Updating the Image of Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry

imago dei

The most recent “softer-language” campaign to launch from the Right is the Imago Dei Campaign, organized by a group of Christian Right leaders and Hollywood allies. The group, whose name translates from Latin to “image of God,” is seeking to alter its leaders’ well-established reputation as promoters of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and discriminatory legislation. The Campaign has been well received in the media—which often finds itself prematurely declaring the so-called “culture wars” at an end (or just about). And while the group is proposing some ostensibly welcome changes, there is also much about the Campaign social justice advocates, journalists, and scholars should be skeptical of.

Before we discuss the point for which the Campaign is best known—acknowledging that gay people are made in the image of God—we should note that the Campaign is unequivocal and uncompromising in its attack on reproductive justice and as an exercise in religious supremacism. The intended effect is to drive a wedge between LGBTQ equality supporters and defenders of reproductive justice—factions that have historically sought to make headway together.

The central statement of the Imago Dei Campaign is actually a profoundly anti-abortion declaration: “I recognize that every human being, in and out of the womb, carries the image of God; without exception. Therefore, I will treat everyone with love and respect.” [Emphasis added]

Thus, far from a de-escalation of the culture wars, as some have suggested, this effort is an opportunistic effort to further divide their political and religious opposition.  Many Christians (not to mention people of other and no religious traditions) not only see abortion as a moral decision and consistent with their Christian faith, but that it is no obstacle to seeing others as created in the image of God. But the Imago Dei Campaign, and by extension many in the Christian Right leadership, have sought to gain control of and own the definition of Christianity—projecting an image to the world that all Christians have the same opinion about a woman’s right to choose.

Leader of the Pack

Leading the Campaign is Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC). Joining him is Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family; Mat Staver, President of Liberty Counsel (who also sits on the Executive Committee and General Counsel of NHCLC); longtime televangelist James Robison; and Hollywood TV and movie producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (responsible for the popular movie Son of God – a spinoff of the mini-series The Bible, which aired on the History Channel in 2013).

“For the image of God exists in all human beings,” the Campaign declares, “black and white; rich and poor; straight and gay; conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever.”

Declaring that “every human being” is made in God’s image is certainly a remarkable departure from the type of rhetoric we have heard for so many years from both opponents of marriage equality in the United States, and promoters of anti-LGTBQ sentiment in Africa and Russia. And it is arguably an improvement over previous efforts to reconcile Christian love with the alleged sin of homosexuality in the 1980s, when conservative Christians were urged to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

“The church of Jesus Christ and the word hatred should not even appear in the same sentence,” Rodriguez said. “What if every single person can recognize the image of God in the other? Wouldn’t that bring down the noise of the hateful rhetoric? Wouldn’t that build a firewall between intolerance and bullying? Wouldn’t that build a firewall against extremism?”

There is no question that words and tone are important, and all people of goodwill hope their efforts will make a difference. But these changes alone only serve to mask an ongoing campaign that is virulent as ever in its effort to combat LGBTQ justice. Indeed, it could actually be a hindrance to the fight for LGBTQ equality by lulling equality supporters into complacency while the Christian Right pursues its broader political and religious objectives.

For example, while this campaign of supposed brotherly love splashes across the media, the Christian Right leadership continues to claim that Christians are being persecuted in America—stirring the stew of bigotry and resentment on the farther right of American religious and political life. “This is not an issue of equality,” Rodriguez said, regarding marriage equality on a radio show in May 2012. “There is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice.” That talking point is followed with legislation that would condone commercial discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds (such bills have appeared in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, and Utah, and several other states).

The Other Shoe Drops

Let’s look at a few other things the Campaign has said—and a few things they have not.

First, let’s note that the Campaign’s leadership did not bother to apologize or ask forgiveness for the culture of personal and political bigotry and discrimination they have promoted for decades as individuals and via the organizations they lead. Nor did they say that they will in any way change or alter their activities or (even more importantly) their policies. The objective of the Campaign seems simply to come across as nicer while they pursue an oppressive political agenda against LGBTQ people.

Jim Daly has told reporters that the Campaign is seeking to avoid framing its message in warlike terms, such as in the “culture war” framing. But Daly’s remarks notwithstanding, there is little indication they are moderating their war of aggression on the civil and human rights of others. Indeed, the Campaign acknowledges that it has not changed its opposition to marriage equality or the idea that homosexuality is a sin. What’s more, the recent initiatives of Citizen Link—the national political arm of Jim Daly’s Focus on the Family—and its state political affiliates demonstrate that the changes in language may be superficial and are intended to distract from or take the edge off of their recent effort to legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination for reasons of “sincerely held religious belief.”

Sarah Posner, writing at Al Jazeera America, noted that Citizen Link affiliates in Arizona, Idaho, and Kansas have been centrally involved in the development and promotion of similar bills. As I reported in The Public Eye magazine last year, these groups are  part of a well-coordinated national network of state “family policy councils” that have promoted anti-LGBTQ legislation and ballot initiatives—particularly against marriage equality and non-discrimination laws—since their formation in 1988. Daly would have us focus on his softer words and tone, turning a blind eye towards the horrific legislation he and his religious and political empire are promoting.

It is also worth noting that Tom Minnery, Executive Director of Citizen Link, is a longtime member of the board of directors of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund). Acting as a Christian Right legal strategy network, the ADF was instrumental in drafting the Arizona legislation seeking to codify anti-LGTBQ discrimination.

In addition, Mat Staver heads the small Christian Right law firm Liberty Counsel, which is representing virulently anti-gay Christian Right activist Scott Lively in Federal District Court in Massachusetts. Lively is accused of committing crimes against humanity for inciting anti-LGBTQ violence in Uganda and for his role in the creation of that country’s recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality law. “This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively,” Staver declared in a press release when the suit was filed, “is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech.”

Lively and other evangelicals have engaged in a wide ranging effort, as Eric Ethington has reported here, “to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.” The same could be said of the Imago Dei Campaign by Christian Right leaders—seeking to whitewash their own history of involvement in the spread of damaging, un-Christianlike homophobia, and turning a blind eye to the gross excesses of others, to the point of pretending that they never even existed.

Scott Lively & Rick Warren: The PR Campaign to Whitewash the Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

scott lively, rick warren, uganda

As a comms person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.

For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.

As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the public’s sentiment on these characters’ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.

The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The GuardianReal News NetworkThe Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.

So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?

For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when you’ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.

The process of turning someone who claims “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, “I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

Step 2: Create a New Image

For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets like The Washington Post.

As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.

The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they don’t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.

When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

VIDEO: Rev. Kapya Kaoma Discusses the U.S. Religious Right Behind Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws

PRA Researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma discusses U.S. conservative involvement in African anti-gay laws on The Real News Network

Political Research Associates’ Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, joined The Real News Network to discuss how U.S. conservative evangelicals are the real culprits behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law.

Watch the interview below or on TheRealNews.com

Profiles on the Right: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

cbmw

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is an evangelical organization established in 1987 to “defend against the accommodation of secular feminism” in the church and promote gender “complementarianism,” which teaches that “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order.” CBMW’s mission is to counter the influence of gender justice activism and to push back against women’s, reproductive, and LGBTQ rights by making the case for complementarianism through biblical interpretation, “scholarship,” and arguments from “common sense.” Despite its modest resources and media footprint, CBMW’s work provides talking points and theological rationales against gender equality that reach a large swath of American evangelicals.

The organization’s priorities are laid out in its founding document, the Danvers Statement. It is CBMW’s position that forbidding certain roles to girls and women does not undermine gender equality, but rather that “masculinity” and “femininity” are equal in value but have distinct roles. In addition to promoting these “roles” within the family, CBMW opposes the ordination of female clergy, gender-inclusive Bible translations (which it calls “gender-neutral”), and church and societal acceptance of any relationships outside monogamous heterosexual marriage.

CBMW’s current executive director, Owen Strachan, has written that husbands are the “God-appointed ‘head’” of wives and households, and that women—not men—are “called to be workers at home” and “designed to be physically and spiritually nurturers of their children.” Strachan has also written that those who harass patients at abortion providers are “suffering with Christ” and risking violence from pro-choice advocates with “murder in [their] eyes.”

CBMW’s teachings on female submission and patriarchal headship have particularly disturbing implications within the context of intimate partner violence. Founder John Piper preaches that the wives of abusive men continue to have a divine obligation to “submit” to their husbands, though he concedes that their obligation to “submit” to laws criminalizing spousal abuse may outweigh “duties” to violent husbands. This is a “clarification” of an earlier teaching that wives may have to “[endure] verbal abuse for a season … [or] perhaps being smacked one night” before seeking support from the church.

CBMW council member Bruce A. Ware has asserted that wives resist showing appropriate submission to husbands because of sinfulness and that men “may be required, in response, to reestablish [their] God-given rulership over” their wives. While Ware teaches that abuse is a “sinful” method of exercising that rulership, his remarks imply that abuse is a natural response by husbands to “threat[s] to their authority.”

CBMW has a small and dwindling budget ($84,719 in 2012, down from $126,581 in 2010) and little visibility or direct political impact outside the evangelical world, yet it has deep connections and influence within some of the most powerful evangelical institutions in the United States. Its founders, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, are influential evangelical theologians and authors; Grudem is a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. CBMW’s council members include Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), and Bruce Ware, a professor at SBTS and also former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm) and a former dean of SBTS, serves on the CBMW’s board. The current president of the Council, Presbyterian (PCA) pastor J. Ligon Duncan, is also president of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Several board and council members are original signers of the Manhattan Declaration, which itself claims gender and sexual “complementarity” as a basis for opposition to reproductive and LGBTQ rights (see Fred Clarkson on the Declaration’s role in forging a new evangelical-Catholic alliance). Several members of CBMW’s board and council also belong to The Gospel Coalition, an increasingly powerful evangelical organization .

John Piper and Wayne Grudem are co-editors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW), a large collection of essays published in 1991 under CBMW’s auspices. Essays in RBMW cite not only scripture, but also biology, sociology, history, psychology, and law as evidence for the “wisdom” of complementarian gender roles. Topics include “The Biological Basis for Gender-Specific Behavior” and “Psychological Foundations for Rearing Masculine Boys and Feminine Girls”—the latter is an essay by the now thoroughly discredited “ex-gay therapy” proponent George Alan Rekers. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was honored by evangelical flagship magazine Christianity Today as its 1992 Book of the Year.

An abridged version of RBMW, “Fifty Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood,” cites Rekers’ work as providing “clinical evidence that there is no such thing as a ‘homosexual child’” and instead that “there are dynamics in the home that direct the sexual preferences of [a] child.” Piper and Grudem write that fathers play a particularly crucial role in instructing children in the distinctions between “masculinity” and “femininity,” in “firm and loving affirmation of [those distinctions]” in their children, and in “[shaping] the sexual identity of their tiny children.” RBMW and “Fifty Questions” remain the primary publications touted by CBMW—they are available for free download from CBMW’s website—in addition to its Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood published twice annually.

CBMW’s messaging through its publications, its website, and the teachings and writings of its influential members reaches millions of American evangelicals through the network of evangelical organizations to which CBMW belongs. Its teachings are taking on new relevance as the Right increasingly turns its attentions to the anti-LGBTQ battles it feels more confident about winning, specifically against transgender communities. CBMW’s copious teachings on gender difference and “gender confusion” are sure to play an important role in evangelical messaging against transgender rights and equality—and given CBMW’s relative lack of visibility, perhaps a stealth role.

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The Adoption Crunch, the Christian Right, and the Challenge to Indian Sovereignty

While the demand for adoptable babies is increasing in the United States—driven in large part by evangelical Christians—the number of babies available for adoption is declining. Adoption agencies are now targeting tribal nations as a potential new source of babies to adopt, and forming alliances that threaten to undermine the sovereignty of Native American nations.

photo credit: The Post and Courier

photo credit: The Post and Courier

**This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of The Public Eye magazine.**

On September 23, 2013, a child-custody battle that was nearly five years in the making came to its conclusion in Oklahoma when an Army veteran from the Cherokee Nation, Dusten Brown, handed over his daughter, Veronica, to Matt and Melanie Capobianco, a White couple from South Carolina who had raised her for the first two years of her life.1

Brown gained custody of four-year-old Veronica in December 2011, after a South Carolina court ruled that the adoption process had violated federal Indian law. Brown’s attorneys also argued that Christina Maldonado—Brown’s ex-fiancé and Veronica’s biological mother, who is Latina—had deliberately concealed plans to let the Capobiancos adopt her.2  As the custody decision was reversed following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling,3 and Veronica was tucked into the Capobiancos’ car to return to South Carolina, the scene was broadcast across national and social media to two polarized camps.  Read More

The Anti-Democratic Policies of the Right’s “Defense of Marriage”

Marriage Cartoon

The Fall 2002 issue of The Public Eye magazine featured an article by R. Claire Snyder, titled “The Christian Right’s ‘Defense of Marriage:’ Democratic Rhetoric, Antidemocratic Politics”. The piece explores how the anti-LGBT and anti-feminist ideology on the Right intersects with their ostensibly democratic rhetoric, and moreover how their ideologies serve a vision of a Christian nation designed to deny rights to minorities.

Snyder cites the populist appeals of the Far Right as integral to their strategy, masking an anti-democratic agenda. She notes the idea of a liberal democracy, in which secular government acts to protect the civil rights and liberties of individuals rather than imposing a particular vision of civil society on citizens, as something that is continually distorted by the Right to favor a conservative, Christian vision of the United States.

Specifically, Snyder explores how equal rights for LGBTQ citizens are endangered by this agenda. “Assuming a populist pose,” she says, “the Christian Right claims to speak for the interests of ordinary people who are supposedly being attacked by an ‘elite’ homosexual lobby.” Today, in the face of approximately 52 percent support for marriage equality in all 50 states, the Right continues to cite populist support in their endeavors.

In the article, Snyder cites the introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment by the group Alliance for Marriage as one among many of the Christian Right’s populist gambits. Alliance for Marriage (AFM) claimed the Amendment was “designed to protect both marriage and democracy in the United States by preserving the legal status of marriage from court redefinition.” AFM goes on to imply the allegedly populist nature of this legislation, claiming they are preserving marriage “[b]y returning the debate over marriage to the American people.” The amendment lost momentum in 2006, but was reintroduced as recently as 2013 by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R, Kansas) in response to the recent Supreme Court decision United States v. Windsor, which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

We see echoes of this sort of “empowerment” the AFM promises in the Tea Party. The Tea Party has become a platform for conservative populist discontent. To the extent one can pin down the ideological underpinnings of the Tea Party, the appellation goes along with an overarching narrative of impending tyranny.  Tea Party members, in concert with the Christian Right, are quick to victimize their constituency, who are supposedly living under an alien system of values.

Snyder ties the Christian Right’s feeling of victimization, especially as it relates to civil rights for LGBTQ people, as stemming in part from the deeply held belief that the United States is, at its core, a Christian nation. As Snyder points out, though, the U.S. Constitution created a secular government that would not discriminate against anyone based on religion. And moreover, the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of a state religion by the government.

This “under attack” posturing has only increased since 2002, although with a subtle evolution. Religious conservatives, sensing a decline in alarm over same-sex marriage in recent years, are now claiming the debate over homosexuality has prompted attacks on religious freedom. They hope that by fabricating this new imagined threat to religious beliefs, it will reconnect them with religious voters who no longer care whether or not a same-sex couples have the ability to get married.

In July of 2013, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) alleged that Christians would soon be charged with hate crimes for speaking against homosexuality, mimicking the panic of many of his colleagues. Commenting on the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has said, “Advocates of gay marriage now seek to redefine not only marriage, but the relationship between Judeo-Christian values and the American tradition…Just what will be left to ‘conserve’ of the American tradition?”

This “American tradition” that people such as Brian Brown wish to conserve, Snyder imagines, is the traditional gender roles of American society. “The Christian Right,” she says, “seeks to reconsolidate male dominance and reestablish the patriarchal family as the dominant family form in the United States.” Marriage equality undermines the traditional patriarchal institution of marriage.  Consider this quote from Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), when he introduced the Parental Title Protection Act of 2011: “Referring to parents as ‘Parent 1’ or ‘Parent 2’ on official government documents is a bureaucratic attempt to redefine traditional parent roles. These subtle, but nonetheless significant, changes undermine the traditional American family relationships that have served as the bedrock of this nation since its inception.”

Forbes’ sentiments pose as much a threat to women’s rights as they do to LGBTQ rights and Snyder does not shy away from this in her article, noting that the Christian version of heterosexual marriage directly relates to its understanding of gender difference, and that the Christian Right often justifies this by privileging certain passages in the Bible. For example, they often favor the decidedly more gendered second version of Genesis over the more egalitarian first version, both contained within the Bible.

The populist argument the Christian Right makes is fraught, to say the least. Snyder explains their logic by pointing to the way the Christian Right emphasizes the sovereignty of states legislatures only when it serves their interests, while otherwise opposing the decisions of the people’s elected representatives—often in the name of the people. Regarding the then-impending DOMA decision in the summer of 2013, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) stated, “States have been able to determine how they want to treat gay marriage in their states…Now the Supreme Court may rule those laws are invalid…To me, the people spoke on that issue.” Here, within the same passage Neugebauer invokes the state insofar as it complies with his view, then the people accordingly.

Some conservatives have even cited a confused populace as the reason for a lack of support for populist sentiments in the United States. Peter LaBarbera of Americans For the Truth About Homosexuality has said of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation supported by 68 percent of the U.S. population, “If people truly understood, the real freedom-robbing results of this legislation, it would have nowhere near as much support.” This notion of latent populist support for the Christian Right’s platform, support that only demands continued advocacy on their part, will continue to motivate people on the Right to fight for issues like marriage equality. Snyder’s thesis still holds today, as the Right continues to espouse antidemocratic ideologies masked with democratic rhetoric to promote their reductive view of a Christian nation.

EXPOSED: How the Right’s State-Based Think Tanks Are Transforming U.S. Politics



Two networks of conservative, state-level think tanks have matured rapidly over the past three decades. By crafting public policy, collaborating with Republican state legislators, and fostering new leadership for the Right, they have significantly shaped recent U.S. politics. And their work has only just begun.

***

 

Via the 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc

Screencap of 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video, via Corey Burres

The Democratic Party’s wins in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and its modest successes in recent Congressional elections, have obscured a series of setbacks for the party in the states. As National Journal put it, the GOP “wiped the floor with Democrats” in the 2010 midterm elections, setting a record in the modern era by picking up 680 seats in state legislatures. The next-largest harvest of legislative seats was the Democrats’ 628-seat gain in the Watergate-dominated election of 1974.[1]The 2010 landslide gave the GOP the upper hand in the subsequent Congressional redistricting process, allowing Republicans to tilt the playing field in their favor and shape U.S. elections for years to come. In the meantime, conservatives have used friendly, GOP-dominated state legislatures to ram their agenda through legislatures—in “red” states and even some states that lean “blue”—on a range of issues: imposing harsh voter restrictions in North Carolina, for example, and passing dramatic anti-labor legislation in Michigan.

The roots of this debacle go far deeper than one or two election cycles and cannot be explained by the normal ebb and flow in electoral fortunes of the two major parties. The seeds were actually sown in the late 1980s, when strategists in the conservative movement came to an important realization. If they were successful in their efforts to devolve much of federal policy-making authority to the states—a key goal of the “Reagan revolution”—they would need relevant resources to elaborate their vision, and the organizational capacity to implement it. The two networks of state-based think tanks that emerged from that realization amount to one of the great under-reported stories in modern American politics. We are just now seeing the implications of the networks’ work, and of the conservative strategists’ vision.

Though several Washington, D.C.-based think tanks were profoundly important in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, few state-level groups existed at the time. Reagan encouraged the creation of think tanks in state capitals, and two related networks of policy shops and advocacy groups emerged from this idea.[2] Both have become part of the deep infrastructure of the conservative movement, and they play a critical role in taking the movement’s agenda to the states, where a fierce battle over the role, size, and scope of government is playing out.

The State Policy Network (SPN) comprises think tanks that are modeled after the Heritage Foundation, in that they conduct research and make policy recommendations to government agencies and legislative bodies. SPN currently comprises 63 member organizations—at least one in each state. SPN members vigorously promote a “free market,” anti-labor agenda, and they are joined in this mission by dozens of conservative and libertarian groups with which they liaise, including national institutions like the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Alliance for School Choice, Americans United for Life, and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.[3]

The second network comprises organizations that are modeled on the Family Research Council (FRC), one of the foundational organizations of the Christian Right that was, for several years, the public policy arm of Focus on the Family (FOF). These think tanks are called Family Policy Councils (FPCs), and they take policy research and political advocacy to state capitals the way the FRC does in Washington, D.C.[4] They focus primarily on reproductive rights, traditional “family values” (especially marriage), and, increasingly, religious liberty. This is in keeping with the agenda of the 2009 Christian Right manifesto, the Manhattan Declaration.[5]

Though the individual institutions tend to command our attention, the influence of the networks is much greater than the sum of their parts. Comprising part of the core infrastructure of the conservative movement, they create synergies by sharing information, resources, and best practices. These synergies allow even the smallest members to rely on the same research as the networks’ largest and best-endowed institutions. Crucially, they also equip the Right with a common set of talking points and understandings, even as the individual institutions maintain the flexibility to tailor their strategies to state-level circumstances.

“The states are our first and final frontiers of liberty,” an SPN video declares. “Just as the pioneers journeyed to the wild west to discover new frontiers and stake their claim for a new life, we must stake a claim for freedom for us and the generations yet to come. Moving the locus of power from DC to the 50 freedom frontiers requires fortitude, bold strategies and a network of equipped trailblazers.”[6]

Division of Labor

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in 1989, Republican political operative Don Eberly outlined
how the networks would operate, explaining that there would be a business-oriented group (the Commonwealth Foundation) and a Christian Right group (the Pennsylvania Family Institute). “We have organized a leadership team,” he said, “that is implementing . . . the Pennsylvania Plan.” He explained that the Commonwealth Foundation, of which he was founding president, would function as the state-based equivalent of the Heritage Foundation, while the Pennsylvania Family Institute, where his wife Sheryl was on the board, would be the equivalent of the Family Research Council.

“We now have both economic and social issues coalitions on the state level that meet regularly and are developing agendas,” Eberly continued. “This September [1989], we had our first statewide conservative conference for local leaders and activists, patterned after [the Conservative Political Action Conference] in Washington. The conference, which will become an annual event, attracted 320 people from all across the state and sent shock waves throughout the political establishment.”[7] The conference is still staged annually and it has served as a model for similar conferences held elsewhere—for example, in North Carolina.[8]

The Pennsylvania Plan was a model for two incipient national networks of think tanks—one wing focusing on economic issues, the other primarily on social and cultural concerns—that would share a common free-market ideology and sometimes a common agenda. Initially, both Pennsylvania groups were substantially underwritten by right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife and other “strategic funders” of the Right, as journalists called them at the time.

The State Policy Network was formed in 1992 to coordinate the activities of the business wing, and it was underwritten by South Carolina businessman Thomas Roe. A small predecessor—the Madison Group, which included Roe’s South Carolina Policy Council, Scaife’s Commonwealth Foundation, and the Independence Institute, underwritten by the Adolph Coors Foundation and other Coors interests—became the core of the SPN. Roe, Scaife, and Joseph Coors—the Colorado beer magnate who led his family into political prominence—were all major funders and board members of the Heritage Foundation at the time.[9]

In recent years, members and associates of the State Policy Network have been the recipients of massive infusions of cash that have come largely from secretive, donor-advised funds serving as financial funnels for individuals, corporations, and foundations. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Donors Trust and the related Donors Capital Fund have quietly funneled nearly $400 million from about 200 private donors (including the ubiquitous Koch brothers) to free-market causes since 1999. The Center also reported, in 2013, that Donors Trust had given $10 million to the SPN over the course of the previous five years, and that in 2012 “SPN used the money to incubate think tanks in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Florida, where it hosted its yearly gathering in November.”[10]

An investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) in November 2013 unearthed an internal list of SPN’s major funders for 2010. It included Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, as well as such major corporations as BMO Harris Bank, Microsoft, Facebook, and the tobacco companies Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) and Reynolds American.[11]

SPN spends about $5 million annually to support existing groups and help start-ups develop the management and leadership skills of their staff and board; recruit and mentor staff; teach strategic marketing and branding; and network with other think tanks to leverage knowledge and resources. Thomas Roe, SPN’s late founding chairman, wanted it that way. “We still do it today,” said Lawrence Reed, president emeritus of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It keeps us knowledgeable about what everyone else is doing, it keeps us talking, and it stops us from reinventing the wheel over and over again.”[12]

SPN member organizations have used this strategic capacity in the fight for a range of major initiatives, notably anti-labor legislation.[13] According to a 2011 report in Mother Jones, SPN’s affiliates have led the charge at the state level in the Republican Party’s “war on organized labor. They’re pushing bills to curb, if not eliminate, collective bargaining for public workers; make it harder for unions to collect member dues; and, in some states, allow workers to opt out of joining unions entirely but still enjoy union-won benefits. All told, it’s one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.”[14]

In Michigan, for example, the Mackinac Center made four policy recommendations to give unelected ‘emergency managers’ more power to terminate union contracts and fire municipal elected officials “in the name of repairing broken budgets,” Mother Jones reported. “All four ended up in Governor Rick Snyder’s ‘financial martial law,’ as one GOP lawmaker described it.”[15] A writer for Forbes called it “one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country,” investing Snyder with the power “not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead [emphasis in original].”[16] The legislation became law in March 2011.

Some SPN institutions are small but exert disproportionate influence by keeping a high media profile. Other institutions, like the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and the Mackinac Center, have multimillion dollar budgets and large staffs, and they play an outsized role in state politics by partnering with other institutions, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Since 1975, ALEC has developed model, business-oriented legislation in cooperation with a national network of state legislators and began a more formal and coordinated relationship with SPN and member organizations beginning in the mid-2000s. A study by the Center for Media and Democracy found that two dozen SPN groups, including the SPN itself, are organizational members of ALEC and serve on one or more of its legislative task forces. CMD identified several areas of ALEC’s policy foci in which SPN members play a role: privatizing public education and public pension systems; rolling back environmental initiatives; disenfranchising people of color, the elderly, and students; and attacking workers’ rights.[17]

Several SPN members have shepherded bills through the process of becoming official ALEC “model” bills. For example, Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and the Mackinac Center were responsible for ALEC adopting five model bills targeting public-sector unions.[18]

According to an investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies, the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation—SPN member organizations in North Carolina—published more than 50 articles, op-eds and blog posts fomenting unfounded fears of voter fraud. These helped catalyze passage of a strict photo ID law, an end to same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period in 2013.[19] The legislation will likely suppress turnout among African Americans and young people. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of key provisions of the law.[20]

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in many ways personifies how SPN provides infrastructure, develops personnel, and hatches ideas for the conservative movement. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2012, he served as a senior fellow with TPPF’s new Center for 10th Amendment Studies. In 2010, he co-authored a report that became the basis of ALEC’s model legislation to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[21]

The SPN’s recent mixing of Tea Party activism (largely funded by the Koch brothers) with more buttoned-down business conservatism is not without its challenges. An SPN “ToolKit” featured on its web site in 2013, for example, urged members to avoid language that smacks of “extreme views,” advising: “Stay away from words like radical, nullify, or autonomy,” and especially “states’ rights.”[22]

Origins of a faux news network

The State Policy Network has now been developing and deepening its capacity—not only to do research and policy work, but also to absorb and integrate new projects—for more than two decades. At the same time, it has faced new challenges and taken advantage of new opportunities in an era of digital activism and new media.

SPN’s adaptability in the new era is illustrated by its development of a news network. Three dozen SPN affiliates now field their own “investigative reporters” on behalf of a recently created member, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which describes its mission as “exposing government waste, fraud and abuse.”[23] It seeks to fill a void created by the loss of a third of the nation’s journalism jobs since 1992. The Center was created by the now-defunct Sam Adams Alliance, which began as a Tea Party organization and was folded into SPN.

SPN’s state news websites collectively produce Watchdog Wire, which publishes work by “citizen journalists.” As the website describes the project, “by covering stories in your local community that are otherwise ignored by the establishment media, you can make a difference!”[24] The Franklin Center claims that it “already provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.”[25] The basis for the claim is unclear, but whatever its truth, it does speak to the Center’s ambitions.

The Sam Adams Alliance also separately created three websites modeled on Wikipedia: Judgepedia, Ballotpedia, and Sunshine Review. They offer right-wing analysis of (respectively) the judiciary, election issues, and governmental performance. These projects have since been folded into the Lucy Burns Institute, an SPN member based in Madison, WI.  Like many SPN organizations, it has extensive ties to the Tea Party and funding from the Koch brothers.[26]

The Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute are part of a surge of recent development in SPN’s infrastructure that has expanded its capacity to influence both media and public policy, as well as the range of ways by which it carries out its mission. Donors Trust has funneled cash to both the Franklin Center and to many SPN affiliates for their “news” operations. Its $6.3 million donation to the Franklin Center constituted 95 percent of the Center’s revenue in 2011.[27]

This network has had some success. While some affiliates do little more than blog off of Associated Press stories, others feature established conservative journalists. In Oklahoma, the former editorial page editor of the Oklahoman newspaper, Patrick B. McGuigan, serves as the local bureau chief, and he has a weekly segment on the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, called Capitol Report. [28] And stories in the Pennsylvania Independent, a Franklin Center online publication supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, have been picked up by mainstream outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To date, though, the network has shown little capacity to stand on its own and depends almost entirely on funding through Donors Trust. As of August 2013, the Pennsylvania Independent had only one ad—for the Commonwealth Foundation’s own campaign to privatize state-owned liquor stores.[29]

Building for the future

While the State Policy Network has mostly limited itself to the role of influencing public policy through the traditional work of think tanks—research, media work, and lobbying—the Family Policy Councils are more explicitly involved in mobilizing the Right’s grassroots base to become active in electoral politics.

There are 36 state FPCs, which typically have the word “family” in their names, such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, Louisiana Family Forum, and the Family Foundation of Virginia. Others are less obvious, bearing such names as the Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian Civic League of Maine, but they are all outgrowths of the original Reagan era plan to take the Christian Right’s agenda to the states.

A change in the federal tax law in 2004 required 503(c)(3) tax exempt organizations to be less political than they had been, necessitating separately incorporated political action arms. As a result, FOF formed Focus on the Family Action, which later changed its name to CitizenLink for the sake of clarity.[30]

While the Family Research Council and its feisty spokesmen, Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin, disproportionately make headlines, CitizenLink quietly cultivates the grassroots. Spending about $13 million annually (as of 2012), CitizenLink coordinates the work of the FPCs, ensuring accreditation and compliance and providing services to increase the capacity of the institutions to carry out their mission.[31] It also does candidate trainings and works primarily for Republicans in national elections. CitizenLink reportedly spent $2.6 million on independent expenditures in 2012, mostly on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”[32]

The network has played an important role in the political development and subsequent raw political power of the Christian Right. Many of the older FPCs have been active for more than two decades, crafting an activist religious-political culture, affecting electoral outcomes, and ultimately developing the clout to influence legislation and policy outcomes on such matters as abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Indeed, FPCs have often been leading actors in the state-level battles over marriage equality. The Christian Civic League of Maine played a central role in the seesaw battle over same-sex marriage, which was endorsed by the legislature and repealed by the voters in 2009, then restored by a second referendum in 2012. The League’s executive director and one of its board members[33] launched a new political action committee, Protect Marriage Maine, to carry out the political organizing and advertising drive against the ballot initiative, collaborating closely with the National Organization for Marriage.[34] Such collaborations have been a hallmark of the FPCs from the earliest days.

An important trend in recent years, indicating the significance of the role of the FPCs in the wider Christian Right, has been the gradual adoption of the integrated, three-part agenda of the Manhattan Declaration. This is evident in many ways, including the way that “guest posts” from FPC leaders are introduced on the national web site. For example: “CitizenLink is proud to work with The Family Foundation of Virginia and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom.”[35]

“These councils are independent entities,” according to CitizenLink, “with no corporate or financial relationship to each other or to Focus on the Family.”[36] But if FOF and CitizenLink are legally separate entities with different tax statuses, they are best viewed as two parts of the same organization. They share the same offices, board of directors, top executives, and president, James Daly.[37]

There is a method to the disclaimers, though, because stretching the rules regarding federal tax-exempt status of the member agencies has been an issue over the years. Many of these groups engaged in lobbying and electoral activities—such as the dissemination of biased voter guides—beyond what the privilege of federal tax exemption allows. Quietly coming into compliance with the law, and becoming more sophisticated regarding how best to use the several relevant legal categories available for politics and public policy, has been a trend for both state networks, following the lead of The Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council.

The creation of separate-but-related groups that can legally carry out various political, lobbying, and electoral functions is an important development in the history of these groups at all levels. For example, the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), which has focused on anti-marriage equality, antichoice, and pro-school privatization issues in recent years, has divided into three closely related but legally distinct entities: FIC itself; FIC Action (a 501(c)(4) lobbying group); and the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee, a political action committee (PAC) that focuses on candidates for state-government offices.[38]

Efforts to draw bright lines for legal purposes notwithstanding, the lines still sometimes blur. “Needless, to say,” wrote Jim Daly in a joint Focus on the Family/CitizenLink annual report, “2012 was extremely busy for our CitizenLink staff as they were actively involved in multiple state legislative and election efforts. More than 2 million emails were sent to CitizenLink constituents regarding important issues. In addition, CitizenLink produced mailers for the November election that went to more than 8 million homes in 16 swing states. And that was just the beginning!”[39]

Two paths converge

Member organizations across both networks share some common issues, such as school privatization and the idea that public education should be controlled locally, though there are often differences of emphasis. The Boston-based Pioneer Institute primarily promotes corporate-style charters and makes little mention of homeschooling, for example, while the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) is primarily interested in homeschooling. “The public schools here have become a primary battleground in the culture war,” MFI declares, “with homosexual activists using them to indoctrinate students with their agenda.” Consequently, “MFI supports the restoration of decision-making authority over school policy and finance to parents, locally elected school committees and taxpayers.[40] In Louisiana, both networks have mobilized to promote and defend Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial voucher program, which extended vouchers even to marginal religious schools, some of which use crackpot textbooks to teach science. One claims that the Loch Ness Monster is both real and a proof against evolution.[41] The Pioneer Institute has promoted New Orleans—where 80 percent of the public schools after Hurricane Katrina became charters—as a model for Boston.[42]

Cross-network collaborations are facilitated by having seasoned leaders who share a common vision and are able to mobilize the resources to carry it out. In creating the State Policy Network and the Family Policy Councils, the conservative movement’s strategists sought to create a deep infrastructure that would be build capacity over time, both in terms of policy development and electoral strength. They were also developing a talent bank of research and policy experts and organizational executives who would create synergies for the movement and shape the priorities of the Republican Party.

And in fact, SPN affiliates sometimes serve as governments-in-waiting for Republican administrations in the states, in much the way that Republican administrations in Washington, D.C., often draw staff from such national think tanks as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. In Massachusetts, Gov. William Weld “hired almost everybody” out of the Pioneer Institute following his election in 1994. Succeeding governors Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift also appointed Pioneer staff or board members to crucial positions that enabled them to implement their ideas, notably in shaping the state’s charter school policies. Cellucci, for example, appointed Pioneer executive director James Peyser as chairman of the state board of education.[43]

SPN think tanks have also provided leadership opportunities for policy professionals and politicians. Veterans of the board of directors of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation include former Lt. Governor William W. Scranton III and current U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA). Three members of Congress—Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and former U.S. Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO)—ran SPN member groups before coming to Congress.

Likewise, the FPCs serve as talent-development agencies. Ron Crews, who led the Massachusetts Family Institute from 2000 to 2004, rode the notoriety he gained in the wake of the historic 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision (in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage) to an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2004. Tony Perkins was the executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum before coming to the Family Research Council. Brian Brown directed the Connecticut Family Institute before leading the National Organization for Marriage.

All of this is important because the cumulative experience of these two networks—in fostering leaders, working with government officials, creating collaborations, and becoming part of the furniture of public life in state capitals around the country—is transforming American politics from the state level up. The networks’ growing ability to craft and influence public policy, working in tandem with the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate interests, and Republican state legislators, has justified the persistence and long-range ambitions of conservative strategists three decades ago, when the movement was just beginning its long march to state power.



[1] Jeremy P. Jacobs, “Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats,” National Journal, Nov. 4, 2010, www.nationaljournal.com/blogs/hotlineoncall/2010/11/devastation-gop-picks-up-680-state-leg-seats-04.

[2] John J. Miller, “Fifty flowers bloom: Conservative think tanks—mini-Heritage Foundations—at the state level,” Hey Miller, Sept. 16, 2009, www.heymiller.com/2009/09/fifty-flowers-bloom. Republished from the National Review, Nov. 19, 2007. See also John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent: The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[3] “Directory,” State Policy Network, www.spn.org/directory/organizations.asp.

[4] Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-Level Think Tanks,” Public Eye, Summer/Fall 1999, www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/02/PE-Summer-Fall-1999.pdf. In addition to the pieces cited in this essay, see Jason Deparle, “Right-of-Center Guru Goes Wide With the Gospel of Small Government,” New York Times, Nov. 17, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/11/17/us/politics/17thinktank.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all; and Lee Fang, “The Right Leans In: Media-savvy conservative think tanks take aim and fire at progressive power bases in the states,” Nation, Mar. 26, 2013, www.thenation.com/article/173528/right-leans#.

[5] Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye, July 23, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.

[6] “SPN Annual Meeting Promo 1,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc.

[7] Don E. Eberly, “The States:  The New Policy Battleground, Lecture # 225,” The Heritage Foundation, Oct. 27, 1989, www.heritage.org/research/lecture/the-states-the-new-policy-battleground.

[8] “Conservative Leadership Conference,” Civitas, http://clc2014.com.

[9] Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

[10] Paul Abowd, “Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states: Nonprofit group lets donors fly ‘totally under the radar,’” Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 14, 2013, www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/14/12181/donors-use-charity-push-free-market-policies-states.

[11] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” Stinktanks.org, Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 2013. http://stinktanks.org/national.

[12] John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent:  The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[13] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” http://stinktanks.org/national.

[14] Andy Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions,” Mother Jones, April 25, 2011, www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/state-policy-network-union-bargaining.

[15] Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions.”

[16] Erik Kain, “Michigan Governor Plays Fast and Loose with Democracy, Invokes Radical New Powers,” Forbes, March 11, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/11/michigan-governor-plays-fast-and-loose-with-democracy-invokes-radical-new-powers.

[17] EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, http://stinktanks.org/national.

[18] Paul Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks,” Center for Public Integrity, May 17, 2012, www.publicintegrity.org/2012/05/17/8890.

[19] Sue Sturgis, “Special Investigation: How Art Pope helped turn back the clock on voting rights in North Carolina,” Institute for Southern Studies, Aug. 2013, http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/08/special-investigation-how-art-pope-helped-turn-bac.html.

[20] Charlie Savage, Justice Department Poised to File Lawsuit Over Voter ID Law,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/us/politics/justice-department-poised-to-file-lawsuit-over-voter-id-law-in-north-carolina.html.

[21] Mary Tuma, “Ted Cruz Used Texas to Create ALEC’s Anti-Obamacare Legislation,” Current, Oct. 16, 2013, http://sacurrent.com/news/ted-cruz-used-texas-to-create-alec-s-anti-obamacare-legislation-1.1569056; Ted Cruz,  “Texas Public Policy Foundation report gives states options for pushing back on federal overreach,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 18, 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/press/texas-public-policy-foundation-report-gives-states-options-pushing-back-federal-overreach; Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola, “Reclaiming the Constitution Towards and Agenda for State Action,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2010-11-RR11-TenthAmendment-mloyola-posting.pdf.

[22] “A Tool Kit to Keep Government Local People, Local Decisions, Local Solutions,” State Policy Network and State Budget Solutions, 2013, www.federalisminaction.com/wp-content/uploads/Federalism-In-Action_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf.

[23] Jason Stverak, Media Shield Law Doesn’t Protect First Amendment, Free Press, The Franklin Center, Sept. 16, 2013, http://franklincenterhq.org/8258/media-shield-law-doesnt-protect-first-amendment-free-press.

[24] “About Watchdog Wire,” The Franklin Center, Watchdog Wire, May 25, 2012, http://watchdogwire.com/about-the-franklin-center.

[25] “Driving the News:  How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911 (subscription required).

[26] Sara Jerving, “The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows,” The Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 26, 2012, www.prwatch.org/news/2012/11/11791/lucy-burns-institute-publishers-ballotpedia-judgepedia-and-wikifoia-and-her-right.

[27] Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks.”

[28] McGuigan reported on SPN’s national convention in Oklahoma City without disclosing his relationship to the Franklin Center or the Franklin Center’s relationship to the SPN and the host affiliate, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. See “Capitol Report: National gathering in Oklahoma City focuses on public policy,” YouTube, Sept. 30, 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8OuSdH75tU.

[29] “Driving the News: How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911/Driving-the-News (subscription required).

[30] Electa Draper, “Focus on the Family rebrands political arm as CitizenLink,” Denver Post, May 20, 2010, www.denverpost.com/news/ci_15121872.

[31] “CitizenLink,” Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.profile&ein=200960855#.Um6pAvmkpoE.

[32] “Exclusive: Largest Dark Money Groups Share Funds, Hide Links,” OpenSecretsBlog, Sep. 10, 2013, www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/09/exclusive-largest-dark-money-donor-groups-hide-ties-using-new-trick.html.

[33] In the run-up to the 2012 initiative, Emrich was employed by the Family Research Council as its new “Northeast Field Ambassador”: “Bob Emrich joins Family Research Council,” Christian Civic League of Maine, Oct. 27, 2011, www.cclmaine.org/bob-emrich-joins-family-research-council.

[34] This followed a split with former League executive director Mike Heath, whose extreme statements were seen as counterproductive. The split also led to a rebranding in which the League sought to become known as the Maine Family Policy Council. The change apparently didn’t take, and the organization is now known by both names. Brian Tashman, “Ron Paul’s Iowa State Director Dedicated His Career to Fighting ‘Evil’ Gay Rights,” Right Wing Watch, Dec. 30, 2011, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ron-pauls-iowa-state-director-dedicated-his-career-fighting-evil-gay-rights.

[35] See Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance.”

[36] “Family Policy Councils,” CitizenLink, www.citizenlink.com/state-groups. Individual FPCs rarely mention their close connections to FOF, or CitizenLink, or FRC, which maintains a similar, but not identical, list of affiliates. FRC Action, the 501(c)(4) political arm of FRC, also lists the FPCs as state-level affiliates.

[37] For example, see “Focus on the Family and CitizenLink 2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family, http://media.focusonthefamily.com/fotf/pdf/about-us/financial-reports/2012-annual-report.pdf. A separate annual report for CitizenLink is at www.citizenlink.com/uploads/2013/04/2012-CitizenLink-Annual-Report.pdf. Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is also a member of both boards.

[38] “Latest FIC Action Committee’s 2010 Endorsements,” Family Institute of Connecticut, 2010, www.ctfamily.org/FIC%20Action%20Committee%20Endorsements%202010.pdf.

[39] “2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family.

[40] “Parental Rights and Education,” Massachusetts Family Institute, www.mafamily.org/issues/parental-rights-and-education.

[41] Bruce Wilson, “Nessie a Plesiosaur? Louisiana To Fund Schools Using Odd, Bigoted Fundamentalist Textbooks,” Talk to Action, June 17, 2012, www.talk2action.org/story/2012/6/17/9311/48633.

[42] Jim Stergios, “6 Takeaways on New Orleans’ charter initiative,” Pioneer Institute, Oct. 19, 2013, http://pioneerinstitute.org/charter_schools/6-takeaways-on-new-orleans-charter-initiative.

[43] Paul Dunphy and Nikhil Aziz, “The Pioneer Institute: Privatizing the Common Wealth,” Political Research Associates, July 2002, www.publiceye.org/libertarian/pioneer-institute/index.html; Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

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Despite recent losses in the culture war, the Christian Right is forging a path forward by rallying around a few key issues: antichoice, opposition to marriage equality, and the defense of “religious liberty.” These themes—set forth in the influential Manhattan Declaration in 2009—have proved powerful enough to unify conservative Catholics and Protestants against their common enemies. Read More

Sharon Slater: Going Global with a “Pro-Family,” Antigay Agenda

    Sharon Slater, co-founder of FWI.  Slater’s group is part of an effort to limit international advancement of comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services that include abortion, and basic rights and protections for LGBTQ people.

Sharon Slater, co-founder of FWI. Slater’s group is part of an effort to limit international advancement of comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services that include abortion, and basic rights and protections for LGBTQ people.

The following article is adapted from PRA’s 2012 report, Colonizing African Values.

Sharon Slater co-founded Family Watch International (FWI) with the goal of defending “fundamental institutions and values that are so critical to any society.” She believes those institutions and values are “under increasing attack by UN agencies and treaties, unelected activist judges, politicians, special interest groups, much of the media and popular entertainment.”1

The Arizona-based FWI has never claimed assets totaling more than $35,000, according to its available tax forms, and its intake in “gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees” has never exceeded $150,000.2 Yet Slater is opportunistic in finding ways to impact the international debate about families, abortion, and the LGBTQ population, and her influence far exceeds the modest resources of her organization.

Slater, a Mormon, traces her politicization to the World Congress of Families in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999. “Before that,” she wrote, “I had never been involved in a cause.” But the Congress “changed the direction of my life, as I learned about the assaults in almost every area of family life and was instilled with the hope that if we all worked together, we could effectively stop many of these attacks.”3 She co-founded FWI later that year.4 Read More