International

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

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

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

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

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

Crush on Putin

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

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

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

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

God Will Favor Russia Instead Of America, Thanks Obama

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

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

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

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

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

Bring Anti-Gay Laws To The U.S.

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

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

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

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

Mat Staver To Headline Jamaica Conference Hosted By Group Defending Anti-Sodomy Laws

American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex.

The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel, will discuss “global legal trends impacting the institution of the family.”

JCHS’s conference has drawn prominent American anti-gay activists before. In 2012, two top lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom spoke at the conference, one of whom defended Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law, calling homosexuality “harmful not only spiritually and psychologically, but also physically.” Last year, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality’s Peter LaBarbera made an appearance at the conference, urging Jamaicans: “Do not be like us, do not be like Britain, do not sit idly by as so-called ‘LGBT activists’ manipulate words and laws to achieve dominance in your country.”

LaBarbera distanced himself from the U.S. State Department’s support for LGBT rights around the world, telling attendees (as transcribed by a Buzzfeed reporter who attended):

I do not stand with my government. I’m a patriotic American, but I do not stand with the current United States government in its promotion of homosexuality and gender confusion. But I do stand with the Jamaican people … I pray that you will learn from our mistakes and from lessons of history and avoid the inevitable moral corruption and health hazards and the danger to young people that come from capitulating to this sin movement that calls itself gay. It is almost now can be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, if the law is a teacher: If you take down this law, it will only lead to more demands. Appeasement does not work.

MassResistance’s Brian Camenker has also headlined a rally for the group.

The groups organizing the conference have opposed efforts to overturn the country’s anti-sodomy laws, which impose up to 10 years imprisonment for gay sex. Jamaica CAUSE, a cosponsor, organized rallies earlier this year to oppose an effort to overturn the law. The main sponsor, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, also supports keeping the laws. On its website, JCHS provides a document called “Frequently Asked Questions About The Buggery Law” that attributes homosexuality to “economic reasons, direct Satanic influence, media and entertainment enticement, and experiences during incarceration” and cautions, “If determining human rights is separated from morality and based on individual freedom without any restraints, all perversions will in due time become ‘rights’.”

In a section on countries with greater freedom for LGBT people, the group adopts the American Right’s persecution messaging:

Why is it so important to certain countries, such as the UK, that Jamaica removes the buggery law?

Homosexuals in those countries have gained political power and so are able to use the machinery of the state to achieve their ends. It is interesting to note that the aim in these countries is not just that the buggery law is repealed, but that all types of sexual behaviour, including pedophilia and bestiality, should be eventually legalized as alternative sexual orientations. Further, the removal of the buggery law often results in attacks on freedom of speech and religion so that those who speak out against homosexuality are discriminated against and victimized. They want all types of sexual behavior to be legal.

JCHS defends Jamaica’s anti-sodomy, or “buggery,” law this way:

Since the buggery law is difficult to police shouldn’t it be removed from the books? Laws have multiple roles. (i) instruction on right behaviour that benefit individuals and society (ii) deterrence against wrong behaviour (iii) punishment for wrong behaviour. The law of the land bears witness to that which the state approves. This is important because this determines, for example, what can and can’t be taught to children in schools. Laws against murder, littering and traffic violations have not prevented these activities but that is no reason for these laws to be removed. Because a law cannot be policed does not mean it should be removed.

The group also provides images like this as “media resources”:

Religious Right Leaders Join Vatican Man-Woman Marriage Event

Fresh off the synod on the family, at which conservative Catholic bishops rallied to assert ideological domination over the final report, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Inquisition) has announced that it will be hosting a colloquium this month on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Trekking to Vatican City for the event will be some American anti-equality advocates: Rick Warren, the Southern Baptists’ Russell Moore, right-wing Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput, and Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The November 17-19 event will be co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The announcement of the colloquium says it will feature representatives from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries. Among them is Nicholas Okoh, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, who has called homosexuality a manifestation of the devil and praised Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s “courage” in signing a harsh anti-gay law last December. Okoh said in January that people who oppose the law will face “disaster.”

The event will also premiere six short films about marriage; a trailer for the series is online now.

UPDATE: Russell Moore has explained why he's going to the Vatican:

Here’s what I hope comes out of the meeting. I hope that this gathering of religious leaders can stand in solidarity on the common grace, creational mandate of marriage and family as necessary for human flourishing and social good. I also hope that we can learn from one another about where these matters stand around the world. And I hope that those of us from the believers’ church tradition can represent well our views of how marriage is more than just a natural good (although it is never less than that), but is a picture of the gospel one-flesh union of Christ and his church.

Putin Ally Builds New Orthodox News Network On Fox Model

Slate’s Joshua Keating is out with a profile of Konstantin Malofeev, the Russian oligarch who has become a full-time activist and benefactor to “traditional family” causes in Russia and Europe. Malofeev worked with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families to organize last month’s social conservative conference at the Kremlin. In fact, Malofeev sounds a lot like an American Religious Right leader when he argues that Christians are facing totalitarian persecution in the U.S. and western Europe:  

“Just as Christians in the West in Ronald Reagan’s time helped us against the evil of communism, we now have to return our debt to Christians who are suffering under totalitarianism in the West,” he says. “This so-called liberalism, tolerance, and freedom, these are just words, but behind them you can see the totalitarianism.” 

Asked for examples of this totalitarianism, he cites legal battles over U.S. businesses not providing flowers or cakes for gay weddings and the use of tear gas against anti-gay-marriage protesters in France. “We saw all of this in the 1920s in the Soviet Union. We know how it starts when the protection of minorities becomes the policy of the state,” he says. 

Keating’s profile makes it clear that Malofeev, currently under sanctions from the EU and Canada for allegedly financing Ukrainian rebels, has big ideas. He is monarchist who wants to see a return of the Czars and the reconstruction of the Russian empire. “We the Russian people are a divided nation, just as the Germans were after the Second World War,” he told Keating.

One of his Malofeev’s big ideas is a new Orthodox conservative television network modeled on the Fox News.  “We want to show the news in the way that Orthodox people, who are 70 to 80 percent of the population, see it.” The Orthodox Church has been a valuable ally for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s nationalist and anti-gay policies, and it seems likely that Malofeev’s openly propagandist channel will not meet the same fate as other independent news networks under Putin’s regime.  

The new network is just a YouTube channel for now, but Malofeev has hired as a producer enigmatic former Fox News employee Jack Hanick. We first encountered Hanick when he joined National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown last year at a Moscow roundtable organized by Malofeev and opined that “God called on” Russia” to “stand up for traditional values” where the rest of the world had failed.

Hanick was part of the planning committee for the World Congress of Families event although he said in a recent interview that he was there as a journalist, not an activist. (World Congress of Families dropped its official role in the event after Russia invaded Crimea, although top officials from the group remained involved in their personal capacities, and other Religious Right leaders like Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage were not deterred from attending.)

In an interview with the Russian website Colta earlier this month, Hanick voiced his support for a Russian law banning the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors and said that he had thought that gay rights organizations would also support the law. He also praised Fox News founder Roger Ailes for pioneering of unabashedly biased journalism, envisioning a world where journalists act as lawyers, presenting either side of a case and clearly stating their allegiances.  Ailes, he gushed, “changed television forever.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Lobbies For Anti-Marriage Referendum In Slovakia

Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based Religious Right powerhouse, has urged Slovakia’s constitutional court to allow anti-gay activists to place a referendum on the country’s ballot that would reinforce the current bans on same-sex marriage, adoption, and domestic partner protections and add a provision making it harder for schools to offer sex education.

The National Law Journal reports:

The court is considering a petition seeking a referendum submitted by the Slovak Alliance for Family. The measure calls for a vote on four questions:

· The definition of a marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

· A requirement that adoptive parents be married.

· Prohibiting registered partnerships between gay and lesbian couples.

· Permitting parents to opt out their children from sex education classes taught at public schools.

"The people of Slovakia should have the freedom to preserve marriage and family if they so choose," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Roger Kiska, who filed an amicus brief with the court. "This referendum will allow Slovaks to affirm current Slovak law and important social values, which is perfectly acceptable under the Slovak Constitution."

The opt-out of sex education classes, however, is not existing law.

More than 400,000 citizens signed the petition supporting a referendum, according to Roger Kiska—more than the required number of signatures. However, Slovak President Andrej Kiska asked the Constitutional Court to review the measure because of a provision in the country's constitution that forbids holding a referendum to change "fundamental rights and liberties."

In June, Slovakia became the seventh EU country to ban same-sex marriage. Alliance Defending Freedom has a hefty budget for Europe, spending more than $750,000 on its European programs last year.

C-FAM Blogger Wonders 'Which Camp To Choose' Between Ukraine-Invading Putin And Sodomy-Promoting Obama

Last week, Austin Ruse, head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), was among the Americans scheduled to speak at a conference in Moscow sponsored by close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin that ended with a call for countries around the world to pass laws restricting LGBT rights. Ruse was a member of the planning committee for the event, which was originally organized under the name of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families — WCF dropped its official sponsorship after it came under pressure after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

So it was interesting yesterday to see Turtle Bay and Beyond, a blog sponsored by C-FAM, run a lengthy post by contributor J.C. von Krempach, in which he acknowledges that Putin is using anti-choice and anti-LGBT policies for cynical expansionist ends, but wonders if the Russian president's leadership is nonetheless preferable to President Obama’s support for LGBT equality and reproductive rights around the globe.

(He, like many of his fellow admirers of Putin’s embrace of the Russian Orthodox church, neglects to mention the devastating impact the Ukraine conflict is having on that country's evangelical protestants.)

“The problem with the US today is that President Obama has a religion of his own making,” writes Krempach. “That religion has abortion and same-sex 'marriage' as its most precious sacraments, and Obama is its messiah.”

“If Obama kept his religion for himself, that would not be such a great problem. In actual fact, however, he puts his position as the head of the executive of the world’s largest and most powerful democracy entirely at the service of this novel religion, promoting sodomy and child-slaughtering domestically and abroad.”

All of this, he writes, makes it difficult to “know which camp to choose.”

Definitely, we are living in strange times. Pro-lifers and defenders of marriage and family meet at a conference in Moscow, hosted by two men with close links not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, but also to Russian President (and former KGB-boss) Vladimir Putin just at a time when the latter is waging a war of aggression against neighbouring Ukraine (not to mention the very similar wars he has waged against Georgia and Moldova and, domestically, against the Chechens…). At the same time Barack Obama, supposedly the leader of the most powerful democratic country in the world, is not only the one of the world’s most active advocates of violence against unborn children, but also uses all the powers of his office to wage a full-fledged war, domestically and world-wide, against marriage and the family – which are the very fundaments of any democratic society. And we, perplexed, do not know which camp to choose.

[T]he state ideology [in Russia] has changed once more – and whatever one may think of the close union between Church and State we see today, this change is for the better. For all practical purposes Christianity is more conducive to the common good than Marxism-Leninism. And the promotion of stable families is certainly a better idea than promoting class struggle and collectivization.

If we now turn to look at the United States, we see the nearly opposite scenario. While Americans are (at least by comparison to most Europeans) a very religious nation, they have a secular (not “secularist”) State, with no established religion. The purpose of the clause that there be no established religion is not to fight against religion, but to guarantee religious freedom.

The problem with the US today is that President Obama has a religion of his own making. That religion has abortion and same-sex “marriage” as its most precious sacraments, and Obama is its messiah.

If Obama kept his religion for himself, that would not be such a great problem. In actual fact, however, he puts his position as the head of the executive of the world’s largest and most powerful democracy entirely at the service of this novel religion, promoting sodomy and child-slaughtering domestically and abroad. This includes, in particular, the funding of abortion in developing countries through so-called “development aid”, the use of diplomatic pressure on developing countries to legalize abortion or sodomy, or the public endorsement given by US diplomats to “gay pride” events and other displays of obscenity. These provocative activities have, among many other countries, also targeted Russia – in particular at the Sochi Winter Olympics, where the US foreign Office orchestrated a “LGBT-rights campaign”. But there, as elsewhere, they have not won over the population for Obama’s noble cause, but provoked astonishment and disgust.

And this is, I believe, where the heart of the matter lies. I don’t believe for a moment that Putin is a devout Christian, nor that he has any particularly strong convictions on homosexuality. But he is not stupid either. He has discovered that, by promoting abortion and sodomy as “human rights”, the US and other Western governments have within a very short period of time depleted all the moral capital they had accumulated during the Cold War. Instead with sympathy and admiration, the West is nowadays viewed with contempt in many regions of the world. For the US, this loss of moral capital is a political disaster of unspeakable dimension – and one doesn’t have the impression that Foggy Bottom is even aware of it. For Russia, by contrast, it is a golden opportunity: stand up for a proper understanding of marriage and the family, gain credibility on human rights (which, for quite different reasons, isn’t really due to them, and act as the leader of a world-wide coalition of countries (including most of Asia and Latin America, and nearly all of Africa) that grow increasingly wary of Obama’s bizarre set of “values”. Putin isn’t a democrat. He simply is a politician who understands that cultural issues can play a very important role in world politics, and who is clever enough to draw an easy profit from America’s moral and social self-destruction. It doesn’t cost him a dime.

There is a second reason for Putin to fight abortion promote “large families”. That reason is that Russia cannot be great if its population is dwindling. Russia not only has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, but she is (for a variety of reasons, which include widespread alcoholism, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, economic problems, emigration, etc.) losing nearly 1 million inhabitants per year. To halt this decline, decisive action is necessary. It is a matter of survival for Russia as a nation (and hence for Putin as a political leader). Thus it seems to me that Putin is not necessarily fighting abortion out of a deep moral conviction, but for more profane reasons. But these reasons are, in and by themselves, certainly legitimate. One can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and it still remains the right thing.

So whose camp do I choose, Putin’s or Obama’s? Neither. Both have, for very different reasons, a pretty bad human rights record. But both also do some good. When Obama sets out to restore peace and order in the Middle East, I do wish him the best of successes. And when Putin defends marriage and family at the UN, I also wish him all the best. There is not only black and white in this world. There are also many shades of grey.

Children Raised By Gay Couples Become Orphans, Says Prominent French Anti-Gay Activist

This past weekend, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown was scheduled to stop in France on his way back from Moscow to train activists with the French anti-gay group Manif Pour Tous. Manif Pour Tous is the most prominent organization working against LGBT rights in France, and has strong ties with American groups, as evidenced by its president Ludovine de la Rochere’s appearance at this year’s March for Marriage in Washington, D.C.

So what was the Manif Pour Tous event that Brown participated in like? A reporter from the French publication Le Nouvel Observateur went to the group’s “summer university,” where she was barred from individual workshops like Brown’s, but did sit in on the general sessions, where she captured the following astounding quote from de la Rochere:

Depuis l’adoption de la loi du mariage pour tous, il y a eu 721 requêtes d’adoption par des couples homosexuels. Donc il va y avoir 721 enfants orphelins de plus, au nom de la loi!

Which translates roughly to:

Since the adoption of the law of marriage for all, there were 721 requests for adoption by homosexual couples. So there will be 721 more orphaned children, in the name of the law!

Yes, according to de la Rochere, children raised by same-sex couples end up as orphans.

This kind of rhetoric is similar to what Brown has been pushing in his travels, warning Russian lawmakers last year that adoption by same-sex couples deprives children of their “right to have normal parents: a father and a mother.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mat Staver: LGBT Equality Means America No Longer 'Shining City On The Hill'

Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver lamented this week that the United States’ support for LGBT equality means that America is no longer “the shining city on the hill, the example for other nations to follow” and has instead become “the example of what not to follow.”

Staver and Matt Barber discussed their work pushing anti-gay policies throughout the world on arecent episode of Faith & Freedom Radio, including defending Scott Lively in a lawsuit involving his anti-gay work in Uganda, and efforts to stop sex education and marriage equality in Croatia, which Barber said he hoped “will set a trend in nations around the world.”

“[O]ther nations around the world are affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman, while America is rejecting it,” Staver lamented. “It’s as ridiculous as rejecting the laws of gravity.”

Barber: We were deeply involved and had a hand in helping to reverse Croatia’s harmful sex education policies and supported Croatia’s constitutional amendment affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and Lord willing, this will set a trend in nations around the world.

Staver: Yeah, it will. And it looks like some of the world, a lot of the world, is going the opposite way that America is. America used to be the shining city on the hill, the example for other nations to follow. Now it’s the example of what not to follow. And other nations around the world are affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman, while America is rejecting it. It’s as ridiculous as rejecting the laws of gravity. But some judges think they have the audacity and the arrogance to do just that.

The Religious Right Makes Friends Across The Atlantic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel Rodriguez: New General In Global Anti-Gay Culture War

Last month the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference announced that it was merging with Conela, a Latin America-based organization, to become “the world’s largest Hispanic Evangelical association” claiming to represent more than 500,000 churches. As Kyle reported, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver had encouraged the NHCLC’s Samuel Rodriguez to expand into Latin America after Staver’s visit to Peru, where he encouraged legislators to resist legal equality for gay people and same-sex couples.

The wildly anti-gay Matt Barber, also with Liberty Counselpraised the merger as a way for the NHCLC to join the Religious Right’s global war against LGBT equality:

"And so NHCLC," Barber said, "is really putting up a firewall to protect Latin America from, unfortunately, this cancerous invasion of immorality and [this] exporting [of] radical homosexual activism and radical pro-abortion activism, ultimately a culture of death.”

In a new interview with the Christian Post, Rodriguez uses similar language about creating a “firewall against moral relativism” and discloses some details about the merger and the combined group’s plans. Rodriguez is the CEO of the new merged NHCLC/Conela, while Conela’s former President Ricardo Luna is the executive director.

Rodriguez says Conela had already adopted NHCLC’s agenda and so the new group can go to work immediately building out an infrastructure in Latin America.

Conela already has been functioning with the Lamb's agenda and our 7 Directives, so it's a matter of creating infrastructure and amplifying the media and messaging platforms in Latin America.

If the question is whether or not we are going to be as active on the social political front in Latin America as we are in America, the answer is yes, again, not in the spirit of political advocacy, but in the spirit of prophetic activism.

Let me give you an example. Two weeks ago, in Baja California, the Mexico chapter director met with the governor of Baja California with hundreds of pastors united to discuss the issues of religious liberty, to discuss the issues of the 7 Directives as it pertains to Mexico.

He says they’re still working out the structural details.

We are in the board restructuring phase right now and a number of events taking place. One in October in Panama and there's one in December with 1,000 pastors in Mexico, there's one taking place in Europe at the beginning of the year.

My objective is to travel around Latin America with Ricardo, get to know the key influential pastors and leaders as we structure this global network and provide the resources that national pastors and regional leaders need to advance the Lamb's agenda.

Rodriguez, in spite of his media treatment as an evangelical moderate, made crystal clear that his organization is part of the Religious Right political movement when it reached a formal agreement to make the far-right Liberty Counsel the NHCLC’s official legislative and policy arm, and when Staver became a board member and chief legal counsel to the group.

Rodriguez’s rhetoric doesn’t seem to be changing.

Theologically speaking, we are on the same track. We are committed to biblical orthodoxy. We are committed to biblical truth. We are committed to making sure that truth is never sacrificed on the altar of expediency. We are committed to Billy Graham's message of salvation through Christ alone and through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March for Justice. So, we are committed to both righteousness and justice. We are evangelical. We do embrace the Manhattan Declaration. We would sign on to that.

Merging Billy Graham with Martin Luther King is the standard rhetoric of Rodriguez’s stump speech. Rodriguez has built allies among more progressive Christians by advocating for immigration reform and signing on to the Circle of Protection, a call from religious leaders not to sacrifice programs for the poor in order to reduce the deficit. But Rodriguez has also signed onto right-wing declarations that oppose progressive taxation, and embraced right-wing rhetoric about people being “enslaved” by government and “uber-entitlements.” And, of course, he is utterly opposed to marriage equality and legal access to abortion.

 

Rodriguez is connected to the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation and was a founding board member of the Oak Initiative, though he resigned after being confronted about the group’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and activities. He clearly has big ambitions for the new group.

"We are not drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid that Christianity is in decline, that this is the last hour of the Christian global narrative in a significant matter," Rodriguez told The Christian Post recently in an exclusive interview about the merger that took place on May 1. "We are not drinking the Kool-Aid. As a matter of fact, we have a very strong sense of optimism … we do believe the best is yet to come….

"It may very well be the largest Protestant network in the world, meaning that after the Catholic Church, this may very well be the largest Christian network organization in the world," he said. "I believe it speaks accolades to the growth of the Latino Christian demographic. I think it speaks accolades to Latino born-again Christians around the world because if this is the largest network in the world and now we are leading the charge of global evangelicalism."

Matt Barber Praises Slovakia For Resisting 'Demonic' Marriage Equality

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Creech: 'Hunger Is Rampant In India' Because 'False Religion' Makes People Vegetarians

North Carolina Religious Right activist Mark Creech has a theory about why “hunger is rampant in India.” It’s not that “they don’t have enough food,” the Christian Action League director writes today in the Christian Post. Instead, he claims, it’s because “false religion has a stranglehold on their hope for a better future.”

“Though I do not mean to disparage that beautiful country, it cannot be denied the two prominent religions, Hinduism and Islam, hold the nation back,” he writes. He argues that the vegetarianism of many Hindus and what he believes is Islam’s teaching that “human initiative amounts to nothing” are perpetuating hunger in India.

“The factor determining wealth is connected more to a people's belief system than anything else,” he concludes. We hope nobody tells him about Qatar.

Few people ever question why Western Civilization has experienced so much abundance in comparison to poorer nations around the world. The reason is inextricably connected to Christianity. The Bible says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). What individuals believe, what nations believe has everything to do with their essence and determines whether they grow, multiply, and succeed.

I served as a short-term missionary to India on three different occasions and saw this principle worked-out first-hand. India's economy has been stagnated for centuries. Though I do not mean to disparage that beautiful country, it cannot be denied the two prominent religions, Hinduism and Islam, hold the nation back. Hunger is rampant in India, but not because they don't have enough food. Hinduism teaches that people who die come back as animals. There are plenty of cows and pigs that roam the streets freely, but no one will slaughter them, even if their child's belly is bloated with malnutrition. Moreover, two hundred million "sacred cows," eat up enough food to feed seven people, taking enough sustenance that could feed as many as 1.4 billion. Neither will they kill the mice and rats that devour much of the grain. For those who have embraced Islam, the fatalism of that religion stifles human progress by telling them Allah has fated all that there is and human initiative amounts to nothing. False religion has a stranglehold on their hope for a better future.

So the affluence of a people doesn't simply rest with the presence of natural resources as many seem to think. There are plenty of countries that have considerably less natural resources that are more prosperous than those who have more natural resources, but are still not as prosperous. The factor determining wealth is connected more to a people's belief system than anything else.

Brian Brown's Far-Right French Allies Working To Form 'Pro-Russian Bloc' In European Parliament

The New York Times and Slate this week reported on the European far right’s love affair with Vladimir Putin, which could lead to the formation of “a pro-Russian bloc” in the European Parliament following this week’s elections.

The Times story focused on the French National Front party, and in particular Aymeric Chauprade, a top advisor to National Front leader Marine Le Pen and himself a candidate for European parliament.

Chauprade was a member of the small delegation of French activists who traveled to Moscow last year with National Organization for Marriage leader Brian Brown to advocate for Russia’s adoption of a spate of new anti-gay policies. Brown later said that he was invited to participate in the delegation by activists working with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families. The apparent leader of the delegation was French far-right activist Fabrice Sorlin, a former National Front candidate who runs an NGO devoted to developing “better relations between France and Russia” and who was appointed last year [pdf] as the World Congress of Families’ representative in France.

In a speech to fellow activists and members of Russia’s parliament at the meeting Brown attended, Chauprade backed Putin’s anti-gay policies along with the Russian president’s bid for greater geopolitical power, saying, “In this new battle…those who do not want the U.S. anti-missile shield, the dominance of NATO, or the war against Syria and Iran are in the same camp as those who refuse the loss of sovereignty, population replacement on a grand scale, FEMEN, gender theory, homosexual marriage, as well as the further commodification of the human body.”

Chauprade repeated the theme in a speech quoted by the Times, in which he offered up Russia’s leadership as the way for Europe to break free of both the “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses,” and attacks Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst. Chauprade was an enthusiastic supporter of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, and the Times notes that he joined a pro-Russian election monitoring outfit for Crimea’s vote to annex itself to Russia. The Economist characterized the observers as “a motley group of radicals” who “declared that the ballot, denounced by most Western governments as illegitimate, had been exemplary.”

Of course, Brown doesn’t subscribe to the views of everyone he’s ever been to a meeting with. But Chauprade’s activism illuminates an important subtext of the anti-gay activism that Brown and the World Congress of Families were aiding in Russia. For Putin and his far-right European allies, opposition to gay rights is part of a much larger project.

NYT:

While the European Union has joined Washington in denouncing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the chaos stirred by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe’s right-wing populists have been gripped by a contrarian fever of enthusiasm for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe,” said a study by the Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far-right parties, “spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify previously marginal pro-Russian voices.

Some of Russia’s European fans, particularly those with a religious bent, are attracted by Mr. Putin’s image as a muscular foe of homosexuality and decadent Western ways. Others, like Aymeric Chauprade, a foreign policy adviser to the National Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, are motivated more by geopolitical calculations that emphasize Russia’s role as a counterweight to American power.

“Russia has become the hope of the world against new totalitarianism,” Mr. Chauprade, the National Front’s top European Parliament candidate for the Paris region, said in a speech to Russia’s Parliament in Moscow last year.

When Crimea held a referendum in March on whether the peninsula should secede from Ukraine and join Russia, Mr. Chauprade joined a team of election monitors organized by a pro-Russian outfit in Belgium, the Eurasian Observatory for Elections and Democracy. The team, which pronounced the referendum free and fair, also included members of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party; a Flemish nationalist group in Belgium; and the Jobbik politician in Hungary accused of spying for Russia.

Russia offers the prospect of a new European order free of what Mr. Chauprade, in his own speech, described as its servitude to a “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses.”

The view that Europe has been cut adrift from its traditional moral moorings gained new traction this month when Conchita Wurst, a bearded Austrian drag queen, won the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Russian officials and the Russian Orthodox Church bemoaned the victory — over, among others, singing Russian twins — as evidence of Europe’s moral disarray.

At the National Front’s pre-election rally, Mr. Chauprade mocked the “bearded lady” and won loud applause with a passionate plaint that Europeans had become a rootless mass of “consumers disconnected from their natural attachments — the family, the nation and the divine.”

C-FAM Upset State Department Advocated For LGBT Rights On International Day Of Families

Wendy Wright of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) is very upset that the Obama administration chose the UN’s International Day of Families last week to issue a joint statement with Finland on LGBT rights. In the statement, which was issued on May 15 in advance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the two countries vow to work together to ensure “the ability of LGBT persons to live safely, freely, and without discrimination.”

Wright tells CBN’s David Brody today that the timing of the statement showed that the Obama administration is attacking “the concept of male and female” and “triggering perilous consequences” by such actions as opposing Russia’s ban on gay “propaganda” to children.

The United States chose the International Day of Families to release a statement on “homophobia and transphobia.” The move underscores a priority in the “Obama Doctrine,” the President’s foreign policy that is racking up criticisms worldwide – and triggering perilous consequences.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, academic and civil society leaders spoke at UN headquarters on Thursday on the virtues of the family for every society. Several attributed male and female distinctions, particularly in parenting, for its success in forming healthy individuals and societies. One warned that, despite agreement that unifies people around the globe, the family and the concept of male and female are “under attack.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. issued a joint statement with Finland vowing to focus on “combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons” and announcing Finland’s contribution of 1 million Euros to Obama’s global equality fund. The fund boosts lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in other countries and treats restrictions on homosexual and transgender activity, such as prohibiting promoting LGBT to children or requiring persons identify their accurate sex on passports, as human rights violations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BarbWire Defends Brutal Anti-Gay Laws In Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia

Jeff Allen, senior editor of Matt Barber’s BarbWire website, today defends harsh anti-gay laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, which he calls “maliciously mischaracterized” and “a matter of national survival.”

In Nigeria, where gay sex is illegal – and punishable by death by stoning in some Islamic states in the north of the country – a new law criminalizing gay clubs and organizations, even banning gay people from meeting in groups of two or more, has led to an official crackdown on LGBT people and encouraged vigilante violence.

Earlier this year, Uganda passed an infamous bill punishing gay activity with sentences of up to life in prison. In Ethiopia, where gay sex is also criminalized, a bill preventing the president from pardoning anyone convicted of homosexuality was recently dropped.

Yet to Allen, these laws are merely resisting “the West’s imposition of ‘sexual rights’ on these countries.” In a review of a 2012 documentary by Family Watch International that blames the AIDS crisis in Africa on Western aid that emphasizes family planning and gay rights, Allen writes:

The maliciously mischaracterized anti-‘gay’ laws in countries like Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia are actually a matter of national survival. The documentary makes the case that the West’s imposition of “sexual rights” on these countries erodes their religious and cultural values, leading to social chaos through the demise of the natural family unit and the deaths of millions by AIDS-related illnesses.

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