government will force churches to hire homosexual pastors and perform homosexual marriages. Cruz has suggested that President Obama is intent on seizing Americans’ guns because, like Stalin and Mao, Obama is pursuing a totalitarian government – and that the American left is out to do away with the entire Bill of Rights.

Sadly, Cruz is not an outlier. WCF and the speakers it provides with a platform have a long record of resisting protections for the rights of LGBT people. Last year WCF initiated a letter signed by 120 Religious Right figures from around the world in “vigorous protest” of the U.S. Embassy’s participation in a gay pride celebration in the Czech Republic. It refers to marriage equality as a “pseudo-right” that debases human freedom and dignity. The letter concludes, “We can not imagine a worse form of cultural imperialism than Washington trying to force approval of the ‘gay’ agenda on societies with traditional values.”

More to the point, WCF’s own Africa regional director, Theresa Okafor, who is being honored at the event, supported a harsh anti-gay law in Nigeria that not only provides for long jail sentences for gay sex, but also bans gay people from meeting in groups. Okafor has suggested that pro-equality groups from the west are allied with the violent Islamist Boko Haram in a conspiracy to silence Christians.

WCF Executive Director Crouse has her own track record. She has said children being raised by gay couples are being “used as guinea pigs.” She has praised Russia’s anti-gay right, saying approvingly, “I wouldn’t bet on the Russians capitulating to western LGBTIQ fascists without a fight.” At a 2013 Howard Center press conference, Crouse said American gay-rights activists are “turning into thugs who are destroying freedom of speech, destroying religious liberty.” She praised anti-gay activists in France, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and Nigeria. And while Crouse portrays American gays as enemies of free speech, she enthusiastically backed the prosecution and jailing of Pussy Riot activists over their anti-Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Among other anti-gay speakers who will be given a platform at WCF:

  • Peter Sprigg represents the stridently anti-gay Family Research Council, whose leader Tony Perkins once defended Uganda’s notorious “kill the gays” bill as an effort to uphold morality. Sprigg, who once said he would like to “export” homosexuals from the U.S., complained this year about Randy Berry, Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, for traveling to Uganda and Jamaica. Sprigg criticized the Obama administration for trying to “force this American-style homosexual agenda down the throats of other countries” like Uganda, “which is one of the countries that has been most bitterly attacked by homosexual activists around the world.”
  • Robert Knight, a Religious Right pundit and former FRC staffer, has argued that judges who rule in favor of marriage equality should be impeached.
  • Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage has not only pushed for anti-equality legislation in the U.S., he has supported anti-gay efforts globally and encouraged legislators in Russia to pass legislation banning adoption by gay couples.
  • Errol Naidoo received training from the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C before founding the Family Policy Institute in South Africa in response to the legalization of marriage equality, which he had lobbied against. He blames abortion and “the homosexual agenda” for creating a “culture of death” that is “slowly killing off the human family in Western civilization.”
  • Glenn Stanton, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, has called marriage equality a “pernicious lie of Satan” and said that “quite literally there is more evidence for Bigfoot than there is that homosexuality is just who we are.”
  • Jennifer Roback Morse, president of the Ruth Institute, formerly affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, says the “sexual revolution” is a “totalitarian” movement” and “a pagan ideology” that Christians should refuse to compromise with. She says “the only reason we’re dealing with gay marriage now is because we never faced up to the harms that have already been inflicted by feminism.”
  • Mark Regnerus: His New Family Structures Study, funded by the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, has been widely discredited, but continues to be cited by right-wing as if it provided scientific evidence for harm caused by gay parenting. It was used extensively as justification for passage of anti-gay laws in Russia.
  • Frank Schubert is a political communications strategist notorious as the mastermind of the strategy to ground the campaign for California’s Prop 8 in fear-mongering about gay people and couples being a threat to children. Schubert was paid handsomely to take that destructive strategy to other states.


Utah Gov To Speak At Anti-Gay, Anti-Contraception Group's Event

The World Congress of Families sent out a press release today announcing that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes will both address the group’s upcoming convention in Salt Lake City.

The presence of two of Utah’s top elected officials lends legitimacy to the gathering of opponents of reproductive rights and LGBT equality from around the world. Among the speakers are the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, Peter Sprigg and Pat Fagan of the Family Research Council, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Mark Regnerus, whose faulty research on gay parents has been used to justify anti-LGBT discrimination around the world.

Also speaking will be Ignacio Arsuaga of Spain and Luca Volante of Italy, activists who have been working with Brown to build global opposition to advances in LGBT rights.

But most troubling is the World Congress of Families itself, which is a project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. The Howard Center and the World Congress of Families were founded by Allan Carlson, an adherent of the anti-contraception, anti-women’s-rights “Quiverfull” ideology.

The World Congress of Families exists to promote what Carlson calls the “natural family” — something that does not include LGBT people, reproductive rights or, often, women working outside the home.

In their “Natural Family: A Manifesto,” Carlson and Paul Mero, then the president of the Sutherland Institute, which is hosting next month’s event in Utah, laid out their vision of a world full of homes “open to a quiver of children,” with “young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers” and “young men growing into husbands, homebuilders, and fathers.” They call for “more babies and larger families” to counter the “war on human fertility”; gay marriage bans and tight divorce restrictions to “end the war of the sexual hedonists on marriage”; and the abolition of “state programs that indoctrinate children … youth, and adults into the contraceptive mentality.”

“We will craft schooling that gives positive images of chastity, marriage, fidelity, motherhood, fatherhood, husbandry, and housewifery. We will end the corruption of children through state ‘sex education’ programs,” they add.

The World Congress of Families exists to unite activists who are pushing this “natural family” ideology throughout the world. Notably, the group has served as a cheerleader for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on LGBT people, with one WCF official calling Russia “ the Christian saviors of the world.” The group planned to hold its last World Congress at the Kremlin, funded by top Putin allies. It formally cancelled the event after Russia invaded Ukraine, but the Congress went ahead with WCF leaders in attendance. The main organizer of the conference, WCF’s Russian representative Alexey Komov, will be offering a workshop on “Hosting a WCF Conference” at the Salt Lake City event.

Despite the debacle in Russia, WCF has hardly turned down its activism. At a recent event in Belgrade, World Congress of Families official Don Feder, who will also be speaking at the Salt Lake City conference, explains that contraception leads to “death” by “preventing life from happening" and will ultimately cause to the "extinction" of humanity:

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 9/2/15

  • Glenn Beck is predictably outraged that the media did not understand how amazingly life-changing his "Restoring Unity" rally really was.
  • Discredited anti-gay researcher Mark Regnerus has been added to the lineup for the World Congress of Families conference in Utah next month.
  • Franklin Graham is traveling to all 50 states for his "Decision America Tour" in an effort to "urge Christians not only to vote but also to engage by running for political office at all levels—local, state, and federal. We need Christian judges, Christian assembly members, and Christian mayors. We need Christian clerks of court, school board members, governors, and, of course, senators and representatives."
  • Ex-gay and anti-gay activists are holding a "Clarity Conference" in Oklahoma later this month.
  • Finally, in case she hasn't already made it abundantly clear, BarbWire's Gina Miller does not like homosexuality: "It’s about the destruction of freedom, and specifically, the destruction of Christian freedom.  Truth does not change, and the truth about homosexuality does not change.  Homosexual behavior is sin.  It’s destructive and dangerous.  It’s unnatural.  It’s immoral.  It’s a gross perversion of God’s design for human sexuality.  It’s naturally repulsive to those who retain a functioning moral compass."

Martyrdom And Dominion: Religious Right Conference Prepares For A 'Spiritual Battle' Against Gay Marriage

Twentieth century, let’s see, we left the secularists in charge…We had Hitler, we had Joseph Stalin and we had Mao. 120 million people [killed]. It gets worse. In the second half of the 20th century, we’ve murdered 400 [million] babies through abortion in China and 50 million in the United States. Let’s see, there are 500 million people we have killed in the 20th century. It’s one-tenth of the number of people who are living today, almost one-tenth.

How did we do that? We let the secularists in charge. You can’t let the secularists in charge! You have to get involved.

-Chuck Stetson, CEO of Essentials in Education, speaking at Skyline Church's Future Conference, June 2015

First they came for the adoption ministry, but I did not speak out, because I did not do adoptions.

Then they came for the wedding photographer, but I did not speak out, because I did not do photographic weddings. 

Then they came for the baker, and I did not speak out because I was not a baker. Then they came for the florist, but I said nothing, because I was not a florist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, paraphrasing Martin Niemöller at the Future Conference

Last week, a few hundred pastors, parishioners and activists gathered at Jim Garlow’s Skyline Wesleyan Church outside of San Diego for what Garlow called the “Future Conference.” The name of the conference appeared to have two meanings. First, in the words of its marketing materials, that “what you thought was coming…is here now” — in other words, that a great spiritual clash in which Christians are called to be martyrs has arrived. And second, that ultimately, the future will belong to conservative Christians as they wrest control from secular authority and take “dominion” over the country and the world.

The themes of imminent martyrdom and eventual dominion dominated the four-day conference, in which 56 speakers gave what added up to more than 24 hours of TED-style speeches.

The event was heavily tinged with “seven mountains” dominionism, the idea that Christians are called by God to be leaders of or to wield dominant influence over the seven main areas, or “mountains,” of culture — not only religion and family, but also government, business, education, media and entertainment.

Garlow himself has been very active in politics, as one of the organizing forces behind the effort to pass the Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban in California and a proponent of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, the movement that encourages pastors to break the rarely-enforced IRS rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. Garlow has especially close ties with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to whom he gave partial credit for inspiring the conference. Gingrich submitted a video address to the conference, as did two current Republican members of Congress, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma.

Speaker after speaker lamented the failure of the church to engage in the “culture” — through media, through education, and most importantly through politics. As Garlow wrote in an introductory letter to attendees:

Allow me to be direct: our nation is in trouble. Deep trouble. But you already knew that. That is one of the reasons you are at the FUTURE Conference. But why is our nation in trouble? Because of (how do I say this nicely?) the church. What is lacking? A clear proclamation of biblical answers to the messiness of our culture. Does the Bible actually speak to civic and national issues. Yes, it does!

Secular government and culture, the message was, are creating chaos at home and around the world. And pastors and believers who fail to engage in the wider world are letting it happen.

Just as important was the idea that, as Garlow put it, “you and I were made for this moment.” The going has gotten tough, the message was, not just for Christians facing violent persecution in places like Syria and Iraq, but also for conservative American Christians who claim to feel marginalized by advances in gay rights and who fear a potential Supreme Court decision striking down gay marriage bans. Glenn Beck, promoting the conference with Garlow, said that he knew of 10,000 pastors who were willing to die fighting this supposed anti-Christian persecution in America.

Most speakers were careful to point out that these threats are on very different orders of magnitude, although some hinted that American Christians were on the path to much more difficult times.

This was a spiritual battle that a disengaged church was letting the forces of darkness — radical Islam, the “redefinition of marriage,” abortion rights, pornography — win. Territory would have to be regained.

A ‘Spiritual Battle’ Against Gay Marriage

As is patently obvious, this is a spiritual battle. We need the intercession of every prayer warrior, every angel, and certainly the Holy Spirit. We must bombard the gates of Heaven ceaselessly for God Almighty to reverse our tragic cultural course and restore marriage to the venerable and beautiful institution that He did create.

-Frank Schubert, National Organization for Marriage political director, speaking at the Future Conference

While Garlow gathered speakers to talk about a host of imminent threats to American Christians including terrorism, abortion rights, an economic collapse, pornography, welfare and unbiblical movies, at the top of nearly everybody’s minds was the upcoming Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Garlow took hope in a presentation from Troy Newman, head of the anti-choice group Operation Rescue, who boasted of a decline in abortion providers in recent years. “If America can survive long enough,” Garlow said, maybe, like in the anti-abortion struggle, a new generation will rise up and see “the casualties from same-sex marriage are so horrific, this has got to be stopped in our nation.”

He elaborated on the “horrific” consequences of marriage equality in an address to the audience the next day, referring to the thoroughly debunked study by sociologist Mark Regnerus that purported to show all manner of negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples.

“I’ve been concerned with how many Christians, how many pastors, cannot make the theological case or the sociological case for marriage,” he said. “The redefinition of marriage, sociologically, will be profoundly destructive, profoundly harming. The Regnerus report out of the University of Texas is going to be only one of many examples of many that will follow that are going to show the catastrophic consequences, the pain, the suffering inflicted on the human race by this redefinition of marriage.”

Schubert, a political strategist who works with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), similarly cited Regnerus’ questionable conclusions as he urged audience members to give money to NOM and to prod their pastors to speak out against marriage equality because “being silent on the most important issue of our day turns it over to the forces of darkness.” If your pastor refuses to speak out against gay marriage, he advised, “I would look for a different church.”

Schubert said that while anti-gay advocates “could very well win” the marriage case before the Supreme Court, Christians must be prepared to use “any and all efforts to encourage resistance” to a ruling they disagree with, “short of violence.” Christians, he said, should “renounce as illegitimate” any Supreme Court decision that attempts to “redefine” marriage.

NOM’s president, Brian Brown, delivered a similar message, telling attendees that the success of the LGBT equality movement means “the days of comfortable Christianity are over.”

“Things have been good for a long time for us,” he said. “We don’t experience the sort of persecution we’re witnessing in the Middle East. We don’t fear for our lives in coming together and worshipping. We’ve felt for a long time that we’re a part of dominant culture. Now in the course of the last decade or so, maybe a little longer, we’ve realized that’s not the case. Things are starting to change. And that, to put it bluntly, the days of comfortable Christianity are over.”

A Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, he said, would “put a lie into law” and “that law will be used to marginalize, repress and punish those of us who stand for the truth of marriage.”

Claiming that Obama administration policies opposing the violent repression of gay people overseas are actually persecuting people who oppose marriage equality, Brown said that what’s happening to Americans is nothing in comparison and so U.S. Christians should be “cheerful” about “being persecuted.” “What we see and we go and work with folks from around the world is a whole other level of hatred,” he said. “Be cheerful, be happy, you’re being persecuted! Quit being so weak! Okay? What I’m trying to say is, if that’s happening we must be doing something right!”

Anti-gay activist Michael Brown had a similar message, saying that previously bullied LGBT people have now become the “bullies” and that the LGBT rights movement “will not be satisfied until the church bows down.”

Garlow told the crowd that they were “moving into a time of testing” where evangelicals would have to stand up to the predominant culture. He recalled a “vision” he had all the way back in 1990 in which he spoke with God about a future in which there would be “churches being closed by government” on the basis of “the civil rights of homosexuals.”

But no speaker took the gay-marriage panic as far as Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who spoke to the conference via video. Marriage equality, Staver warned, will cause “a cataclysmic social upheaval in every conceivable area.”

Touting a pledge to disobey any marriage equality ruling that he has recruited hundreds of prominent anti-gay activists to sign, Staver said that gay-marriage opponents must be prepared to resist such a ruling just like the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement resisted segregation and Jim Crow: “I think we’re back in the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. If they tell you to get off the bus, you don’t get off the bus. If they tell you to go to the back of the bus, you don’t go to the back of the bus.”

“This could be the best, most magnificent time for the church,” he said. “It is moments like this, where there is an unprecedented clash, where there’s impossible odds, that God will intervene for his people.”

Staver closed his speech with a rewritten version of anti-Nazi dissident Martin Niemöller’s famous “First they came for the socialists” lines, appropriating them to warn that the supposed persecution of bakers, florists and wedding photographers who deny service to gay people will open the door to a much wider persecution of Christians in America.

Beware Muslims! (Unless They Agree With You On Gay Rights)

Christians are being enslaved and beheaded and burned alive across the Middle East and he’s silent. Christians are being threatened and intimidated and sued and sequestered in Middle America and mum’s the word.

-Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, speaking of President Obama at the Future Conference

Although most speakers were careful to say that the supposed persecution of American Christian conservatives at the hands of the LGBT rights movement is on an entirely different order of magnitude than that being faced by Christians at the hands of ISIS and oppressive Islamist governments, there was a sense of joint martyrdom, that both are fighting for spiritual ground against forces allied with Satan.

As Steven Khoury, an Arab Israeli pastor, put it, “persecution is coming to America,” and he was there to help Americans learn how to stand up to it.

Garlow invited a few of the top anti-Islam activists in America to warn that the country, if it lets its guard down, risks facing subjugation at the hands of American Muslims. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy warned that since 9/11, millions of Muslim immigrants have staged a “colonization” of America. He warned pastors in the crowd against any sort of interfaith dialogue with Muslims or letting Muslim groups use their church facilities, which he said “is really about providing political cover to Muslims who don’t deserve it.” Anti-Muslim activist Stephen Coughlin similarly warned pastors against falling for the “interfaith delusion.”

But nobody had a more dire warning than right-wing activist Avi Lipkin, who told pastors that “all” churches in America have been infiltrated by Muslim spies pretending to be Christian converts. These moles, he warned, are cataloguing Christians and Jews in order to kill them all when Muslim jihadists take over.

All of the talk of "religious liberty" and threats to the First Amendment seemed to be conveniently forgotten when Lipkin endorsed laws such as Switzerland’s ban on minarets, declaring: “Until Islam is banned and suppressed and erased, the Jews will not have any chance to survive in this country.”

However, he had some good news: Muslim immigration to America, he predicted, would drive U.S. Jews to the Middle East, setting up a conflict in which Islam will be “finished.” “I predict Islam will be terminated very soon,” he said to enthusiastic applause.

It was jarring, then, to later in the very same day, hear a speech from Austin Ruse, the head of the conservative Catholic United Nations advocacy group C-FAM, in which he said that some of his greatest allies in the fight to stop “radically secular countries” from inserting LGBT rights and reproductive health language into UN documents were representatives of Muslim countries.

“The pro-life, pro-family coalition in the United Nations is strange bedfellows,” he said. “It includes Muslims. And without a bloc of Muslim countries supporting life and family at the UN, we would have had a right to abortion a long time ago, and redefinition of family.”

Garlow took it upon himself to clarify this, taking the stage after Ruse's remarks to reassure the audience that “co-belligerency” with “people who are hostile to much of our values” is sometimes necessary when “they actually have an interest in some portion of our Kingdom values.” He compared Ruse’s work with Muslim countries at the UN to his alliance with Mormon leaders to pass Proposition 8 in California.

Throughout the conference, Israel was portrayed as a spiritual bulwark of the West against surrounding Satanic Islam — something exemplified by its relatively secular values. No one, however, mentioned, that Israel is one of what Ruse called the “radical secular countries” advocating for LGBT rights at the UN. Also ignored were policies such as Israel's public funding of abortion services or the fact that just days prior to the event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his "blessings" to LGBT Pride marchers.

Dr. Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, tied together this idea that “secularists” are working in cahoots with radical Islam, aided by President Obama.

“For 67 years, we’ve disparaged dead, white, European males in our college classrooms,” he said. “Are we surprised that we now have a president whose first action was to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House and send it back to the British ambassador’s home? For 67 years, we’ve sent our kids off to sit under faculty who have panned a Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis. Are we surprised that we now have a White House that is seemingly more aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and the PLO than it is Benjamin Netanyahu and Franklin Graham?”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — whom Garlow partially credited with inspiring the conference — put it a different way in a video address to the event, saying that Christians are facing simultaneous attacks from “secular totalitarianism” and “Islamic supremacism,” with the two factions allied in a “war on Christianity.” Gingrich, who has spent years warning that the U.S. will soon become a "secular atheist country" that is "dominated by radical Islamists,” has been working to court pastors like Garlow who have ties to the dominionist movement.

Taking Dominion

Christians are dual citizens. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ … We are also citizens of an earthly “kingdom” … In the absence of Christians taking their dual citizenship seriously, obeying the dual commissions faithfully, and attempting to follow the dual commandments devotedly, the devil’s crowd has taken over key places of influence in our culture largely by default, even in a nation where professing Christians are still in the majority.

- Family Research Council manual for establishing a church “culture impact team,” distributed to pastors at the Future Conference

The sense of the inadequacy of secular leadership that pervaded the Future Conference was summarized by Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, who told the Future Conference via video that secular government leads to rampant divorce, teen pregnancy, crime and gang violence, all of which invite a greater presence from Big Government:

Garlow painted a similarly bleak message, saying that the struggles of the city of Detroit are the result of a lack of “bold, biblical preaching and the application of scriptural truth to all components of contemporary life.”

“The absence of biblical truth being applied to a metropolitan area literally destroyed it,” he said.

Garlow didn’t specify which exact “biblical truths” Detroit is in violation of, but conservative activist Star Parker, who declared her intention to “destroy the welfare state,” might have provided some hints.

Parker told the gathering that the U.S. is “in a similar place right now in our country to where we were in the 1850s” when we were “half free and half slave.”

“And we’re at a crossroads again,” she said, “because we’re at the place where we’re half free and half slave. We’re in the battle of our lifetime, we’re in the battle for the very heart and soul of our great country, to go into a future, if we can, even as the Scriptures told us that God actually planned for us a future and a hope, and yet that future and hope is under attack.”

“We’re either going to come up out of this biblical and free,” she said, “or we gotta come up here secular and statist.”

Chuck Stetson, who runs a program that develops “biblical literacy” courses that clear the First-Amendment bar for being taught in public schools, had a similar message, claiming that the great genocides of the 20th century (in which he included abortion) were the result of leaving the “secularists in charge.”

Lamenting that “three percent of the population” (LGBT people) are defeating "70 percent of the population” (Christians), Stetson urged conservative Christians to develop a “broader concept of missions” and to get involved in politics as well as “literature, art [and] music.”

He used the metaphor of a cruise ship: Christians, he said, were gathering around the lifeboats in an effort to save souls, even while throughout the boat, “they’re breaking out the booze, bringing out the gaming tables. They need the Christians down there.”

In fact, the Future Conference, Garlow reported, started out as a sort of founding conference for the United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, a new group led by Joe Mattera, a New York minister who is a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). NAR is a controversial movement within evangelical Christianity which is led by self-declared prophets and apostles. Many of NAR’s leaders promote “seven mountains” dominionism, the idea that conservative Christians must take “dominion” over all seven “mountains” of culture in order to pave the way for Christ’s return.

(NAR and dominionism began to attract press attention back in 2011 when then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry hosted a rally featuring many NAR leaders. Its adherents then began to downplay its core themes, saying they were seeking more “influence” than “dominion.”)

Along with a number of members of Mattera's new group, who held a meeting during one break in the conference, Garlow invited NAR adherents including Mattera, Lou Engle (with whom he had worked to raise support for Prop 8), Dennis Peacocke and Lance Wallnau to speak to the event.

Wallnau gave a Glenn Beck-style whiteboard presentation outlining the "seven mountains" theology for the audience, explaining that if the church doesn’t occupy each of the seven spheres of culture, “the Enemy will.”

“The reason why we’re having a problem in the United States is because, honestly, we have not been pursuing the discipling of the nation, we’ve been pursuing the evangelizing of the people and the building of ministries,” he said. “And so we’ve neglected entire territory that the Enemy was all too quick to go in and take possession of.”

Peacocke ­­­— the founder of a group that works with business and community leaders to bring “God’s kingdom to earth” — put the message succinctly when the told the enthusiastic crowd that Christians have been called to be leaders in every area: “We should be leading. Virtually every place there’s a Christian, they should be a manager, they should be management. We should have the relational skillset to manage wherever we go, because that is what Christians are called to be, responsible empowerers of other people.”

In his talk, Mattera clarified that he and his allies were calling on Christians to become “leaders of culture” not through force but through simply being the best in all fields. “We’re not called to take cities, we’re called to love them and serve them,” he said, “and once we produce the greatest problem-solvers the world has ever seen, the leaders of culture will come and beg us to lead, because they’re going to see that we’re the only ones who have the answer.”

He added that a key component of this would be to follow the scriptural commandment to “multiply” and “replenish” the Earth, which he specified means having more than two children per couple.

“In general, God has called His children to have more children than any other people,” he said, “so this way we will have the people to fill every aspect of culture, not just bodies, but trained in the covenant, because the word ‘replenish’ implies that they go and they fill the earth with God’s law, with the result being subdue the earth and have dominion.”

A practical guide to the political portion of this mission was provided by Kenyn Cureton, the head of ministerial outreach at the Family Research Council, who presented pastors and churchgoers with guides for establishing “culture impact teams” — basically political committees — within churches. Politically involved churches, he said, are “fighting a spiritual battle,” not against gay rights advocates or pro-choice groups, but against Satan, who has caught cultural liberals in his “snare.”

“Who’s behind the effort to snuff out human life through embryo-destructive research and abortion?” he asked. “Who’s behind the effort to indoctrinate our children with these alternative lifestyles, redefine marriage, and even ruin our military? Who’s behind the effort to drive God out government, Christ out of culture and faith out of public life? Who’s behind that? I mean, it’s pretty easy for us to understand as believers, it’s the Devil.”

Where Politics and Religion Collide

Although the focus of Garlow’s conference was largely on the twin evils of secularism and Islam, he also invited Black and Latino pastors with whom he had worked on resisting Prop 8 to discuss criminal justice reform, on which conservatives are increasingly engaging in bipartisan coalition work, and immigration, on which some evangelical leaders have been trying to get Republicans to adopt positions, or at least rhetoric, that is less offensive to Latino voters.

One of the most revealing moments of the conference came after a speech by Mark Gonzales, a Texas pastor who through his Hispanic Prayer Network seems to be attempting to connect the NAR movement with Latino evangelicals. Gonzales told the mostly white audience that God is using Latino immigration to bring “revival to America,” but that Satan is trying to stop that revival from happening by dividing the church on the issue of immigration.

And it’s not just religious revival that Latino immigrants will bring, he said. They will also help conservatives win elections.

“When God allows this many people to come into a nation, he’s up to something,” Gonzales said. He then made a well-rehearsed pitch to the conservative audience for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have long lived in the country if they first overcome a number of hurdles.

Immediately following Gonzales’s speech, Garlow came on stage to “clarify” for the crowd what Gonzales was saying. “What he’s talking about, so we’re all on the same page, is not amnesty,” he said.

Gonzales responded that anti-immigrant pundits do indeed call proposals like his “amnesty,” but using that word is the “biggest disservice we can do as the body of Christ.”

Parts of the audience clapped. Others did not seem sold.

Questions of biblical guidance and political expediency had, for a moment, become the same thing.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 5/28/15

  • It is not a good sign for Rick Santorum when even Herman Cain's website thinks his presidential campaign is a joke that is doomed to fail.
  • We can now add former New York Gov. George Pataki to the ever-growing list of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
  • The American Family Association is taking on "Lucifer," an upcoming Fox television series.
  • Peter LaBarbera is still hard at work "exposing a homosexual 'perversion museum' (AFTAH’s description) known as the Leather Archives and Museum."
  • Finally, Mark Regnerus is attempting to defend his badly flawed anti-gay study.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 5/19/15

  • Gina Miller says there is a "war being waged by the militant homosexual movement, which is tyrannical at its heart.  The forcing on society of perverse sexual behavior is part of the Marxist Left’s campaign to destroy the moral foundations of the United States."
  • Scott Walker was recently in Washington, D.C., where he met with leaders of the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America.
  • Travis Weber of the Family Research Council calls for "legislation to be passed at the federal level and the state level around the country protecting people who support traditional marriage from the government, from the government discriminating against them, intruding into their affairs and penalizing them because of their beliefs.”
  • Finally, the researchers who debunked Mark Regnerus' anti-gay parenting study say that "if he were one of my students I’d make him redo the paper."

New Research Further Debunks Regnerus Study On Gay Parenting

In an upcoming article, a pair of sociologists are putting what they call the “final nail in the coffin” of the much-criticized study by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus that purported to show that being raised by gay and lesbian parents harms children. The Regnerus study has become a favorite tool of Religious Right activists seeking to show that households led by same-sex couples are bad for children. At the same time, the study has come under scrutiny for the funding it received from anti-gay groups and for its lack of respondents who were actually raised in same-sex parent households.

Indiana University's Brian Powell and the University of Connecticut’s Simon Cheng didn’t just find methodological flaws in Regnerus’ research — they took the data he collected, cleaned it up, and redid the study, coming to a very different conclusion about families led by same-sex couples. Their article will be published in “Social Science Research,” the same journal that published the Regnerus study.

By eliminating suspect data — for example, a 25-year-old respondent who claimed to be 7’8” tall, 88 pounds, married 8 times and with 8 children, and another who reported having been arrested at age 1 — and correcting what they view as Regnerus’ methodological errors, Cheng and Powell found that Regnerus’ conclusions were so “fragile” that his data could just as easily show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents don’t face negative adult outcomes.

“[W]hen equally plausible and, in our view, preferred methodological decisions are used,” they wrote, “a different conclusion emerges: adult children who lived with same-sex parents show comparable outcome profiles to those from other family types, including intact biological families.”

In other words, as University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen put it, “when you clean the data and fix the things that are fixable, the results just don’t hold up.”

Three years ago, Regnerus published an ambitious attempt to quantify how being raised by same-sex parents affects children once they reach adulthood. His findings were dramatic and were quickly seized upon by opponents of LGBT equality around the world: People who had been raised by gay parents, Regnerus said, were more likely to suffer from depression and drug abuse, take part in criminal behavior, develop sexually transmitted infections and were more likely to have been sexually abused as children.

The Regnerus study was promptly scrutinized by fellow social scientists, who pointed out major flaws in his methodology. Many people who he categorized as having been raised by a gay or lesbian parent had spent very little time with that parent or with his or her same-sex partner. Even Regnerus admitted that his data included only two people who said they had been raised for their entire childhoods by a same-sex couple.

Yet, the Regnerus study continues to be cited by opponents of marriage equality and other LGBT rights issues across the globe, and Regnerus himself has even used his research to testify against marriage equality in the courts.

In an amicus brief opposing marriage equality in Louisiana, Regnerus and several other social science professors wrote that despite “the attention and scrutiny” to his study, it “remains in print and subsequent analyses of the (now publicly-accessible) data have revealed no analytic errors.”

“That is no longer true,” Powell told us. “There are major analytic errors in the study.”

Regnerus compared the outcomes of children raised in what he called “intact biological families” (with married biological parents) “lesbian mother” families and “gay father” families, finding differences between “lesbian mother” families and “intact biological families” in 24 of the 40 areas he looked at, and differences between “gay father” families and “intact biological” ones in 19 areas. 

But in scrutinizing Regnerus’ data, Cheng and Powell determined that of the 236 respondents whom Regnerus had identified as having been raised by a lesbian mother or gay father, one-tenth had never even lived with the parent in question and an additional one-sixth hadn’t lived with that parent for more than one year. Still more had provided inconsistent or unreliable responses to survey questions, throwing their reliability into doubt. That means, Powell says, that over one-third of the 236 people whom Regnerus classified as having been raised by a lesbian mother or gay father “should absolutely not have ever been considered by Regnerus in this study.”

Reanalyzing Regnerus’ data after eliminating respondents who offered dubious biographical information and recategorizing people who clearly were not raised by gay parents, Cheng and Powell found only three statistically significant differences between  the respondents raised by a lesbian mother and those who reported having been raised in “intact biological family” households. Only one of those differences could be considered a negative adult outcome — those respondents were more likely to have had an affair while married or cohabitating. Even that is hardly a smoking gun, says Powell: “If you study 40 different variables or outcomes…just by the law of chance, a few of them should be statistically significant.”

Cheng said that in taking on “one of the most controversial articles published in the history of social science research,” they tried to stay away from the debate about Regnerus’ ideology or the source of his funding. “What we can do is analyze the data,” he said.


The Right's Favorite Anti-Gay Study Is Discredited Once Again

One of the anti-gay movement’s favorite pieces of ammunition is a 2012 study by University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus purporting to find that the children of gay and lesbian people are more likely to suffer negative outcomes, including drug abuse, poor school performance, and child abuse.

As soon as Regnerus’s “New Family Structures” study was released, fellow social scientists began picking apart Regnerus’s data, pointing out that barely any of the people that he interviewed had actually been raised by same-sex couples and that he failed to control for factors like family instability. Regnerus himself has acknowledged that his study didn’t actually say anything about parenting by stable same-sex couples, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-gay right from using it to bolster its case against marriage equality…and Regnerus from providing testimony in court cases against gay marriage.

This week, the Daily Texan, the newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin, published documents it had obtained from an internal review of Regnerus’s study that found a series of methodological flaws to the research.

The findings were summed up by the dean of UT’s College of Liberal Arts, Randy Diehl, who noted that while the school wouldn't conduct an ethics investigation into Regnerus's work, “no policy implications about same-sex parenting should be drawn from the study”:

The post-tenure review committee met again in January of this year and was tasked by Diehl with considering only methodological problems. Based on this charge, the committee found the following, as summarized and endorsed by Diehl: “Valid methodological concerns have been raised. … A key one is this: Because the design of the study ensured that the parental same-sex relationship variable was confounded with the family structure stability variable, it is not possible to conclude that the different life outcomes between the two groups were caused by the parental relationship variable.” Diehl, citing this finding and Regnerus’ original caution that the article did not deal with same-sex marriage legal rights, agreed that “no policy implications about same-sex parenting should be drawn from the study.” But the fact is Regnerus did use those findings in court.

Specifically, UT’s review found what other critics had noted: that the Regnerus study was not about same-sex parenting, but about family instability. From Diehl’s summary:

- The design of the NFS [New Family Structures] study survey instrument guaranteed that any participant who reported that their parent participated in a same-sex romantic relationship would have also experienced some form of family instability.

-Increased likelihood of negative outcomes for children who experience family instability are well-documented within existing scholarly literature.

Nobody is arguing that it isn’t difficult to find large-scale data about children raised by same-sex parents – even Regnerus has acknowledged some of his study’s shortcomings. But the problem with the Regnerus study is that the anti-gay Right continues to insist it proves a case against marriage equality  – no matter how often that interpretation is debunked.

Mark Regnerus Defends Flawed Research On Same-Sex Parenting

Back in 2012, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus published a study claiming that children raised by same-sex couples are more likely to be molested, abuse drugs and alcohol, do poorly in school, and experience any number of other maladies. The study quickly made its way into anti-LGBT talking points around the world, even as Regnerus’ fellow academics began to find serious problems with his methodology.

The main issue with Regnerus’ work was that he based his conclusions on same-sex parenting on respondents who said their parent had been in a same-sex relationship at some point when they were a child – not necessarily adults who had been raised by a same-sex couple. Ultimately, only two of the people he studied were actually raised by same-sex couples. He also failed to control for destabilizing childhood events like divorce. Sociologist Darren Sherkat summarized the problems with the Regnerus study in a 2013 interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center:

The key measure of gay and lesbian parenting is simply a farce. The study includes a retrospective question asking if people knew if their mother or father had a “romantic” relationship with someone of the same sex when the respondent was under age 18. This measure is problematic on many levels.

Regnerus admits that just two of his respondents were actually raised by a same-sex couple, though I doubt that he can even know that, given his limited data. Since only two respondents were actually raised in gay or lesbian households, this study has absolutely nothing to say about gay parenting outcomes. Indeed, because it is a non-random sample, this study has nothing to say about anything.

It failed to take into account normal family effects on wellbeing, to control for known​ sources of positive or negative outcomes. Indeed, since he only had two stable lesbian “couples” (or at least a young adult who said that, retrospectively, in a non-random, convenience sample), he instead just constructed differences from a group of people who were raised in unstable environments. Sexuality has nothing to do with that.

Then, earlier this year, Catholic University professor Paul Sullins published a paper with conclusions similar to those put forth by Regnerus...and similar methodological flaws.

As Emma Green wrote in “The Atlantic” recently, most social science “suggests that there are no differences between kids raised in stable households by gay or straight parents” — in other words, most scientists are finding that it’s the stability of their household, not their gender of the parents, that most affects the wellbeing of kids.

But now Regnerus is defending the findings of his and Sullins’ studies by arguing essentially that families headed by same-sex couples are inherently unstable — so there is no need to control for stability in studying the wellbeing of children raised in by same-sex parents. Regnerus told World Magazine this week that divorce is “still, so far as I can tell, the primary means by which a child comes to be in a same-sex household,” so “I think we should evaluate reality as it exists, not complain about the ideal data situation that does not”:

Critics of Sullins’ study claim it can’t tell us anything meaningful about same-sex parenting because it includes children of divorce, who are themselves more likely to suffer from emotional, behavioral, and academic problems. In order to fairly represent gay parents, critics seem to suggest, surveys should only include children who did not experience divorce and were raised from infancy by stable gay couples. In other words, the childhoods Lopez and Barwick experienced should be tossed out of the data pool.

But such “ideal” same-sex parent situations are rare and would be difficult to measure using a random representative survey. Besides, is it fair to ignore the very factor that often precedes same-sex parenting situations: divorce?

“[Divorce] is still, so far as I can tell, the primary means by which a child comes to be in a same-sex household,” said Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas at Austin sociologist whose own survey of same-sex households in 2012 found children of gay parents were more likely to be unemployed, depressed, unhealthy, promiscuous, and to have a negative view of their childhood. “I think we should evaluate reality as it exists, not complain about the ideal data situation that does not.”

It’s not surprising that since same-sex marriage — and the child custody rights that come with that marriage status — is a relatively new development there isn’t a huge pool of data on children raised by married same-sex couples. But that doesn’t mean, as Regnerus suggests, that sociologists should simply conflate same-sex parenting with household instability.

Anti-Gay Mega-Donor Sean Fieler Is Funding Mark Regnerus' New Think Tank

Last year, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus — author of a widely panned study on same-sex parenting that is nonetheless frequently cited on the Religious Right — helped launch a new group called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has since been publishing his research on topics including pre-marital sex, divorce, religion among college students and masturbation.

According to tax records filed this summer, the Austin Institute receives much of its funding from one donor: New York hedge fund honcho and social conservative mega-donor Sean Fieler.

The 2013 tax return for Fieler’s Chiaroscuro Foundation reports two grants to the Austin Institute, totaling $250,000. Although the public copy of Chiaroscuro’s tax return obscures the dates of its fiscal year, the organization’s 2010 return indicates that its tax year runs from January through December.

Meanwhile, the Austin Institute’s return reports that it took in just $205,000 in contributions between February and June 2013, indicating that a significant portion of its initial funding came from Fieler’s charity.

Fieler’s funding of the Austin Institute shouldn’t come as a surprise. To begin with, he is a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, the Princeton-based think tank that kicked in $700,000 for Regnerus’ now infamous “New Family Structures” study. The study claimed to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents suffer all sorts of harmful consequences like drug use and abuse, despite only actually studying two people raised by same-sex couples.

According to the Austin Chronicle, the new group was quickly dubbed “Witherspoon Institute South” — a name stemming from its staff’s plentiful ties to the Witherspoon Institute and the Religious Right.

The Austin Institute grants were among the biggest expenditures last year by Fielder’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, many of which went to groups fighting marriage equality and abortion rights. This year, recipients include Americans United for Life ($20,000), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($260,000), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which fights pro-choice and LGBT rights initiatives at the U.N. ($20,000), the National Abstinence Education Foundation ($50,000) and the Susan B. Anthony List ($40,000). As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Fieler’s foundation also gave $50,000 last year to Morality in Media for its increasingly quixotic anti-porn campaign.

In 2012, the foundation gave $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, but seems to have snubbed the group in 2013.

The Chiaroscuro Foundation is just the beginning of Fieler’s influence: Last month, RH Reality Check delved in detail into Fieler’s political spending, including his funding of the American Principles Project and his hand in political races across the country.

While Regnerus’ research at the Austin Institute has so far made less of a splash than his faulty same-sex parenting study, he has continued to lend his voice to the effort to stop marriage equality, including testifying on behalf of a same-sex marriage ban in Michigan this year. (That move caused some of his UT colleagues to distance themselves from his work.)

The Austin Institute’s most noticeable contribution so far is a viral YouTube video applying a pop-economics veneer to the Religious Right’s favorite target, the sexual revolution. The video explains (in economic terms, of course) how contraception led to women turning against each other while men became video-game playing slobs — the only solution to which is for women to band together to withhold sex until marriage.

And the Austin Institute seems primed to provide more research to conveniently reinforce the Religious Right’s policy views — a solid investment for a donor like Fieler.

UPDATE: A reader points out that the Bradley Foundation, a conservative group that includes the Witherspoon Institute's Robert George on its board and that also helped to fund Regnerus' "New Family Structures" study, also reported a $100,000 grant to the Austin Institute last year.

Regnerus Study Backer Acknowledges That Marriage Equality Creates Family Stability


Buried in a National Catholic Register report on the biannual meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops this week is the surprising revelation that Brad Wilcox, one of the researchers behind Mark Regnerus’ infamously flawed study of same-sex parenting, admitted to attendees that most social scientists have found “no difference” between “a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family.”

And when a Washington state bishop compared same-sex marriage to cohabitation, Wilcox responded that data suggests “when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage" and that married same-sex couples “are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships.” 

Following his talk, Wilcox took a number of questions from bishops on the floor of the meeting. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput asked why, if marriage is so valuable for economic success, same-sex marriage is being legalized in so many states.

"Most of the scientists would say that there's no difference ... between a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family," replied Wilcox, noting that those scientists might consider stability the "key factor, not other issues that might relate to a child's well-being."

Yakima, Wash., Bishop Joseph Tyson asked why same-sex marriage is not considered by the studies Wilcox cited to be as dangerous as cohabitation.

"I think that the assumption ... is that when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage," Wilcox replied.

"Is there data to back that?" Tyson asked.

"The data suggest that same-sex couples -- and this is really preliminary -- are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships," Wilcox replied.

This acknowledgment of mainstream social science’s assessment of gay and lesbian parenting is important coming from someone who helped to shape the Regnerus study, the discredited attack on same-sex parenting that is still cited widely by marriage equality opponents. We wrote last year:

Documents obtained by the American Independent this year revealed that the Witherspoon Institute was closely involved in Regnerus’ work through the go-between of W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia who at the time ran Witherspoon’s program on family, marriage and democracy, which had recruited Regnerus to conduct the study on LGBT parents. Regnerus in turn hired Wilcox on contract to assist him with data analysis on the study. Along with working with Regnerus on his skewed interpretation of the data, Wilcox urged Regnerus to release the study in time to influence the U.S. Supreme Court in its upcoming marriage equality cases. (Regnerus later signed onto an amicus brief seeking to influence both cases, which extensively cited his own research).

Wilcox’s remark echo the Proposition 8 trial testimony of David Blankenhorn, in which he acknowledged the stability provided by marriage for same-sex couples. Blankenhorn later became a full-fledged marriage equality advocate.

UPDATE: The bishops’ group has posted video of the conference. It’s clear from the video that Wilcox isn’t completely on board with the social science on same-sex marriage, but  does acknowledge the consensus among his colleagues.

Interestingly, Wilcox did not mention same-sex marriage at all until it was brought up in the question-and-answer session.

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/1/14

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/5/14

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/4/14

Right Wing Leftovers - 2/24/14

  • Apparently, the First Amendment requires allowing groups to place Bibles in hotel rooms because not doing it is "the very viewpoint discrimination and hostility towards religion that the First Amendment prohibits."
  • Joseph Farah has turned on Ann Coulter.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott unite in trying to convince Sean Hannity to move to Texas.
  • In news that will shock nobody, Mark Regnerus' anti-gay study was orchestrated and funded by anti-gay groups.
  • Finally, Bryan Fischer recalls the time Satan inflicted him with a panic attack that almost caused him to strip off his clothes and go running through the woods.

Right Wing Round-Up - 2/19/14

Right Wing Leftovers - 1/30/14

  • The Southern Baptist Convention's ERLC will host a conference on "the gospel and human sexuality to equip pastors and church leaders to speak to these critical issues in their own congregations" that is going to feature Mark Regnerus.
  • Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry are in need of prayer.
  • The Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders is out with its long run-down of incredibly vague predictions about what the world will experience in 2014.
  • FRC prays against the legalization of marijuana: "May the American people come to their senses to reject this trend and reverse it!"
  • Finally, Gary Cass delivers a "Spiritual State of the Union" address; it is not good: "[A] small but militant minority is hell bent on destroying all vestiges of our Christian heritage. Marxist / Secularists have prosecuted their 100 year Cultural Jihad to infiltrate the media, education and politics, especially the courts, and impose their secular fundamentalism. The election and re-election of Barack Obama is sobering proof of their formidable influence."
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