Marriage Equality

GOP Candidates Seek Endorsement Of Iowa Anti-Gay Leader Bob Vander Plaats

Seven Republican presidential candidates will be travelling to Iowa today to take part in a “presidential family forum” hosted by The Family Leader, a social conservative group led by activist Bob Vander Plaats, who is seen as a kingmaker in the Iowa caucus.

Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum will all be speaking at the forum, at which the candidates are arranged family-style around a Thanksgiving table. (At the 2011 forum, Michele Bachmann memorably took it upon herself to serve water to all of the male candidates.)

The endorsement of Vander Plaats, whose backing helped catapult Huckabee and Santorum to Iowa caucus victories in 2008 and 2012, is one of the most coveted in the state. While most observers think that Cruz will nab Vander Plaats’ endorsement, the activist is keeping his options open. Vander Plaats told a reporter that although Donald Trump was unable to make tonight’s forum, he told him, “If you can guarantee me your endorsement, I will turn the plane around and get there.”

As Vander Plaats’ previous endorsements of Huckabee and Santorum show, he has a powerful machine ready to push an ideologically pure social conservative. Back in 2010, Vander Plaats also led a successful effort to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who participated in the court’s landmark unanimous marriage equality decision.

But to get that endorsement, candidates must cater to an activist far the right of mainstream voters. Not only does Vander Plaats want to remove from office or defund the courts of judges who find in favor of marriage equality, he believes that anything, like gay marriage, that “goes against the law of nature” is by definition unconstitutional . He argues that the government is an institution of God and therefor its purpose is “to promote righteousness” and to apply “God’s principles and precepts.” He once warned that God might withdraw his blessing from America because of a Wiccan prayer at the Iowa state capitol.

Vander Plaats has suggested that marriage equality could lead to legal protections for pedophilia and “ a parent marrying their child” and compared the “public health risk” of homosexuality to second-hand smoke. He has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “decisive leadership” in preventing “homosexual propaganda” in his country.

Taking its anti-gay sentiment to a new level, The Family Leader was a sponsor of a conference earlier this month — at which Cruz, Huckabee and then-candidate Bobby Jindal spoke — whose organizer, Kevin Swanson, called for the death penalty for gay people and warned that God would judge America for liking the Harry Potter series too much. (The group later clarified that it does not support violence against gay people but declined to denounce Swanson.)

Speaking at an event last year, Vander Plaats played a video showing a gay pride event alongside the Boston Marathon bombing and mass shootings as illustrations of the “darkness” that has fallen over America:

Vander Plaats had also dabbled in birther conspiracy theories, implying in 2011 that the president’s birth certificate was missing and praising Trump for his “bold” crusade to uncover the truth about the president’s past.

Carl Gallups: Christians Could Be Jailed For Objecting To 'Homosexual Sex' Lessons In Schools

In an interview with the End Times radio program “Understanding the Times” last month, pastor Carl Gallups claimed that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “trampled on the First Amendment” by “rewriting” Christian doctrine and warned that the ruling could lead to the imprisonment of parents who object to school lessons on “the mechanics of homosexual sex.”

Eric Barger, who cohosts the show with Jan Markell, told Gallups that the U.S. military is training troops to think that evangelicals are terrorists, which led Gallups to think of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell.

“Absolutely,” he said, “and I’m telling you, something very illegal, unconstitutional, prophetic and a little frightening for people who don’t understand the times in which we’re living, happened June of this year with the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling. Because, in effect, here’s what they’ve done. They have created a new religious doctrine in America. In other words, the Bible says gay marriage is an abomination. The Islamic religion says gay marriage is an abomination. Judaism says homosexuality is an abomination … The U.S. Supreme Court said, ‘No, we’re rewriting that.’ And so it’s targeted at Christians because America is largely a Christian nation.”

“Basically, the Supreme Court violated, trampled the First Amendment and now says ‘You have to spit upon the word of God or we could put you in jail,'” he said.

“Not only that,” he added, “but we’re soon going to be teaching our children in school the mechanics of homosexual sex. Because they’re already teaching the mechanics of heterosexual sex, and now that the Supreme Court has said it’s legal, so as a Christian parent, if you dare to speak against that, you could be sued or put in jail.”

Marco Rubio Hires Culture Warrior Eric Teetsel as Faith Outreach Director

Largely unnoticed in the media coverage of the Republican presidential primary this week was Marco Rubio’s hiring of a major millennial anti-gay, anti-choice culture warrior. Eric Teetsel, who has been executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, has been hired to be Rubio’s faith outreach director. One who took notice was right-wing activist and pundit Erick Erickson, who gushed over the “huge and impressive hire.”

Where other candidates are hiring folks from the dying “Moral Majority” coalitions of the past, Eric Teetsel is plugged into those power centers, but has transcended them. He’s of a more youthful generation of Christian evangelicals who respects past contributions, but is also focused on the future and not nursing past grievances.

Teetsel is, indeed, well plugged in if not as well known to the public as his more visible counterpart at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan Anderson. Like Anderson, Teetsel is part of the anti-equality crowd that orbits Robert George, a co-author of the Manhattan Declaration and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage. And like George and Anderson, Teetsel has written a book about (one man, one woman) marriage. The acknowledgments section of his book reads like a Who’s Who of the Religious Right, including George, Anderson, Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, Mark Tooley and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

And, as Igor Babic noted at the Huffington Post this week, Teetsel has also been a vocal part of the Religious Right chorus denouncing the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, complaining that the court “has bestowed its imprimatur to homosexuality as both an identity and a way of life.” Teetsel wrote:

"A significant cultural impediment has been removed, and so sin will spread. This is regrettable because sin, of course, leads to suffering. As our LGBT neighbors continue to experience the ravages of their sin, will anyone be there to explain to them its cause?"

The Manhattan Declaration brings right-wing Catholics together with their evangelical counterparts to advance their shared strategic goal of portraying opposition to LGBT equality, abortion and contraception in religious liberty terms. Signers and promoters of the Manhattan Declaration compare themselves to martyrs and pledge civil disobedience:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Teetsel has appeared at numerous Religious Right political gatherings and shows up in Rick Santorum’s “documentary” about the “erosion” of religious liberty in America. More notably, he spoke at the recent World Congress of Families summit in Salt Lake City, which honored an activist who defends African laws that punish gays with long jail terms. In fact, Teetsel is listed in the WCF program as a member of the “SWAT Team” charged with “Strategic Planning for the Future” along with that activist, Theresa Okafor, and other anti-gay and anti-choice leaders from around the world.

Teetsel’s hiring is almost certainly a better reflection of Rubio’s commitment to anti-gay culture warriors than his much-ballyhooed endorsement by billionaire Paul Singer, who has backed gay causes but seems more interested in what Rubio can do for the profitability of his vulture capitalism.

Freedom 2015 Speaker: LGBT 'Abominations' Worse Than 'Tyranny Of King George'

In a speech today to the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, which also featured Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, Nebraska pastor Phillip Kayser warned that America risks “God’s intense wrath” for engaging in “sexual sins” such as the “abominations found in the radical LGBTQ movement.”

Kayser, who distributed at the conference a pamphlet arguing for the death penalty for homosexuality, blasphemy and witchcraft, was discussing “interposition,” the idea that “lesser magistrates” have the duty to stand against higher authorities when those higher authorities are disobeying God.

Kayser advised his audience that they must pick their battles in this area because “not every act of tyranny is equally heinous.”

For instance, he said, it isn’t necessary to defy certain unbiblical tax proposals, but it is absolutely necessary to defy same-sex marriage because it is “destructive to the family”; abortion because it is “murder” and will “inevitably lead to God’s judgment” on the land; and the “sexual sins” found in Leviticus 18 — which includes homosexuality, adultery and having sex with a woman who is menstruating — because “some sexual sins are so heinous that even pagan nations are eventually vomited out of the land for engaging in those sins.”

“And if we love our country and we don’t want to see God’s intense wrath falling upon it, we cannot ignore the abominations found in the radical LGBTQ movement,” he warned.

“Our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor to resist the tyranny of King George and Parliament,” he said. “And I think what we are facing today is a whole lot worse.”

Jindal: 'No Earthly Court Can Change The Definition Of Marriage'

Earlier today, Republican presidential candidates Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee spoke at a conference in Iowa organized by Colorado pastor and activist Kevin Swanson, who takes such hardline Christian Reconstructionist views as supporting the death penalty for gay people . (Ted Cruz is also expected to speak at the conference.)

Swanson introduced Jindal by declaring that whoever becomes president, Jesus Christ will rule over them “whether they recognize it or not.”

“Let’s acknowledge right now that Jesus Christ is king over the president of the United States, whether he recognizes it or not,” he said. “Jesus Christ is king over the Supreme Court of the United States, whether they recognize it or not.”

Jindal then gave a version of his “Christian persecution” stump speech, warning that the government is “coming after those of us who want to live our lives according to our Christian faith” and declaring, “No earthly court can change the definition of marriage; no federal government, no ACLU should be able to take away our religious liberty rights. We were given those by God almighty.”

Huckabee Promises Far-Right Conference That He'll Ignore Obergefell And Roe

This morning, Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal joined radical right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson on the stage of Swanson’s “National Religious Liberties Conference” in Iowa to hawk their candidacies to a crowd that includes several Christian Reconstructionists.

Huckabee knew just how to appeal to this group, using his short time on stage to repeat his promises to simply ignore the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality if he were to become president.

“Here’s what the president should do, and if I were president this is what I would do,” he said. “On the same-sex marriage decision, I would simply say, ‘It is not law.’ It is not law because the people’s elected representatives have not made it law and there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court power to make a law. They are the Supreme Court, they are not the supreme branch or the Supreme Being.”

“And so,” he added, “when people say, ‘What can we do? Let’s introduce a constitutional amendment, let’s propose a — .’ No. Let’s just exhibit and exercise the power that is already within the constitutional authority and structure and the president simply say, ‘Thank you for your opinion, but we shall ignore it because there’s nothing in the Constitution that affirms that and we are not going to impose upon all 50 states something that the federal government has no control over, which is the definition of marriage.’”

On the topic of abortion rights, Huckabee repeated his support for radical “personhood” proposals that seek to bypass a constitutional amendment overturning Roe by simply granting full constitutional rights to zygotes.

“I don’t know how we honestly can pray ‘God bless America’ when we have acted like a savage, uncivilized country in relationship to unborn children,” Huckabee said.

“But once again,” he said, “instead of us wringing our hands and maybe pretending that we’re going to change the Constitution or overturn Roe v. Wade — which, by the way, overturning Roe v. Wade does absolutely nothing to stop abortion, it simply turns it back to the states, they can have all the abortions they want. But what we have not done is what we should be doing and what I would do, which is to say we would invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendment as it relates to this issue. Because here’s the fact: We don’t have to pass a constitutional amendment. We already have two of them.”

Michael Brown Joins List of Religious Right Endorsements for Ted Cruz

In August, we asked whether Ted Cruz was winning the Christian Nation primary, with fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks pumping $15 million into a pro-Cruz super PAC and political operative David Lane promoting Cruz’s anti-Planned Parenthood efforts. In September, Religious Right “historian” David Barton was tapped to take over a Cruz super PAC, and CNN reported that top officials of Online for Life are “playing a growing role in the super PACs backing Ted Cruz.” Yesterday, Glenn Beck declared that Cruz “was truly raised up for this purpose at this time.”

Now Cruz has announced the endorsement of another Religious Right activist, Michael Brown, a North Carolina preacher and author of “Revolution! The Call to Holy War.” Brown participated in the anti-gay “Stand4Truth” conference that was held as a lead-in to the World Congress of Families last week.

Brown is scheduled to appear, along with David and Jason Benham and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, at a Cruz-organized “religious liberty” rally at Bob Jones University on November 14. As we noted a few weeks ago, “the ‘religious liberty’ Bob Jones is most famous for defending was its long insistence that its segregationist policies were mandated in the Bible.”

Brown has already been portraying marriage equality as a dire threat to religious freedom in America. Back in June, when the Supreme Court released its decision affirming marriage equality nationwide, Brown wrote a snarky note to Justice Anthony Kennedy to thank him “for confirming what we have been saying for many years now, namely, that gay activism is the principle threat to our freedoms of speech, religion and conscience.” Brown also thanked Kennedy “for bringing unprecedented religious persecution to the shores of our nation,” adding, “Despite the darkness and pain ahead, this will only cause the Church to wake up and grow stronger.” 

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

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

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

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

They See Themselves at War with the Enemies of God

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

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

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

American Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez:

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

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

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

They’re Intensely Committed to Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kevin Swanson Aghast That Christians Support 'Death Penalty Crime' Of Gay Marriage

This weekend, three Republican presidential candidates are slated to appear at a conference in Iowa hosted by homeschooling activist and conservative radio host Kevin Swanson, who, as we have previously reported, has a variety of radical views ranging from defending the death penalty for homosexuality to thinking that Girl Scout cookies and the movie “Frozen” turn girls into lesbians to having a troubling grasp on the science of birth control.

In preparation for this weekend’s event, we’ve been going back to the archives of Swanson’s “Generations Radio” program, which include a 2013 program in which he responded to a Christian listener who objected to his anti-gay rants by calling gay marriage “a death penalty crime from the word of God” and agreeing with his cohost’s assessment that the Bible allows two men to marry if “at the ceremony, you stone them.”

In the May, 2013, program, Swanson read from a letter from a pro-gay-rights Christian listener, calling the letter “outrageous,” “perverted” and “as bad as it gets” and comparing the letter-writer to the Pharisees.

“He’s in support of a death penalty crime from the word of God, he’s in support of homosexual marriage,” Swanson said. “Amazing.”

Swanson lamented that so few Christians were willing to stand up for the Old Testament prohibitions on homosexuality and object to other sins plaguing the nation “because it takes courage and it takes faith to talk to the sick body of our dying carcass of a nation.”

Swanson’s cohost, Dave Buehner, also thought it was amusing that the letter-writer had said that the Bible doesn’t forbid gay marriage, saying, “nowhere does it forbid marrying a giraffe” either.

“Let’s grant him his point,” Buehner said. “A man can marry a man or a man can marry a giraffe and then at the ceremony, you stone them.”

“Okay, all right,” Swanson replied. “So he’s right. This is how bad it gets, my friends.”

Louie Gohmert Suggests A Congressional Study Putting Gay And Straight Couples On An Island To 'See Which One Nature Favors'

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert delivered the convocation at Liberty University, where he repeated his call for a study in which straight couples and gay and lesbian couples are placed on separate deserted islands in order to prove that homosexuality is unnatural.

Gohmert was complaining about the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision and was attempting to make the case that even people who don't believe in God ought to be able to see that same-sex relationships are not natural.

"Let's just take a totally secular approach to this," he said. "Congress is good about having studies; how about if we take four heterosexual couples and put them on an island where they have everything they need to live and exist and we take four couples of just men and put them on an island where they have all they need to survive and then let's take four couples of just women and put them on an island and then lets come back in 100 years and see which one nature favors."

Matt Trewhella: Kim Davis Must Defy Supreme Court In Order To Avert God's Judgment On America

While Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who has attempted to deny marriage licenses to gay couples in her county and has been very upfront about her desire to use her public office to impose her religious beliefs on others, her lawyers at the Religious Right group Liberty Counsel have attempted to reframe her case as one about religious liberty, claiming that the clerk is merely seeking a personal exemption from putting her name on licenses.

Some in the Religious Right, it turns out, are unhappy with Liberty Counsel’s strategy and are urging Davis to go on openly defying the law in order to uphold what she sees as a divine mandate to stop gay marriages.

In an interview with former Missouri Republican state legislator Cynthia Davis in September, far-right activist Matt Trewhella insisted that by relying on religious liberty “nonsense,” Liberty Counsel was suppressing Davis’ true calling to “interpose” herself against gay marriage and thus save America from God’s judgment.

“What she should be doing is simply saying: ‘This is an immoral decree by the Supreme Court. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. It’s repugnant to the Constitution. I will not issue marriage licenses to homosexuals, I will only issue marriage licenses to heterosexuals,’” Trewhella said.

Trewhella, a militant anti-abortion activist who in the 1990s signed a statement in defense of the murder of abortion providers, has recently been promoting the concept of “interposition of the lesser magistrate,” the idea that elected officials like Kim Davis have a duty to flout rulings that they believe defy divine law.

The Kentucky clerk, Trehwella said, must openly defy the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling because “when God looks for someone to stand in the gap against the tyranny, against wickedness being promulgated within the culture through the civil authority, if someone stands in the gap and defies them, then God relents in His judgment, but if they don’t defy the higher authority and they just go along with it, God allows His righteous judgment to come upon the land.”

“So, for her to be hiding behind the idea of ‘religious liberty’ is an absurdity,” he continued. “She shouldn’t be just trying to keep little Kim Davis from having to have her hand in the process of this abomination, two men or two women marrying. Her duty is far bigger than that. She actually has the duty to defy the higher authority completely and interpose on behalf of righteousness and therefore abate the just judgment of God upon our nation. That’s what true interposition of the lesser magistrate entails.”

Later in the interview, Trewhella insisted that Davis is a “good woman [who] just wants to openly defy and not issue to homosexuals” but had gotten “bad advice from her attorneys” because “standing on religious liberty is utter nonsense.”

He recommended that she instead seek the legal counsel of Michael Peroutka, a Christian Reconstructionist activist and Maryland county official, who said at a rally in support of Davis that the Supreme Court’s decision “is not law” because it is “not harmonious” with the word of God.

God Requires Gov’t To Resist Gay Marriage & Abortion, Mark Tooley Tells World Congress of Families

Among the speakers at the World Congress of Families on Thursday was Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), who declared that too many Christians are being influenced by secular ideology and are clueless that God himself has ordered government to fight same-sex marriage and access to abortion.

Tooley’s group supports conservatives within mainline Protestant churches (he is a United Methodist) by attacking liberal elements within those denominations that promote progressive theology and public policy. For example, IRD has criticized the U.S. State Department for promoting the human rights of LGBT people and spoken out against evangelicals backing immigration reform.

At the World Congress of Families, Tooley decried the embrace of LGBT equality and reproductive choice among “once great” mainline denominations, and warned that the “errors” of mainline Protestantism have spread to evangelical and Catholic communities.

The problems that had originated in America’s mainline Protestant world unfortunately have spread and metastasized throughout American religion, and even once great and strongly orthodox religious institutions in America are now affected by these issues and are compromised on core topics related to marriage and family and the sanctity of all human life.

He blamed the shift on the institutions’ “elites and bureaucracies,” which he said no longer believe in ancient Christian teachings but have “actively joined secularism to advocate deconstruction of marriage and family.” Those ideas have spread to other Christian institutions, he complained, including the “evangelical left” and Christian colleges, whose leaders don’t want to engage on these issues because they believe it would interfere with evangelization.

Tooley complained that there weren’t enough Christian leaders defending Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for six days after she refused to abide by a federal court order to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Tooley predicted that more people will be intimidated into “virtual silence” as the government punishes other marriage resisters, but he hoped the opposite might also be true, and that the accumulating impact of those cases might inspire others to take a more public stand.

Tooley said that organized Christian political social justice advocacy aimed at young people has focused more on admirable but less controversial issues like fighting sex trafficking or carrying out humanitarian work. He complained that too many young Christians see marriage as passé as a public policy issue and religious liberty work as self-serving— and even think that work on abortion is too focused on therapeutic ministry rather than political advocacy to put abortion bans into law.

Tooley connected this to Christians’ lack of understanding that God himself has given the government a divine mandate to oppose marriage equality and abortion.

Indeed, all of the punitive aspects of the civil state, which are central to God’s vocation for government, have become unfashionable or at least uninteresting to much of Christian political witness in America today — except for possibly punishing perpetrators of discrimination against same-sex couples.

Yet historic Christian teaching says the state has a divinely ordained, ongoing permanent duty to uphold marriage, family, and to protect all human life, irrespective of fashion and fad.

There is a pervasive lack of awareness in current Christian discourse, not limited to the very young, about historic Christian understandings about the core responsibilities of government. Instead of providing for public order — jailing criminals and deterring or defeating external aggressors — government is now portrayed in Christian political witness as the all-powerful and maternal provider, who feeds, clothes, heals, educates and reaffirms, callings that Christianity typically had assigned to parents, families, churches, private philanthropy, civil society and therapists.

Even traditional Christians, he complained, often appear clueless about religious responses to these trends, resorting to libertarian arguments against big government “without describing the state’s core mandate assigned by no less than God himself. Addressing this collapse in Christian understanding about God’s purpose for the state is a wonderful, and important, but almost overwhelming challenge for groups like mine, but also all of us in this room and beyond.”

Tooley closed with a prayer for victory in the culture war:

We can hope and pray, in the fullness of Providence, that the Almighty will look back on these days that we’re living through and say to us who have tried to follow him, this was one of our finest hours, in a great social and cultural storm when his truths were most under assault. May he guide us to perseverance and victories ahead for the common good of all people.

John Eidsmoe: Officials Must Defy Supreme Court That's 'Disobedient Against God'

The defenders of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who attempted to block her office from issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, have retroactively been claiming that Davis was simply seeking a religious accommodation that would keep her name off such licenses. (This is despite the fact that Davis claimed that she was acting as an agent of God in keeping gay couples in her county from getting married.)

In an interview with Alaska conservative radio host Joe Miller this week, prominent Christian Reconstructionist John Eidsmoe, who now works for the foundation established by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, argued that if Davis were to resign from her position or seek a religious accommodation to avoid being involved in gay marriages, that wouldn’t be enough. Instead, Eidsmoe said, lower courts and elected officials like Davis must “interpose” to “nullify” the marriage equality decision, which was made by a Supreme Court that has “become disobedient against God.”

Miller, who was Alaska’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2010, agreed, adding that if officials like Davis resign, they are “basically clearing the field” for “additional persecutorial-type behavior by government.”

Tellingly, both Eidsmoe and Miller will be attending next week’s “National Religious Liberties Conference” in Iowa, whose organizer’s idea of religious liberty is the liberty of conservative Christians to execute gay people. (Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are also scheduled to speak at the conference.)

Absolutely. In fact, there are many who say that what she should have done in those circumstances is simply resign her position in protest. I would say that if she had resigned, likewise, if Chief Justice Moore had resigned from the Supreme Court over the Ten Commandments issue, they would be betraying the people that elected them. Under the doctrine of lesser magistrates, or interposition, as you sometimes call it, when a higher magistrate, like the U.S. Supreme Court or a federal judge, begins to act in an extralegal and tyrannical manner, it is the duty of lesser magistrates like state courts and state judges, county clerks and the like to interpose, that is to stand between the people they represent against the tyranny of the higher magistrate.

You might say that if the higher magistrate has become disobedient against God, for the lower magistrate to simply follow what the higher magistrate says would make the lower magistrate complicit in this act of disobedience. I think she has a duty to stay on and a duty to resist. What they’re trying to do in that case right now, of course, is they’re trying to work out an accommodation where we could say that the law has a duty to accommodate those who have religious objections. That’s fine in so far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. Rather, they need to recognize that this whole decision is illegitimate and it needs to be nullified.

Marriage & 'Natural Family' Day At World Congress of Families

The sun had barely risen in Salt Lake City yesterday when the first panel of “natural family” day at the World Congress of Families got started with a discussion about life after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.

Pastor Greg Johnson, an evangelical who was raised as a Mormon and now sponsors “convicted civility” dialogues between evangelicals and Mormons, recounted an experience with his daughter at the Creation Museum. Looking at the diorama of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, he was struck by the sacred nature of marriage. Johnson declared that the church needs to revive its commitment to the sacred and holy nature of marriage.

Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council began her remarks with a declaration that, as a Catholic, there is nothing that could change her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Like many speakers, Ruse focused on the complementarity of men and women. “No man can be a mother,” she said. “As a mother, I know two fathers is not the same as a mother and a father.”

The fact that “men and women make babies, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident,” is the only reason government is involved in marriage, Ruse said. Government has to encourage men and women who become mothers and fathers to raise their children. The government has no interest in a person’s feelings, she said. “Who you love is not the government’s business, until now.” Of course, that claim ignores the historical fact that the U.S. government did, until quite recently, punish gay people for who they loved, denying them a livelihood and even taking away their children. And the fact is that many governments around the world, including in some countries represented at the World Congress, continue to do that and worse.

Ruse recounted all the states where voters banned marriage for same-sex couples, neglecting to mention the four more recent victories marriage equality advocates had at the ballot box in 2012. Ignoring those, and dismissing the huge and well-documented shifts in public opinion, Ruse portrayed marriage equality as something “a handful of liberal judges” forced “on the rest of us” and she called for continued resistance:

Above all, we must fight for the right to live and work according to our beliefs. Our enemy in this fight is not our neighbor, not even the 1.6 percent of our neighbors who identify themselves as gay. No. Our enemy are those who would be our masters — the judge who jails a clerk for failing to give her signature, the magistrate who takes the house of a baker for want of a cake. These are our enemies in the fight ahead. No government official can force us to bend the knee at the altar of a foreign god. If we cannot secure this freedom in law, then we must live it in civil disobedience of the law.

Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage followed Ruse and matched her tone of defiance against “our unelected masters.” The Supreme Court didn’t change the definition of marriage, he said, it “put a lie into the law” — just like slavery and the Dred Scott decision. Brown said that there’s no time for activists to be depressed. Citing the history of Christian martyrs, abolitionists and civil rights activists, he mocked people who don’t want to take a stand because some of their Facebook friends might say mean things about them. 

“Instead of being depressed, we should savor the fact that we live at a point in history, like those times before, in which we can stand for the truth, make a difference, and God has put us here for some reason. This fight is not over. It has just begun.”

Brown proposed four goals for the anti-marriage-equality movement:

  1. Affirm continually and publicly that marriage is by nature a union of a man and a woman
  2. Reject the Supreme Court’s decision as illegitimate
  3. Overturn the decision, perhaps through decades of struggle or perhaps with new Supreme Court justices appointed by a Republican president elected in 2016
  4. Contain the damage in the meanwhile by passing laws that allow public officials and businesspeople to refuse to have anything to do with gay couples’ marriages

Rafael Cruz, speaking in the second morning session, picked up the baton with the kind of David Barton-inspired speech he gives on the campaign trail for his son Ted Cruz. America was founded on the word of God, he said, but its foundations have been undermined by communists, humanists and Supreme Court decisions on organized prayer, Bible reading in the public schools, abortion and marriage equality.

Cruz railed against the church for having been silent in the face of “abominable” Supreme Court decisions on church-state separation and abortion. The church he said has been “duped” into believing in the separation of church and state, and too many preachers are hiding behind their pulpits, scared to death of losing their tax exemptions. “God is going to judge us for our silence,” he said.

Cruz declared, “What we see in America right now is an outright attack on Christianity.” The court’s marriage equality decision declared homosexuality a civil right, he said, asserting (falsely) that “under that basis, it will be possible for some homosexual to come to your church demanding to be hired, whether as pastor or janitor is immaterial.” Cruz told a BuzzFeed reporter that the next item on the LGBT agenda will be pushing to legalize pedophilia.

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.

Ken Ham Worries That If We Allow Gay Marriage People Will Just Stop Wearing Clothes

Ken Ham, whose organization Answers In Genesis runs the Creation Museum and is currently building a replica of Noah’s ark, joined the Point of View radio program last week to discuss his worries that younger generations of Christians no longer believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

Ham says he urges pastors to drop the phrase “Bible story” and instead “emphasize that it’s a book of history because Christianity is based in real history, it’s a history you can trust.”

He warned that losing a literal interpretation of the Bible could threaten not just Creationism but also the concept of marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, and even the wearing of clothing.

“The doctrine of marriage is based there upon the literal history of Genesis,” he said. “But if that history is not true, if there was no literal Adam and Eve, then what is marriage, why is it to be a man and a woman? It’s only a man and a woman because God invented marriage, and he invented marriage when he made the first marriage, Adam and Eve.”

He added that “the origin of clothing is right there in Genesis,” so “if you abandon Genesis’ literal history of marriage and say marriage can be two men or two women or whatever you want, well why not abandon clothing?”


Meet The World Congress Of Families, The International Conservative Network Meeting In Utah Next Week

by Miranda Blue, Isabel Carter-Kahn and Peter Montgomery

This is the first in a series of posts about the upcoming World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this post, we provide an introduction to the event’s hosts and recipients of its awards for international activism. Subsequent posts will explore the World Congress of Families’ organizing against LGBT equality and women’s rights and its role in growing international social conservative networks.

Next week, hundreds of activists from around the world will gather in Salt Lake City for the ninth World Congress of Families, a gathering of individuals and organizations promoting what organizers call the “natural family.”

The World Congress of Families is a project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, founded in 1997 by conservative historian Allan Carlson. The Howard Center has a relatively small budget — less than half a million dollars in 2013 — but works with organizers and funders in host countries to throw what it calls the “Olympics” of social conservatism. This is the first time the Congress has been held in the U.S. and will count as guests the governor of Utah as well as Rafael Cruz, father of Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The event is set to honor activists who advocated for laws criminalizing homosexuality and even meetings between gay people, free speech in favor of gay rights and abortion.

The vision of the “natural family” promoted by WCF is one that excludes LGBT people and precludes reproductive rights. In 2005, Carlson and the Sutherland Institute’s Paul Mero released “The Natural Family: A Manifesto,” a call to arms against the societal changes that resulted from the twin developments of “industrialism and the assault of new, family-denying ideas.”

They offered instead a vision of a return to an economy run by large families operating as independent economic units — a potentially appealing thought until you realize what the economy they envision means for women. In Carlson’s and Mero’s “natural family” dream, they “envision young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers; and we see young men growing into husbands, homebuilders, and fathers.” For women, this involves rejecting what they call the “contraceptive mentality” and opening their homes to “a full quiver of children” — a nod to the “Quiverfull” ideology promoted by the self-proclaimed “Christian patriarchy” movement. They insist that “culture, law, and policy” should take into account that “women and men are equal in dignity and innate human rights, but different in function” — a separate-but-equal ideology that drives women out of public and economic life and rejects the rights of those who do not fit into this narrow view of gender roles.

It is this vision that WCF aims to promote around the world, through government policies aiding the “natural family” and in resisting international efforts to protect the rights of women and LGBT people.

The U.S. event offers WCF an opportunity to reestablish itself after the debacle of the last Congress, which was meant to be held in Moscow — home of a spate of new anti-LGBT laws — but was abruptly “suspended” after Russia invaded Ukraine and some of the conference’s organizers were hit with U.S. sanctions. The conference went ahead, but without the official World Congress of Families label. Instead, WCF leaders attended in their personal capacities. The executive director of the Utah event is Janice Shaw Crouse, a former Concerned Women for America official who appears to have parted ways with her former employer over the wisdom of participating in the Moscow summit.

Hosting the World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City is the Sutherland Institute, which describes itself as “a conservative public policy think tank” whose mission is “to shape Utah law and policy based on a core set of governing principles.” The Sutherland Institute, whose budget is about $1.5 million, is affiliated with the State Policy Network, a group of right-wing think tanks. While the Institute is not formally affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church), it promotes conservative views influenced by LDS theology, sometimes staking out policy positions to the right of the Church itself. The Institute is named for George Sutherland, a U.S. Supreme Court justice from Utah who joined other conservative justices to overturn progressive legislation in the 1920s and led a group known as “The Four Horsemen” who struck down FDR’s New Deal for several years.

Sutherland describes seven principles of “authentic conservatism” – personal responsibility as the basis of self-government; family as the fundamental unit of society; religion as the moral compass of human progress; private property as the cornerstone of economic freedom; free markets as the engine of economic prosperity; charity as the wellspring of a caring community; limited government as the essence of good government. The Institute brags about its work to weaken unions and calls for the abolition of the state income tax on corporations.

In other words, the Institute promotes both the Tea Party’s hostility to government regulation and the Religious Right’s desire to use government to promote “traditional” views of family, parenting, and marriage.Sutherland helped pay for the legal counsel hired by the state to defend its anti-gay-marriage amendment.

The Institute called the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling an “abdication” of the rule of law. Then-President Paul Mero, argued that freedom is incompatible with gay rights, because “bad behavior is the enemy of freedom.” Sutherland supports Sen. Mike Lee’s First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow broad anti-gay discrimination in the name of religious liberty. It also wants to do away with no-fault divorce laws.

In 2014 the Institute produced a 10-page defense of a Utah law requiring restaurants to erect a “Zion Curtain” or “Zion Wall” to prevent restaurant-goers from being able to witness the preparation of alcoholic beverages. Although Sutherland was criticized for supporting what many considered “nanny-state” legislation, former President Paul Mero said the law “disrupts a culture of drinking” and promotes a “culture of sobriety.”

The Sutherland Institute has strong ties with WCF’s sponsor, the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society. Mero, the founding executive vice president of the Howard Center, reportedly helped attract the WCF to Salt Lake City. After 14 years as Sutherland’s CEO he was asked to step down by the Institute’s board last August, for what were described as operational rather than philosophical differences. Mero reportedly agreed to continue to serve on executive committee for the WCF. Sutherland board chair and interim president Stanford Swim serves on the boards of the Howard Center and the State Policy Network.

This year, the World Congress of Families will present its Woman of the Year Award to Theresa Okafor, Familia Et Veritas awards to Luca Giuseppe Volonte and Andrea Williams and an International Pro-Life Award to Father Maxim Obukhov. The backgrounds of these four activists provide insight into the values that the World Congress of Families seeks to promote around the world.

Theresa Okafor

Okafor, from Nigeria, is the World Congress of Families Regional Director in Africa. In 2009, she was successful in bringing a World Congress of Families event to Nigeria. She is the CEO of Life League Nigeria and the director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage.

The Foundation for African Cultural Heritage is a coalition organization that encompasses 20 “family values” organizations such as Association of Concerned Mothers, Nigerian Association for Family Development, Doctors Health Initiative, Life League Nigeria, the Christian Association of Bishops Conference of Nigeria and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Nigeria. Her groups have supported and lauded Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which banned all same-sex relationships and gay people gathering in groups of two or more. The act led to the arrest of dozens of people.

The Foundation for African Cultural Heritage releasedvideos of a press conference it organized to support the bill, during which speakers called homosexuality “abhorrent” and compared it to alcoholism. At a World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated in a speech that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in a “conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram:

Unfortunately, in Nigeria where I come from, we have these fundamentalists, the Boko Haram – I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news – bombing churches. They seem to be helping some people in Western countries who are out to silence Christians. The Boko Haram are targeting Christians in Nigeria, so you wonder if there’s a conspiracy between the two worlds.

In the speech she also speculated that efforts to promote LGBT rights in Africa are “another ploy to depopulate Africa,” a sentiment she expresses repeatedly.

Okafor also has ties to the American group Family Watch International, which works to stop advances in LGBT equality and reproductive rights at the UN, cosponsoring the group’s Global Family Policy Forum in Gilbert, Arizona.

Luca Giuseppe Volonte

Luca Volonte is an Italian politician and the president of the Novae Terrae Foundation, which states on its website that it is committed to “promot[ing] human rights from the religious point of view.” The “Goals” section of the group’s mission page emphasizes its focus on contrasting Christianity with “Islamic culture.”

Volonte serves along with the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown on the board of trustees of CitizenGo, an international organization that promotes petitions backing conservative positions, including opposition tosame-sex marriage and abortion rights. In response to Target’s decision to stop segregating its toy aisles by gender, CitizenGo released a petition saying the new policy was a result of “sexual radicals ” who “want to erase distinctions between male and female, and promote transgenderism among children.”

In 2010, Volonte won the chair of the European People’s Party in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. As chair, Volonte led the successful effort to withdraw a report on "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Volonte was appointed chairman of the anti-LGBT Institute for Human Dignity, a Catholic NGO based in Rome, in 2013. The institute released a declaration defining human dignity as:

That man is made in the image and likeness of God; that this image and likeness proceeds in every single human being without exception from conception until natural death; and that the most effective means of safeguarding this recognition is through the active participation of the Christian faith in the public square.

This declaration was adopted by the European Parliament's Working Group on Human Dignity , a coalition that promotes Europe’s “Judeo-Christian” heritage, as their foundational document.

In 2015, Novae Terrae announced a partnership with the European Large Families Confederation.

Andrea Williams

Andrea Williams is the CEO of Christian Concern, a United Kingdom based group that promotes a “Christian voice” in government. In the “About” sections of Christian Concern’s website, the organization states that it pursues these goals because “ the last few decades the nation has largely turned her back on Jesus and embraced alternative ideas such as secular liberal humanism, moral relativism and sexual licence. The fruit of this is rotten, and can be seen in widespread family breakdown, immorality and social disintegration.” The organization attempts to move policy on “abortion, adoption and fostering, bioethics, marriage, education, employment, end of life, equality, family, free speech, Islamism, religious freedom, the sex trade, social issues and issues relating to sexual orientation.” Christian Concern has campaigned against numerous pieces of LGBT anti-discrimination legislation, citing that they would create discrimination against Christians.

Williams encouraged Jamaica to keep same-sex intimacy (still referred to in the country’s legal code as “buggery”) illegal at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association in Kingston that she attended with extreme American anti-LGBT activist Peter LaBarbera. At the conference, she suggested Olympic diver Tom Daley is gay because his father died, and that “sometimes a level of abuse” is responsible for one becoming gay.

Williams is the director of the Christian Concern offshoot Christian Legal Centre, whose website says it “defend[s] many Christians who have suffered for their beliefs,” in a similar fashion to the American Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian Legal Centre has provided legal support to a woman who sued an art gallery for displaying an image of Jesus with an erection and to a man who was relieved of his position as a police officer after sending homophobic emails.

In concert with Alliance Defending Freedom, Christian Concern also runs the Wilberforce Academy, which says its aim is to “train and equip the invited students on what it means to proclaim Christ in public life.” Williams has said this on the Alliance Defense Fund:

The ADF are a fantastic organization. We have been inspired by their work and that of the Blackstone programme, which seeks to raise a new generation of lawyers to defend Christianity in the public sphere. They've got some of the best attorneys in this field and we have the great privilege of hosting them, but they don't pay anything towards the academy.

In 2010, Williams was elected to a five year term as a member of the Church of England General Synod.

Maxim Obukhov

Father Maxim Obukhov is credited by Religious Right leaders as the founder of the pro-life movement in Russia and led the effort to bring the World Congress of Families to Moscow last year. He was instrumental in convening a World Congress of Families “demographic summit” in Russia, which resulted in a statement addressed to world leaders. Part of the statement read:

We call on the governments of all nations and on international institutions to develop immediately a pro-family demographic policy and to adopt a special international pro-family strategy and action plan aimed at consolidating family and marriage, protecting human life from conception to natural death, increasing birth rates, and averting the menace of depopulation.

In 2009, Obukhov drafted an official proposal for WCF to come to Moscow, and the plan was solidified. However, the conferencewas cancelled in response to backlash over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea. An “International Family Forum” sprang up in its place, and many of the same pro-family leaders from the United States and around the world were in attendance.

Obhukhov created the Zhizn Center, an organization connected with the Russian Orthodox Church that dedicates itself to the “dissemination of Christian views on questions of family and marriage” and against abortion rights . He is also secretary of the Church’s bioethics committee and an expert on bioethical issues for the Moscow Patriarchate. World Congress of Families claims the Zhizn Center runs more than 30 crisis-pregnancy centers.

Obhukvhov was part of a group established by the Duma’s committee on family, women and children in 2010 for the purpose of drafting anti-choice legislation. Parts of the legislation drafted by the group, which included no medical professionals, were used in a health reform bill signed by President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011. Proposals that did not make it into legislation attempted to end federal support of all abortion services, require that women receive the approval of their spouses before having an abortion, and require prescriptions for the morning-after pill. Obukhov opposes hormonal birth control.

Obukhov has told LifeSiteNews that he believes the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russian lawmaker Yelena Mizulina, author of the infamous “gay propaganda” ban, following the Ukraine conflict were evidence of Christian persecution. Obuhkov said, "President Obama is using the economic sanctions against Yelena Mizulina to send a very clear message to Russian Christians. There is much talk about a cold war, but President Obama has openly declared war upon Christians who oppose the culture of death both at home and abroad."

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker: State Courts Must Defy The Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Ruling

On his radio program today, Bryan Fischer interviewed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, a former Religious Right activist and aide to Chief Justice Roy Moore who has become a radical justice in his own right, for two segments about the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling earlier this year.

After making the case that the Obergefell decision does not even apply to Alabama, Parker absurdly asserted that the Supreme Court had no grounds upon which to issue the decision in the first place because gays are not being denied equal treatment under the law since everyone is free to marry someone of the opposite sex. 

As such, Parker said, it is imperative that state supreme courts stand up to the U.S. Supreme Court in defiance of its ruling in this case in order to foment a "revival" that will return this nation to its founding principles.

"The states should be a check on the federal government," he said, "and the proper organ within a state to do that versus the U.S. Supreme Court would be a state supreme court. Now, I doubt that it would be a blanket defiance of all jurisdiction on the U.S. Supreme Court, but in regards to the Obergefell decision where it's clear that they jumped outside of the precedents in order to impose their will on this country, that yes, resisting that decision could maybe start a revival of what we need in this country and return to our original founding principles."

Michael Farris: Gay Marriage Leading To 'Heresy Trials' Of Christians, A New 'Dark Ages'

Michael Farris, the homeschooling activist and founder of Patrick Henry College, joined South Carolina pastor Kevin Boling on his “Knowing the Truth” radio program yesterday, where he claimed that Christians have entered a new “dark ages” of religious intolerance and “heresy trials” thanks to gay marriage.

Recalling the ideologically diverse coalition that worked to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 (which included us at People for the American Way), Farris claimed that the “political left” has since abandoned religious freedom and freedom of speech, causing the coalition to fall apart. In fact, it was the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case that drastically reshaped the federal RFRA, turning it from a shield to protect religious liberty into a sword allowing people to impose their beliefs on others. Subsequent state-level versions of the bill, such as a law in Indiana that was quickly amended, have sought to even further expand the power of individuals and corporations to cite religious liberty in discriminating against others, especially LGBT people.

Farris claimed, however, that gay rights have brought American Christians back to a time “no better than the era of William and Mary’s Toleration Act” of 1688.

“In the intervening 20 years [since the passage of RFRA], because of increased secularization and especially because of the advance of the homosexual rights movement, particularly in the homosexual marriage arena, that coalition of across-the-board, left-right coalition that gave us the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has completely disintegrated,” he said. “The political left today no longer believes not only in religious freedom, but they don’t believe in freedom of speech, they don’t believe in freedom of association. They want to crush people that dissent.”

“And so we’ve really gone frankly to … no better than the era of William and Mary’s Toleration Act,” he said, “where if you didn’t differ too much from the Church of England, you could get away with some stuff but not too much. So that’s really the era that we’re living in.”

“We’re back to that,” he later added. “If ... Christian people differ on same-sex marriage there are what amount to heresy prosecutions. And so we have gone full circle, we’ve gone away from liberty and gone toward toleration, and with toleration comes persecution and heresy trials and we’re back to the dark ages before liberty in the United States. It’s very distressing.”

Later in the interview, Farris blasted the Obama administration for denying asylum to a family of German homeschoolers he was representing when “they’re willing to have the Muslims come here from Syria, they’re willing to have homosexuals who were persecuted in other countries come here.” (The German family was eventually allowed to stay in the country indefinitely.)

This led Farris to bring up contentions that President Obama is secretly a Muslim, which, he said, he wasn’t sure about either way.

“I don’t really know what his personal faith is, one way or the other, and it really almost doesn’t matter in this sense,” he said. “What I can see and what I can tell, and I’m not judging his heart, is that his political actions give favoritism to Muslims and his political actions punish Christians on a systematic basis, so that bias is very obvious.”

“We are at war on a religious freedom basis,” he added, “and the question is, are Christians going to stand up or are we just going to roll over on this one.”

Franklin Graham: 'Middle East Is Burning' Because Obama's Too Focused On Gay Rights

In an interview on Newsmax TV last night, Rev. Franklin Graham blamed the Syrian refugee crisis on President Obama’s support for LGBT rights, claiming that “the Middle East is burning” because the Obama administration has been “more focused” on LGBT rights “than anything else.”

Host J.D. Hayworth, a former GOP congressman, asked Graham: “Why do you think President Obama has taken so little interest in helping to protect Christians in the Middle East?”

“Well, he’s more interested in policies that are against Christians,” Graham responded, “in this country, and going around the world promoting same-sex marriage and the agenda of the gay and lesbian community. And I’m not here to bash the gays and lesbians and they certainly have rights, I understand all that, but this administration has been more focused on that agenda than anything else and as a result the Middle East is burning and you have more refugees moving today since World War II, and it could have been prevented.”

Graham then praised Pope Francis for reportedly meeting privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has attempted to prevent her county office from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, saying that Davis is a victim of discrimination simply for standing up for her view that “homosexuality is a sin against God.”

“Christians need to be protected from these new laws that are coming out and discriminating against Christians and forcing Christians to do things that go against their conscience and go against the teaching of the Bible,” he said. “Again, homosexuality is a sin against God. Now, if a gay or lesbian person is watching, I’m not here to bash you or anything like that, I’m just here to tell you the truth, that this is what the Bible teaches.”

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