The World Congress of Families, a project run by a small conservative think tank in Illinois, which links social conservative groups around the world in an effort to promote what it calls the “natural family,” issued a report last week attempting to debunk what it contends are unfair smears about its anti-gay politics.
In particular, WCF has received criticism for its support of a spate of new anti-LGBT laws in Russia, as we outlined in our 2013 “Globalizing Homophobia” report. The group's work around the world has come under additional scrutiny since it began planning its first U.S. conference, scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City in October.
In its new report, WCF contends that it harbors no “animus toward people who choose a gay lifestyle,” and “only takes issue with LGBT activists in their attempts to undermine the natural family by redefining marriage in the law and to ignore or distort the overwhelming social science, psychological, medical, and demographic evidence that the two-parent, mother-and-father family is the optimal unit for social stability and raising children” (italics are theirs).
Yet, in its report, WCF acknowledges and reaffirms its support for laws that go far beyond stopping LGBT rights activists from “redefining marriage.” The report reaffirms the group’s support of a Russian law banning gay “propaganda” to minors:
The truth is WCF supports efforts in Russia, and anywhere else, to protect children from destructive activities and propaganda to engage in drug use, alcohol, pornography, gambling, prostitution and solicitations for “non-traditional sexual relations,” which are dangerous, as shown by statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
WCF then blames anti-gay sentiment in Russia on the LGBT rights movement itself and on the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were jailed after staging a performance in a cathedral:
As the homosexual activist movement in Russia became more visible and demanding, Russians became more aware that their most deeply held beliefs were under attack. The invasion of cathedrals by self-styled sexual radical groups like Pussy Riot have contributed to the public perception that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable.” A Pew Research survey shows that despite three decades of nonstop homosexual propaganda in the Western media, schools, and the corporate world that has moved public opinion in those nations toward acceptance or non-opposition to homosexuality, people in a large number of nations, including Russia, consider homosexuality immoral.
WCF also defends its role in organizing a letter objecting to the U.S. embassy’s participation in Prague’s Gay Pride parade in 2012 in which it stated, “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.”
The group is also disingenuous about its role connecting "pro-family" activists around the world, claiming that it had “nothing to do” with a "large families" conference held in Moscow last year. The conference began as a World Congress of Families event, financially backed by a number of top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin. After facing a storm of criticism in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, WCF backed out of its official role in the conference, but little else seems to have changed . In fact, World Congress of Families officials Larry Jacobs and Don Feder, although they said they were there in their personal capacities, were on hand at an opening press conference along with the conference’s major Russian funders.
WCF runs into a similar problem when it disputes the Human Rights Campaign’s report that it “inflamed concerns” in Ukraine that “joining the European Union would force the country to accept marriage equality." WCF claims: "All statements in Ukraine were made by individuals in their personal capacities as experts."
HRC was presumably referring to these statements by WCF’s Don Feder, who introduced himself at a press conference in Kiev as “representing the World Congress of Families.”
WCF also tries to distance itself from Feder, who along with his work with the group has a sideline as far-right columnist, saying that he is merely an "unofficial spokesperson" for the WCF and is no longer the group's communications director.
This speaks to the difficulty of pinning down WCF's position. The group notes that it is very small, but that belies its important role in bringing together a global movement in opposition to reproductive rights and LGBT equality. WCF exists to bring together alliances of social conservatives around the world; it can’t feign ignorance when those alliances end up providing cover for bad policies.
WCF took a similar tone back in 2013 when Sen. Mark Kirk, who had provided them with a room for a press conference on Capitol Hill, withdrew the offer after he learned of the group’s support for anti-LGBT extremism. Provided with a room at the last minute by House Speaker John Boehner, the group’s founder Allan Carlson compared criticism of his work to fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. Speakers then proceeded to heap praise on Russia for its anti-gay crackdown.