Uganda’s New Anti-Gay Law A Copy of U.S. Right-Backed Laws in Russia/Nigeria

Reports of the new anti-gay bill—“Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014” being considered in Uganda have caught the world unaware. Supporters of Uganda’s LGBTQ community had hoped that the Uganda court’s striking down of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA, formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill”), as well as president Yoweri Museveni’s subsequent meetings with President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, had buried the tide of anti-LGBTQ persecution in Uganda. But, then the news came—the new bill is in the pipeline. Unlike the “Kill the Gays” proposal, this new potential law is a virtual copy of the recently-passed anti-gay laws in Russia and Nigeria banning recruiting into, or “promotion” of homosexuality—all guided by U.S. exporters of homophobia and sexism.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

The new proposed law is a response to international outrage to both the death penalty and life imprisonment for homosexuality previously proposed by the country’s parliament. By tailoring down the punishment for being an LGBTQ person to 5-7 years imprisonment, the authors hope to appear more moderate and assuage some of the international outrage of their treatment of sexual minorities.

But while this new proposal is sure to draw continued (and deserved) international headlines, the Western world’s near-exclusive focus on Uganda, while ignoring identical legislation in countries like Nigeria, have left the African social justice community vulnerable to anti-gay activists. How are we, as fair-minded people, going to oppose Uganda’s latest anti-gay legislation, when the international opposition to Nigeria has been tame at best? And after the bill (likely) becomes law, there is little question that we should expect similar bills to quickly follow in many other African countries.

Following the international community’s threats of trade sanctions over the original Anti-Homosexuality Act, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni appeared to be stepping down his opposition to LGBTQ people, asking his followers to take it easy due to its impact on the national economy. But this apparent easing of his positions has quickly become transparent as little more than lip-service, when last month he oversaw the consecration of the Bishop Alfred Acur Okodi as the first Anglican Church of Uganda Bishop of West Lango in Uganda—he even donated a brand new SUV to Okodi. During his consecration, Bishop Okodi “pledged a relentless fight against homosexuality,” and argued that the court’s striking down of the Anti-Homosexuality Act “only serves to clarify that the problem is beyond political solution and it’s a spiritual problem that calls for a spiritual solution.”

The global social justice community must understand that Museveni himself is now devoid of virtually all political power on this issue. The Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down on technical basis—the parliament did not meet its required quorum of members present during the vote—only, and not because of the merits of the law. To the anti-gay community, this problem can be resolved easily by taking the bill back to parliament or simply introducing a new bill since they have more than enough votes to pass it.

Museveni knows he must downplay any anti-gay laws if he is to keep up economic relations with the rest of the world, but at the same time, his backing away from the laws doesn’t play well with the local electorate who have been whipped into an anti-LGBTQ frenzy by the Religious Right. Museveni has been in power in Uganda for the last 28 years, but things are rapidly changing. Museveni needs the support of religious leaders in order to win the next election, but he also needs the international community, especially the United States, to legitimize his dictatorial hold on power. To please both groups—the electorate controlled by anti-gay pastors like Martin Ssempa and the international community—is a fine line to walk.

In this regard, the new bill could work to his advantage by being virtually identical to the new law in Nigeria—which raised almost no international consternation.

In his letter to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (the real power in Uganda at this point) in December last year, Museveni explained that while he opposes the AHA, he nevertheless agreed with anti-gay activists when it comes to barring so-called “promotion,” defined as any mention whatsoever of homosexuality in a positive light in public. This bill, Museveni is likely to argue, fits into the U.S. Right’s narrative that gays are out to recruit children into homosexuality.

Museveni may want to play good politics here. But how is he going to please religious leaders (who are crucial to his hold on power), with their close ties to, and funding from, the U.S. conservative Evangelicals who were behind the creation of the “Kill the Gays” law?

Museveni may wish to veto the new anti-gay law when the Parliament inevitably passes it again—as they have pledged to do—in order to save face with the international community, and preserve the approximately $118 Million the African nation reserves in foreign aid from various Western countries. But even if he were to do so, the Parliament could easily override the veto by simply passing the bill two more times. Museveni has been backed into a no-win political corner, as he would be blamed for the loss of foreign aid if he signs the bill intolaw, but if he vetoes the (sadly) popular anti-gay legislation and is overridden by the Parliament, it would be the final nail in the coffin of his political career.

Regardless of how much he wants to present himself as a moderate to the international community, Museveni does not have the power to stop the anti-gay bill from becoming.

So what is to be done?

The anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has boiled up to the tipping point in Uganda, Nigeria, the Gambia, and so many other African countries is not native to Africa. Rather, as I discuss in American Culture Warriors in Africa, it was born in the United States. U.S conservative culture warriors such as Rick Warren, Lou Engle, Scott Lively, Sharon Slater, and others have successfully capitalized on the widespread anger and mistrust of all things Western in African nations after decades of colonization by Western governments—infiltrating local communities to export their anti-LGBTQ and anti-sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) views in the name of religion. They have also defined Western LGBTQ people as straw men villains, who these U.S. conservatives are there to “warn” Africans about—feeding off of existing prejudices against anything Western while simultaneously neo-colonializing Africa’s values with their own Western anti-human right prejudices.

Spreading imagined and fictitious stories of Western gays infiltrating African schools and recruiting and abusing African children into “gay lifestyles” has fruitfully turned many Africans to U.S. conservative causes. And providing local religious and political leaders with funding and connections has won these U.S. conservatives a powerful crop of talking heads and decision makers who are all too willing to further the homophobic and sexist policies to please their new benefactors.

Local LGBTQ organizations that are on the ground and working day and night to educate and change hearts throughout Africa are fully capable of turning this trend around, if only the spigot of U.S.-based anti-LGBTQ and anti-women money, resources, and talking points were turned off.

While Western people of conscience should indeed take heart at the temporary push-back of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, it is imperative to triple our efforts to shed light and bring to justice the culture warriors who live in our own backyard. The only path to safety and equality for the African LGBTQ community is for Americans to stop the source of this evil where it lives, and allowing the African LGBTQ activist communities to work for change in their countries without the exportation of the culture wars from the U.S.

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From Singapore to Arizona: Right-Wing Groups Invade Classrooms and Curriculum

Agatha Tan, a 17-year-old high school student in Singapore, recently attended a mandatory sex-ed class at her school. She was appalled by what was being taught, and took the opportunity to address her concerns in a Facebook post addressed to her school’s principal. “From merely glancing through this booklet,” she explained to him, “I learned a simple yet important lesson: that bigotry is very much alive and it was naïve of me to think I could be safe from it even in school.”

Tan’s post, which quickly went viral, critiqued the program’s promotion of rape culture, sexist gender stereotypes, and anti-LGBTQ perspectives. It also brought to attention the source of these messages—Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family (FOTF) is a global right-wing Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, CO. Founded by the conservative Christian psychologist James Dobson in 1977, it has grown significantly in size and influence since then. In 2012, FOTF had nearly 750 employees, revenue of nearly $91 million, and net assets of nearly $53 million. CitizenLink—the political advocacy arm of FOTF—had about 50 employees, revenue of more than $13 million, and net assets of $3.5 million.

In addition to its sprawling Colorado Springs “campus” (FOTF even has its own zip code), FOTF maintains a massive web presence and produces several programs that air on Christian radio stations globally. Some 4,000 radio and TV stations in more than 40 countries carry their broadcasts. To support these international efforts, FOTF has affiliate offices in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ireland, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, and Taiwan.

FOTF has campaigned against LGBTQ people since its founding. The organization’s director of family formation studies, Glenn Stanton, has described homosexuality as “a particularly evil lie of Satan because he knows that it overthrows the very image of the Trinitarian God in creation, revealed in the union of male and female.” One FOTF analyst, Jeff Johnston, has described homosexuality as “Satan roam[ing] the earth like a lion, using sexual and relational brokenness to destroy individuals, families, churches, groups, [and] businesses.”

As for abortion, James Dobson says it’s “the greatest moral evil of our time.”

As Tan put it, “FotF has used sexuality education as an opportunity to further spread their own conservative, ‘God-ordained’ beliefs rather than to educate students on arguably more important things such as safe sex, sexual identity and shared and equal responsibility.”

ripped bookMeanwhile, here in the U.S., a school board in Gilbert, Arizona recently voted to “edit” a high school honors biology textbook after determining that it does not align with a 2-year-old state law. Under Senate Bill 1009, which went into effect in April 2012, “no Arizona school district ‘may allow any presentation during instructional time or furnish any materials to pupils as part of any instruction that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.'”

The textbook in question, Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections (Seventh Edition), includes a chapter that discusses abstinence, birth-control methods, tubal ligations and vasectomies, and drugs that can induce abortion. (Note: all of the information included is strictly based on medical facts and doesn’t advocate any positions on these topics.)

In this case, it was the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) that stepped in to ensure that this public school’s curriculum be restricted to only the most conservative understandings of gender, sexuality, and reproduction.

According to school board member Jill Humpherys, ADF complained about the textbook to Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto this past summer, and eventually argued their way to censorship victory—the board made its 3-2 decision after listening to a presentation from Natalie Decker, an ADF lawyer. Though Decker didn’t offer any recommendations for how exactly the book should be altered in order to be in compliance with the law, board member Daryl Colvin has an idea. “The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page,” he said.

ADF is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, but much like FOTF, it has a global reach (made possible by its network of over 2,200 lawyers). Formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, this legal ministry committed to “religious freedom” was created in 1994 by a team of conservative Christian leaders, including FOTF’s James Dobson. Tom Minnery, FOTF’s senior vice president of government and public policy, currently sits on ADF’s board of directors.

ADF serves as a key opponent to reproductive justice efforts in the U.S., working to end what they refer to as the “premeditated murder of the helpless.” Their efforts have included lawsuits aimed at discontinuing funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, forcing young adults to obtain parental consent for abortions, and eliminating critical reproductive healthcare elements of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the leadership of president, CEO, and general counsel, Alan Sears, ADF claims to have “successfully defended marriage as the union between one man and one woman in over 40 cases nationwide.” According to their website, “Redefining marriage is ultimately part of a larger effort to redesign society in order to give social approval of homosexual behavior, and to empower social acceptance of a forgery of gender and sexual practice at odds with natural law and the faith of millions.”

FOTF, ADF, and their crew of right-wing allies are working in courtrooms and classrooms around the world to influence the policies that define the strength and extent of our freedoms. May our resistance be as bold and brilliant at Agatha Tan’s.

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LIVE BLOG: Values Voter Summit 2014, Day 2

Welcome to PRA’s live-blog of the 2014 right-wing Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. Refresh for updates. Follow us on twitter @PRAeyesright for even faster updates.

If you’re looking for our recap of Day 1, it’s here.

VVS logo

5:30pm: That’s all for the live-blog! Thanks so much for following along. PRA will be releasing detailed analysis if the Right’s new strategies over the next few days! 

4:10pm: (workshop) We Are Winning! How to Save Religious Liberty hosted by Liberty Council

Before this session starts, we encourage our readers to watch this short video of PRA senior fellow Fred Clarkson, explaining how the Right is redefining Religious Liberty from being a shield for individuals into a sword for institutions:

Liberty Institute says they are “winning” the battle of Religious Liberty. Sadly, that’s very very true. The Left has yet to figure out how to truly speak to the truth about Religious Liberty (upcoming PRA report, don’t worry).

Liberty Inst says they work in 4 different areas: public arena, schools, churches, the military. They say that religious liberty has nothing to do with individual rights, but about the right of churches and pastors to “expand outside of the walls of the church.”

Liberty Institute is really leaning on the rules that pastors cannot give religious sermons at public school graduations. According to these Christian Right groups, their own religious liberty is violated if they are not allowed to preach to non-Christian students were are required to be sitting in the audience.

Liberty Institute now talking to a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in the South who wanted to build a church on the public town square. Town told him that he was required to get 60% approval signatures from residents within 1/4 mile. Liberty Institute says that’s an absolute violation of religious freedom. Unfortunately, Liberty Institute has failed to highlight the part about the building being on the public town square–and that allowing a church to be built on public property is a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state.

How does Liberty Institute win so many cases? They cherry pick cases in small towns that have little resources or qualified city attorneys. They then charge in with $500k/hr attorneys to establish precedent they can take to the next small town.

Now hearing from Brooks Hamby, a high school student was asked not to give a religious speech at a public school assembly. Despite Hamby’s outrage, it sounds like his teacher, counselor, principal, and then superintendent all went the extra mile to try and help him understand that there are many non-Christian students who are required to be in the audience who would be offended by his speech. He gave it anyway.

Now hearing from Sergeant Phillip Monk, who claims that he was disciplined by a lesbian superior officer for having anti-Marriage Equality beliefs. The entire story is fabricated. In reality, a lieutenant that Monk oversaw was forcing his religious beliefs onto non-Christian subordinates. Monk’s commander (who happened to be a lesbian) ordered Monk to stop the Lieutenant from doing so. Monk refused and disobeyed a direct order from his commanding officer. He, in fact, was not punished. Rather, he was simply reassigned to another position that was still commensurate with his rank. Yet somehow, he’s managed to spin his story into being about Liberty Institute’s faux version of religious liberty.

Now in the Q&A portion. Audience member asked about SPLC. Liberty Institute and other right-wing groups have evolved–slipping so far into the extremes that they have attained “hate group” status. But instead of that being a wake-up call, or moment for self-reflection, they instead turn around and attack SPLC and groups like PRA for being “hate groups.”

3:15pm: How to Stop Losing: Reclaiming Blue Collar Conservatives (workshop)

Sen Rick Santorum says for the last few decades, the GOP has not paid attention to workers. Says they face problems like stagnate wages.

Santorum says GOP candidates need to show up at traditionally Democratic working neighborhoods (who have seen their labor rights eroded). It’s interesting to listen to him talk about outreach to workers, while the economic Right is waging a war against low-wage worker organizing (more on that here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/06/04/dark-money-dirty-war-the-corporate-crusade-against-low-wage-workers/

Santorum’s #1 idea for how Republicans can reach working families who are traditionally Democratic supporters? “Eliminate more corporate taxes.”

Santorum says almost all of the 6 million net jobs created in last few decades have been taken by “illegal immigrants.” He adds that those immigrants are the reason why worker wages are stagnant, because “as all those illegal immigrants come into the country and take all the jobs, they hold keep the wages low.”

Basically, Senator Santorum isn’t advocating for any changes to policy. Rather, he says that conservatives need to start mentioning workers when they speak, instead of just the CEOs and business owners.

2:10 pm: Glenn Beck

Beck says he told his wife “we could burn every school book, all we need is this [the bible].”

Beck really is quite clever. He wrote his own intro to the bible, talking about how the government isn’t biblical enough. He’s reading it from inside a real bible, elevating his words to “scripture status.”

Beck says he will stand with LGBTQ people against Russia or other countries that seek to kill sexual minorities. Yet on his show, he regularly hosts U.S. culture warriors who export homophobia and sexism to those countries and are directly involved in the creation of those laws. More details on that here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/africa/book-american-culture-warriors-in-africa/

Always a fan of props, Beck has so far held up an original arrest warrant from the Salem Witch Trials, and the mic used by Tokyo Rose.

Beck is talking about “a revolution of love.” Have to wonder if he’s trying to counter the disturbingly large and growing segment of the Right using violent rhetoric: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/06/11/rumblings-of-theocratic-violence/

It seems Beck’s speech is primarily about how to get the Right to stop sounding so opposed to everything. (Not to actually change their policy, of course. But to sound like they are.)

The weirdest thing about Beck’s speech? The last 14ish speakers before him spent a day and a half telling this audience that all Muslims are terrorists to be hated and feared.

It’s official. Glenn Beck is the closest thing to being a voice of reason at the 2014 Values Voter Summit.


 

PFOX, a group advocating ex-gay torture for youth, talks to parents at VVS14

PFOX, a group advocating ex-gay reparative therapy for youth, talks to parents at VVS14

 

 

FRC's Peter Sprigg talks to a father and his young son at VVS14

FRC’s Peter Sprigg talks to a father and his young son at VVS14

Glenn Beck's staff setup his chalkboard and props for his VVS14 speech.

Glenn Beck’s staff setup his chalkboard and props for his VVS14 speech.

Washington Times being promoted at VVS. They provided much of the funding for the Summit.

Washington Times being promoted at VVS. They provided much of the funding for the Summit.

Lunch Break Until 2pm EST.

Noon: Bridgitte Gabriel, president of Act! for America.

Gabriel already diving down Islamophobia tunnel. Says “more than 20% of Muslims are willing to walk into this room and blow us to smithereens.”

Gabriel is comparing “radical Islam” to Nazis, Russians, Chinese, and 9/11 terrorists.

The last speaker (Todd Starnes) talked about how Christians are being persecuted for their religion. Now, Gabriel is advocating for US government persecution of Muslims.

Gabriel made a point to say she is “only talking about the radical Islamists.” But then tells a story about how she grew up knowing that “all Muslims want us dead.”

These terrorist attacks “are always Islamists against Westerners.”

An audience member just said “we should kill all the Muslims.” All the audience members around her murmured “yeah.”

Gabriel is the 2nd VVS speaker to specifically use the phrase “we need to start telling the *truth* about Islam.”

Gabriel says Act! for America has passed 35 bills in 17 states over the last 5 years. That might be the scariest thing we’ve heard yet, today?

11:45 am: Fox News personality Todd Starnes

Interestingly, Starnes is introduced as “someone who promotes our [right-wing] Christian values to America.”

Starnes says America is targeting only one religion for persecution, and that’s Christianity. He also says Obama is treating the American military as a “social experiment petri dish.”

Starnes is hitting the highlights:

  • repeats the Right’s redefined version of religious liberty, falsely claiming that “you can either own a business or have faith. But you can’t do both.”
  • Repeats the totally-fake IRS scandal.
  • Laments that public university student clubs aren’t able to kick out LGBTQ student members.

Starnes is also going on about how speakers at public universities and schools should be able to preach Christianity to non-Christian students who are required to be in attendance.

11:25 am: Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Bridenstine gets a cheer for being a Navy pilot. Can’t help but remember when 2 years ago they booed an active Marine in Afghanistan just because he was also gay.

Bridenstine says that “the surge” worked, and “completely secured Iraq.”

Bridenstine says we never should left Iraq, and is advocating leaving combat soldiers on the ground their indefinitely. *standing ovation* He got another standing O for being the latest speaker at VVS to call for a full-scale invasion of Iraq and Syria immediately.

Bridenstine says “absolutely nowhere in the constitution or the 1st Amendment is there separation of church and state.” He also says that if we remove the word ‘god’ from the pledge of allegiance, it would officially establish Atheism as the national religion.

“Let me tell you, the Korean War was just.”

According to Rep Bridenstine, North Korea lost the war and their citizens are starving because they “don’t have God.”

11:00 am: Common Core panel, led by FRC’s Sarah Perry

Panel claims that Common Core is a secret Obama plot to flood schools with the LGBTQ agenda.

The level of tap dancing going on by the panel is truly amazing to watch. They admit that Common Core was started by the states, but say it’s federal because of funding. They admit that the states are the ones to set the standards, but say it’s a federal takeover.

So why is the Right working so hard to push this Common Core conspiracy? In private schools, they’ve successfully integrated textbooks for kids that deny evolution, claim climate change is a myth, etc.

10:40am: Star Parker

Parker says she wants Franklin Graham to run for president.

“Liberals are unable to see how evil they are or the violence they cause.”

Parker is claiming that Liberals are purposefully covering up the existence of “many other Kermit Gosnells” [he was the abortion doctor who was illegally performing late-term abortions].

10:15am: Tony Perkins and right-wing radio personality Mark Levin

Perkins opens the interview with a joke about how all Democrats commit voter fraud.

Levin says that “the Left is totalitarian. They can’t win on ideas because their ideas are goofy and stupid.” He added that the only thing the Left really does is “package things as compassionate, but then talk about race and genitalia.”

Levin is swinging heavily at the so-called “establishment Republican party. He says they lose elections because they are “cowards and neostatist big government Republicans.” He also says that when they lose, “they blame us [social conservatives], and when they win they pat themselves on the back.”

First Hillary joke alert: “Hillary Clinton is just Barack Obama in a … well not a skirt… in a pant suit.”

Levin went on to say that it’s time to tell the truth about Islam. “We’re sending soldiers to fight against fundamental Islam, and it’s damn time for the president to admit that.”

The VVS audience gave a good giggle when Perkins quoted President Obama saying “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Interestingly, Levin says that neo-confederate secessionists “don’t really understand the constitution.” It’s interesting because many of those secessionists have already spoken here at VVS14.

9:48am: Mat Staver, chair of Liberty Council

Staver kicks off with a Voter ID joke, says he knows it’s a conservative audience “because no one here tried to vote twice.”

Staver is describing a visit to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. Drawing parallels to America ‘ignoring the warnings.’

Staver adds his name to the list of VVS speaker who repeat the absolute LIE that employees using their earned benefits for contraception is equivalent to companies paying for abortions.

Staver says he loves everyone, but “every once in a while it’s time to act like Jesus with the money changers.” (Is he advocating whipping Liberals?)

Literally 20 seconds after calling same-sex parents “straight from the pit of hell,” Staver says “we would never run an ad in the Washington Post calling people haters.”

Staver also complained about the states that have outlawed ex-gay torture on LGBTQ youth.

Staver finished his speech saying he was thrilled that in this generation, even “red and yellow” people are “bending their knees to god.”

9:30am: Ryan Bomberger

Anti-choice activist Ryan Bomberger is next. Check out our full profile on him here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/09/12/the-next-generation-of-antichoice-ryan-bomberger/

Bomberger goes after “venom-spewing hateful SPLC” for designating FRC a hate group.

Bomberger says it’s ironic that Liberals “who only exist because of free speech,” have “the audacity to call the murder of unborn children ‘reproductive freedom.'”

It’s interesting to hear Bomberger talk so much about an “assault on unborn black babies,” when right-wing groups are PAYING CASH to women of color to sterilize themselves and reduce the number of Black children being born.

9:10am: Sandy Rios

Anti-choice activist Sandy Rios is speaking first. You can read our full profile on her here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/10/21/profiles-on-the-right-sandy-rios/

Rios says that “even more than gay marriage or abortion, God hates pride the most” and it will destroy the country.

Rios walks through examples of pride she says are evil and “destroying the country because God hates it.” Included in her examples: a girl who decides she wants to live with her boyfriend, and former Boston mayor Tom Menino who after the Marathon Bombing said the city will survive because we’re Boston Strong (didn’t give credit to god).

She concluded talking about David & Goliath, saying “America will kill her enemies so that the world will know there is a god in America.”

9:00am: VVS is once again promoting I Pledge Sunday

The Christian Right has developed an app for pastors to check and see whether or not members of their congregations are registered to vote / have voted. More details here: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2014/09/25/theres-now-an-app-to-further-the-christian-rights-notion-of-religious-freedom/

8:56 am: Conference hall starting to fill up. Should be getting started in about 4 minutes.

LIVE BLOG: Values Voters Summit 2014, Day 1

Welcome to PRA’s live-blog of the 2014 right-wing Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. Refresh for updates. Follow us on twitter @PRAeyesright for even faster updates.

Looking for our live coverage of Day 2? It’s here

VVS logo

9:06 pm: That’s it for us today! Thanks for following along, we’ll be back first thing in the morning with live coverage of Day 2 of #VVS14.

8:40 pm – Dunham Brothers

Up now are the Dunham brothers, who were fired from HDTV after they used their positions are representatives of the company to promote religious beliefs.

It’s fascinating how when LGBTQ people boycott a business, the Right labels it as tyranny. But when a private company follows market trends and fires employees who are losing them money, who happen to be Christian, that’s also tyranny?

8:20pm Duck Dynasty’s Alan Robertson

Alan Robertson’s speech is just odd. He started off by comparing his family’s beards to Osama Bin Laden. He then compared each member to different dogs, including his Uncle who is “just like a meth lab.”

He’s also pitching Phil Robertson’s new book, and talking about his now infamous anti-LGBTQ statements. Oddly enough, he has yet to mention Phil’s statements supporting underage marriage.

By the end of his speech. Robertson had fully pitched (including slides) 1 TV show, and 4 separate books written by various members of the family.

It’s worth mentioning that the Duck Dynasty Robertson family are all multi-millionaires, who pretend to be poor on tv in order to sell more product.

8:00pm Mike Huckabee

Huckabee starts with a Benghazi reference, saying that the “red phone” at the White House “went to voicemail that night” when the call for help came in.

Huackabee is just the latest today to equate ISIS with all Muslims everywhere, failing to recognize that there is a huge difference.

Huckabee calls for repealing the 16th amendment and completely abolish the IRS.

Huckabee is rewriting the constitution on stage. Says the judges who have ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional do not have the authority to do that unless the legislative and executive branches concur with them.

Huckabee seems to be in charge of the GOTV effort at VVS. Story after story about how only those who show up and vote make a difference.

7:40 The Duggars

The Duggar family came on stage with almost all of their 19 children. The group sang O’ Precious Blood, and now the parents are talking about how the most important thing in their life was when they were “saved.”

7:30: FRC promo video

FRC is paying tribute to the Washington Times, which provided much of the funding for the Values Voters Summit this year. (pic)

Washington Times FRC

Dinner Break until 7:30 pm tonight.

5:00 pm: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Jindal says “It’s not ‘the economy, stupid.’ It’s ‘the culture, stupid.'”

Jindal also said that Liberals fail to “recognize the dignity” of “all God’s creation.”

Jindal co-opting Liberal talking points, talking about how the American Dream means that the circumstances of your birth shouldn’t determine the outcome of your life. Yet Jindal is in favor of the rising income inequality between entry level workers and CEOs. And he’s in favor of dismantling labor unions and low-wage worker organizing.

Jindal says that the “assault” on religious freedom is unprecedented.

4:38 pm: David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh makes the case for why Jesus was really the savior. Not sure who he’s preaching to. Audience extremely restless, talking to each other.

4:15 pm: Sarah Palin

It took less than 5 seconds for Palin to throw out her first “lamestream media” quote.

“It’s time to fight back against this imperialist gun-hating president.”

“It’s time to end the politics of division” and we need to kick out these “orwellian out-of-control elitists”

Palin on the workout photo: “I rarely wear a ring in Alaska. We’re too busy choppin’ wood or slaughterin’ a moose, or something..”

Palin says all charges of “racism” are just an attempt by Liberals to change the subject. “We here in this room are the most slandered group in America.”

“If ISIS isn’t Islamic, why do you think it has such an appeal to the Muslim world?”

3:41 pm: Anti-Marriage Equality Panel, hosted by FRC’s Peter Sprigg

On the panel:

  • Eric Teetsel, exec dir of the Manhattan Declaration
  • Rep Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  • Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa
  • Dr. Jerry Johnson, CEO of National Religious Broadcasters

Hartzler bemoans Catholic charities CHOOSING to stop receiving federal funding, rather than provide services to LGBTQ parents.

The audience gives an applause to the lone judge in Louisiana who ruled against marriage equality. All other judges post-Windsor have ruled for Marriage Equality.

Melissa Klein breaks down in tears.. very upset that she had to get paid to bake a cake for a happy couple getting married who happened to be LGBTQ.

Dr. Johnson blames the entire Marriage Equality movement on Obama’s inauguration speech, where he mentioned “gay and straight” people. Johnson says that speech signaled to the media that they should support and promote Marriage Equality.

Johnson also encouraged the audience and the media to stop using “LGBT” and to just go back to “gay.” He also says that for conservatives, “history is on our side” on marriage equality–because for “hundreds of years” it has been one-man-one-woman.

3:25 pm: Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)

Fleming says that legalization of marijuana is one of the key factors behind the “decline” of the American family.

Fleming claims that Marijuana is “highly-addictive” and is enslaving youth and teens. Not sure where Fleming gets his statistics, but he claims that rehab centers report that teen marijuana addiction is the most frequent diagnosis. He also claims that there are more pot dispenceries in California and Colorado than there are McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

Fleming also claims that the high-rates of incarceration for simple marijuana use “is an absolute myth.”

According to Fleming, 1 in 11 adult marijuana users become addicted, and 1 in 6 among teens.

“Have I convinced you, yet?” Fleming asks the audience. “Oh yes” they reply.

3:00 pm: American Values president Gary Bauer

Bauer is yet another speaker going the Islamophobia route. He conjured the specter of 9/11, talking about how he saw Muslims cheering afterwards.

He then talked about the Oklahoma employer who was well within his right to tell his Muslim employee to stop trying to convert his fellow employees at work. (But if Christians are told to stop trying to convert at work, that’s a violation of Religious Freedom.)

Bauer went on to categorize all Muslims from several nations, including Iran, as “bloody” and murderous.

Bauer says “We have a president more interested in defending the reputation of Muslims than in defending the lives of Christians.” *standing ovation*

2:35 pm: Rick Santorum

Santorum was introduced by National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown. Brown said that the reason Republicans have been losing elections is because they are trying to stifle social conservatives. He then introduced Santorum, who lost decisively by running as a social conservative.

Santorum is spending his speech talking about Islam. Says if you “truly understand Shia Islam, it’s easy to understand that the path they’re on” is to arm and use nuclear weapons against the U.S. He calls any leader (especially President Obama) who doesn’t recognize the need for action in the middle east is “at Disneyland.”

Santorum truly sounds like he’s calling for all-out war with the entire Islamic world. Says “the reason they’re winning is because they’re the ones willing to sacrifice.”

Santorum also took heavy swings at the so-called “establishment” Republican Party, encouraging attendees to never vote for a candidate who isn’t outspoken on social conservative issues.

2 pm: Kelly Shackleford, president of Liberty Institute

Liberty Institute has been one of the primary drivers behind the Right’s redefinition of religious freedom, transforming the Founder’s shield for individuals into a sword for institutions to impose religious mandates.

Shackleford says that religious employers and employees should be able to discriminate against employees and customers who don’t conform to their religious beliefs.

Shackleford is spending time talking about cases they’re fighting against the ACLU, over veteran war memorials that use Christian imagery and symbols. Liberty Institute calls it a defilement for non-Christian veterans to not want those symbols at the memorials.

“I’ve heard of a soldier who was commanded by his lesbian officer to agree with gay marriage, or be discharged.”

Lunch Break until 2pm

12:30 pm Lt Colonel Oliver North (ret)

North’s speech centered around the idea that American soldiers are star-spangled awesome, and far too good for the likes of Pres. Obama to be leading.

He also threw down on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, saying “U.S. soldiers are being treated like lab rats in a radical social engineering experiment.”

Like a few speakers before him, North also reiterated that “America has nothing to apologize for.” As PRA fellow T.F. Charlton quipped on Twitter: “Except for slavery, Jim Crow, genocide, land theft, rampant inequality, prisons…”

11:50 am: Michele Bachmann

Interesting way to start a speech: “I’m a normal, real person.”

Bachmann is the latest to repeat the popular conservative line about how rights are given by god, and how “no man can take them away.” If that’s the case, we have to wonder why conservatives are claiming that the Left is “taking away” religious liberty rights.

Bachmann is also leaning heavily on Hillary Clinton. Says she fostered a “smaller, weaker America” and that “we want our 1984 foreign policy back!” (not sure whether or not she’s referencing Iran-Contra.)

Bachmann adding her name to the list of people blurring the line between Muslims and ISIS. Says “Mr. President, [ISIS] IS all about Islam. … We need to kill this evil!”

11:30am: Sen Rand Paul (R-KY)

Rand Paul is now the 4th speaker today to bring up the McCarthey-esque “our enemies are not without but within” theme. Paul also called the war against ISIS in Syria illegal, saying that “if I’d been president, I would have called a joint-session of Congress.

Paul also takes swipes at Obama’s use of executive orders, calling them tyrannical and illegal.

“Obamacare tries to separate our faith from our businesses. Thanks goodness for the [Hobby Lobby] Supreme court ruling.”

Paul also claimed the the “rise of radical Islam” is the result of the secular persecution of Christians around the world.

Paul says he wants to withhold “every dollar” of foreign aid to every country where any Christian is persecuted. He, of course, did not mention anything about the torture, rape, and murder of LGBTQ people and women all over the world—including here in the U.S.

11:00 am: Texas Lt. Gov David Dewhurst

Dewhurst touts the Texas legislature passing the infamous anti-abortion bill last year, despite protests by Wendy Davis and sexual and reproductive health and rights supporters. He claims all SRHR supporters in Texas were just bused in.

Dewhurst moves on to illegal immigration. Says “If we don’t stop these bad guys at the border, they’re going to be in your neighborhoods tomorrow.” He also calls for a much faster deportation process for the refuge immigrant children who are fleeing gang and drug violence in Central/South America.

He also says that finding prayer rugs near the border is “proof” that terrorists have infiltrated the U.S.

10:30: Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

(Last year, Cruz’s speech touting the GOP Government Shutdown was interrupted by several protesters calling for immigration reform)

Cruz started by claiming he’d “elevated the debate” over Obamacare when he shut down the government last year. And he joked about how the Secret Service should arrest that “intruder” Obama from getting into the White House.

Cruz went on to make some sweeping accusations, claiming that all Christians in Muslim nations are being persecuted.

But the nuts and bolts came with Hobby Lobby, which Cruz called a “phenomenal ruling.” The Senator lamented that the ruling was only 5-4, and repeated the incredibly medically inaccurate conservative claim that emergency contraception are “abortion-inducing pills.”

Cruz also made a big defense of Citizens United, calling efforts to overturn it “tyranny” and “evil extremism” design to repress free speech.

 

10:12 am: Rep Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind)

Stutzman is only hitting the greatest hits: “Families are great,” “Big Government Liberals are bad.” Although he did call for the abolishment of the NSA, EPA, and IRS.

9:30 am: Next up is a panel on terrorism. On the panel is:

  • Lt. General William Boykin – Executive Vice President, FRC; Former Commander, Delta Forces*
  • Gen. James Conway – Former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps*
  • Major Gen. (Ret.) Robert Dees, Associate Vice President for Military Outreach, Liberty University*
  • Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)*

Maj. Gen. (ret) Robert Dees gives frightening speech about American Exceptionalism. Warns that “We have been infiltrated! There are enemies within!” Claims there are “Muslim safehavens” all over the U.S. where terror cells form and are safe. He was given a standing ovation. Dees also says that U.S. soldiers have “lost all faith” in the Commander-in-Chief. Making a veiled reference to the repeal of DADT, he says “soldiers don’t have time to be P.C.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) says that Al Qaeda has terrorist cells in Columbia and other parts of South America, and that America’s “open southern borders” are “letting in terrorists to live among us.” Meadows went on to say we should not be relying on Iraq or Syrian soldiers. Makes the case for U.S. troops to permanently occupy middle east territory.

Boykin finishes. Says it’s terrible that we sent 3k troops to Africa to help deal with Ebola, says we should have sent them to fight ISIS instead.

9:17am: Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Jordan laments that Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision was only 5-4. Says Obama Administration is purposefully targeting Religious Freedom and 2nd Amendment. Jordan then focuses heavily on the supposed IRS scandal, saying that the Left was purposefully targeting conservative PACS. He says Dems are using scary terms like “dark money” and “shadow groups.” “They’re coming after us!” he says.

9:10am: Tony Perkins

Perkins offered up a strong defense of Citizens United, claiming that the Left is “tarring and feathering” wealthy conservatives. During his 5 minute speech, he also hinted at the Left’s supposed “attack” on Religious Liberty. Expecting to hear from almost every speaker this weekend.

9:00am: House cleaning opening speech includes lots of coffee cup/salute jokes, and a near-standing ovation for the resignation of Eric Holder.

8:50am: @JoeMyGod will be thrilled, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family & Property are here. (pic below)

TFP

8:47 am: Waiting for the sessions to kick off for this year’s VVS. There’s a new group in the exhibit hall this year, the “ex-gay” PFOX.

Sticks and Cages, Carrots & Cash: The Right’s Racist Assaults on Reproductive Freedom

This post is the fourth in a five-part series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read parts one, two, and three.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment covers private and state mechanisms for preventing poor people of color, particularly Black women, from having children.  

As shown in the most recent post in this series, institutions like hospitals and other health care providers—generally regarded as unequivocally positive presences among White communities—often cast a much more violent shadow over communities of color. Similarly, White communities typically experience police officers as their protectors, while the same forces can pose a constant and lethal threat to law-abiding Black communities. People of color are also disproportionately likely to be ensnared in institutions designed to exert control without any veil of benevolence. Because mainstream narratives situate Black and Brown bodies as dangerous, as somehow oppositional or threatening to White American identity and nationhood, the state project of containing people of color is normalized and accepted as legitimate. Unspeakably inhumane apparatuses are thus widely regarded as necessary. Of the institutions violently managing Black and Brown bodies and populations (in every sense of both terms), mass incarceration likely looms largest.

The criminal justice system deploys a variety of methods to deny incarcerated people their rights to have children, and because mass incarceration is a racist project, African American people bear the brunt of this punishment. (Significantly, incarceration itself fundamentally obstructs the right to parent, making it a critical reproductive justice issue.) One such method is deliberately handing a woman a sentence likely to extend through her procreative years; another is forcing people convicted of certain crimes to “choose” between serving jail time and adopting long-acting contraceptive use; another is shifting parental rights over newborns to foster or adoptive parents; and another still is the practice of shunting people into carceral institutions distant from their communities and their partners. Additionally, incarcerated people’s access to reproductive health care tends to be abysmal. In some prisons and jails, the problem is not just the absence or insufficiency of care, but also procedures that are undertaken without informed consent.

A study by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found that between 2006 and 2010, nearly 150 people (if not more) held in California state prisons were sterilized under coercion and without legally mandated state approval. Christina Cordero, who received an unauthorized tubal ligation while incarcerated, said the prison OB-GYN persistently recommended that she undergo the procedure, making her “feel like a bad mother if [she] didn’t do it.” Kimberly Jeffrey, a Black woman who was also sterilized while incarcerated, reported being “pressured by a doctor while sedated and strapped to a surgical table for a C-section” (emphasis added). Jeffrey also recalls being told that she could only reclaim custody of her youngest child if she underwent a full hysterectomy. Jeffrey, who works with Justice Now, received no medical consultation about the operation, and her explicit resistance was ignored. Even if she had willingly acceded to the operation, however, Jeffrey could not have given consent: according to University of Pennsylvania Law professor Dorothy Roberts, courts have ruled that the conditions of labor can impair judgment, making it such that informed consent cannot be given during labor. (See Roberts’s Killing the Black Body ((1997)) for a more comprehensive analysis of attacks on Black women’s bodies and fertility.)

James Heinrich, the unremorseful OB-GYN who performed many of the tubal ligations, told CIR that he believed the cost of the surgeries, at nearly $150,000,to be negligible “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children…as they procreated more.” Heinrich’s language is loaded. “Unwanted” implies promiscuity and assumes carelessness, while “procreated” indicates animalism, as opposed to the white feminine ideal of nurturing motherhood. Perhaps most appalling is Heinrich’s implicit bottom line: that certain people, disproportionately poor women of color and particularly poor Black women, ought not to have children because their offspring would be supported at the expense of the state’s more deserving citizens. Like the mythical “anchor babies” of Latina/o immigrants, the children of incarcerated people are presumed to be parasitic strains on the “system” even prior to their conception.

His prejudicial premise aside, Heinrich’s cost-benefit analysis hardly stands up to interrogation. His economic argument belies the fact that the exponential rise in incarceration itself, caused not by a rise in crime but rather by increasingly harsh and inflexible sentencing laws, has incurred enormous cost to the state. While expenditures on assistance under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families totaled about $5.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2013, the President’s FY13 budget request for the Federal Bureau of Prisons was $6.9 billion.

For those complicit in imposing tubal ligations in California prisons, the procedures were predicated not on smart budgeting so much as on problematic notions of who deserves support and who deserves punishment. Like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and its rabidly anti-immigration constituency, Heinrich and his colleagues cast poor women of color as scam artists or conniving thieves, rather than rational agents of their own reproduction. The anti-immigration Right may no longer be taking active measures to physically manage Latina women’s fertility, but the arguments for sterilizing incarcerated people who can become pregnant (who, in California and elsewhere, are disproportionately poor and of color) are much the same as the arguments put forth by FAIR and other nativist groups highlighted earlier in this series.

Some on the Right, however, have explicitly condemned the malfeasances that occurred in California prisons, based on the notion that sterilization frustrates potential life. These anti-choice groups’ denunciation is well directed, but ill-reasoned. The arguments and strategies employed by individuals and groups like Heinrich and FAIR are reprehensible not because of the hypothetical lives lost to sterilization, but because they deprive living people of their fundamental right to build the families they wish to build. Still, while imagined children are not the victims, nor are they irrelevant. It is critical to understand that the criminalization of Blackness, of Brownness, and of poverty is so entrenched that it precedes birth.

Moreover, while certain right-wing groups have seized the opportunity to criticize the wrongdoings undertaken by state institutions under majority Democratic governance, the same factions have looked on silently, even supportively, as Project Prevention (PP, formerly Children Requiring A Caring Kommunity, or C.R.A.C.K.) pursues a parallel process, ideologically and practically, outside of prisons.

The name C.R.A.C.K. invokes President Reagan’s manufactured panic surrounding the crack epidemic and its racialized and scientifically baseless ghouls, “crack mothers” and “crack babies.” The organization was founded in 1994 by Barbara Harris, whose first mission was to pass state legislation punishing people who give birth to drug-exposed infants. Such punishments, codified and otherwise, abound, and in the 413 cases analyzed in a 2013 study, 59 percent of people subject to state punishment under post-Roe v. Wade legislation criminalizing pregnancy were of color, and 52 percent were African-American. Harris’ particular initiative, however, proved unsuccessful. Founding C.R.A.C.K. was her ostensibly benevolent alternative.

Today, Project Prevention gives $300 in cash to people who are or have been addicted

C.R.A.C.K. flyer targets women of color, offering them cash payouts to go on long-term birth control

C.R.A.C.K. flyer targets women of color, offering them cash payouts to go on long-term birth control

to drugs or alcohol and who submit documentation proving that they have undergone sterilization procedures or are using long-acting contraception, such as Norplant or Depo-Provera. The organization, whose advertising targets low-income communities of color, also disseminates stigmatizing and scientifically inaccurate literature, which describes imagined horrors of drug-addicted motherhood and the irresponsible hyperfertility Harris attributes to women who use drugs.

Just as the California sterilizations took place among the innumerable other restrictions incarceration imposes on incarcerated people’s reproductive lives, Project Prevention represents an extreme manifestation of racist ideologies and practices that are widely accepted and deeply rooted in American society.

Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), argues that the organization’s strategies are actually part and parcel of Harris’ original, more overtly punitive, intention. PP’s mission, she argues, could be “understood as one designed to stigmatize certain people and to make them seem appropriate targets for sterilization and other forms of population control” (23).

Paltrow’s analysis is supported by a 2012 article Jed Bickman published in Salon, which states that of the 4,077 people the newly rebranded Project Prevention had paid to be sterilized or use long-acting contraceptives, 24 percent were African-American. The United States population is only 13.2 percent Black, and illicit drug use among Black Americans is not substantiallyif at allhigher than it is among White Americans.

Groups like NAPW have worked extensively to expose and oppose PP’s discriminatory efforts to undercut reproductive justice. But where is the Right with its ardent defense of life and unequivocal condemnation of contraception? They’re funding Harris. By 2006, C.R.A.C.K. had received donations totaling more than $2 million, the majority of which, Paltrow documents, came from wealthy conservatives. Major benefactors included the Allegheny Foundation, founded by the “funding father of the right,” billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife (who also contributed millions of dollars to FAIR and to other nativist projects initiated by FAIR’s eugenecist founder, John Tanton.); Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the vitriolically anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ talk show host; and right0-wing donor Jim Woodhill, Woodhill also hired British psychologist and unabashed eugenicist Chris Brand to bring Project Prevention overseas. Project Prevention’s sites of operation now include Haiti and Kenya, where its staff works to sterilize women with HIV.

Like Heinrich and the fertility-obsessed nativists, Project Prevention’s representatives are adept at speaking in code. The publicity team at Project Prevention characterizes the organization as seeking to “save our welfare system and the world from the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer for each drug-addicted birth”(Bickman).Ultimately, all of these enemies of reproductive autonomy position themselves as noble crusaders against the “threat” of government resources sustaining Black and brown children and families.

In the final installment of this series, I will more specifically address welfare’s role as part of the Right’s rhetorical and practical strategies for vilifying poor women of color and limiting their reproductive freedoms.

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Museveni Plays Politics with Human Rights

On Friday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) on procedural grounds, ruling that it was invalid because Parliament lacked a quorum when it passed the legislation on December 20, 2013. (In Uganda’s Parliament, a quorum requires that at least one third of members are present when a vote is held.) Thanks to this decision, LGBTI Ugandans no longer face the risk of life imprisonment, and advocacy for LGBTI rights is no longer criminalized. While this ruling is a significant victory for Uganda’s LGBTI community, the road forward remains rocky and steep. And the timing of the decision raises concerns that President Museveni is once again playing politics with human rights.

It’s ironic that the court struck down the law based on an issue that President Museveni himself raised in his letter to Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on December 28, 2013—the very letter that led many people to the incorrect conclusion that Museveni would not sign the bill into law. Despite his criticism of the Speaker, succession struggles in his own party compelled Museveni to sign the bill—making him the hero of Uganda’s highly influential anti-gay pastors.

With the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in D.C happening this week (an event that Museveni is expected to attend, despite significant outcry from international human rights advocates), the timing of the court’s ruling should be viewed with suspicion. Some analysts claim that Museveni forced the courts to rush this ruling in time for his U.S. trip.

Quite probably, Friday’s ruling is Museveni’s attempt to silence the international outrage that has been directed against him and his country since he signed the AHA into law in February. Beyond that, it is an attempt to clear his path to yet another term as president. (He has already been in power for 28 years.) Since Uganda’s opposition candidates have condemned the law, this ruling works to the advantage of Museveni at home as well as internationally, allowing embargoed aid from the World Bank, the U.S., and other Western nations (approximately $118 million in total) to resume its flow into the country’s coffers.

The Court did not consider substantive objections to the legislation made by those challenging its constitutionality, ruling only on the technical issue of the quorum. That is, the ruling establishes no precedent with respect to human rights. The legislation could potentially be reintroduced. However, Museveni understands the cost of this law to his own image abroad and it seems unlikely he would welcome a re-tabling of the measure anytime soon. Regardless, sodomy laws imposed on Uganda during British colonial rule (which exact upon guilty parties a maximum punishment of seven years in jail) are still in place, and, more significantly, the anti-LGBTI, anti-woman ideologies imported and propagated by Christian fundamentalists from the West remain deeply entrenched.

Following the ruling, Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the petitioners contesting the validity of the law, expressed relief. He also acknowledged, “Society won’t give in.” The LGBTI community in Uganda is braced for a surge in violent retaliation from supporters of the legislation.

Mugisha’s concern warrants reflection: the striking down of this law will not put an end to the violence and persecution experienced by LGBTI persons. If anything, demonization of sexual minorities is likely to escalate. Notorious homophobic pastor Martin Ssempa, a key promoter of the legislation, charged that the “gay lobby” bought off the judges. The reality is that a justice based on technicalities is not trustworthy. We need justice that accepts the full humanity of African LGBTI persons—a justice based on fundamental human rights.

But currently, there is no political will to put the persecution of LGBTI persons in Uganda to rest. It wasn’t long ago that the very same legal system that struck down this law callously threw out SMUG’s case against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo—a person known for persecuting LGBTI persons in Uganda.

And we must not forget that all of this is happening on Museveni’s watch. For all of his flaws, Museveni is a clever politician, and he knows how to please the West. Now, at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, he is about to meet with the very people he has previously referred to as the “homosexual lobby”—and with the law out of play, he can once again feign innocence, alongside other African presidents who are busy imprisoning LGBTI persons using colonial anti-sodomy laws.

Rather than give these African leaders a pass at the Summit we must support African human rights leaders who demand that colonial-era sodomy laws (and their neocolonial expansions supported by U.S. conservatives) be struck down. If we miss this opportunity, we will have allowed Museveni to divert us from our commitment to justice for African LGBTI persons—a dream that will only be realized when sexual minorities are decriminalized.

The process of dismantling these systems of oppression is tedious and difficult, and it requires perseverance, courage, creativity, sacrifice, and steadfast commitment. To endure the journey, we need to pause periodically to celebrate our progress, and when a panel of five judges unanimously nullifies a law that violates the human rights of LGBTI persons—even if the ruling is based more on technicalities than true justice—we are assuredly seeing progress. But after we have paused, momentarily allowing a relieved exhale to quietly escape our lungs, we must inhale once more and cry out even louder than before—tirelessly working for a durable and lasting justice.

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Dominionism Disguised as Aid: Rick Warren’s Expanding Influence in Rwanda

Expanding access to basic healthcare is an important and valuable goal, but what happens when those made responsible for providing the care also hold conservative religious ideologies? What sort of sexual and health education is being taught? How safe do LGBTQ people feel when seeking services? Are gay men able to access the information and resources they need in order to stay healthy? What options are available to women with unwanted pregnancies?

These concerns were amplified in May when megachurch pastor Rick Warren announced that he will return to Africa yet again in August 2015, this time to host an “All-Africa Purpose Driven Church Leadership Training Conference” in Kigali, Rwanda. He is calling for leading African evangelicals from each of the continent’s 54 countries to join him. Warren is also is enlisting 54 American pastors, who will join him in Rwanda, to “adopt” these new “purpose driven” recruits.

Image from saddleback.com

Image from saddleback.com

Rick Warren presents himself as a moderate but is actually a right-wing fundamentalist known for his staunch opposition to LGBTQ equality and women’s reproductive freedom. Sometimes referred to as “America’s pastor,” Warren—who claims Rwanda as his “home” and points to his Rwandan diplomatic passport as proof—is also arguably aspiring to be “Africa’s pastor”: he travels extensively in Africa as part of his dominionist agenda,¹ spreading his dangerous right-wing ideologies wherever he goes. The millionaire pastor has been especially active in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, where he has built close relationships with members of the political, business, and religious elite, including many prominent anti-LGBTQ pastors.

Rwanda, ranked among the world’s poorest countries, has been the focus of much of Warren’s international work since he first visited at the invitation of President Paul Kagame in 2005. Kagame enlisted Warren’s help in making the small African nation the first “purpose driven country” after reading the famous pastor’s bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life.

The book found its way into Kagame’s hands thanks to Joe Ritchie, a Chicago-area businessman, who first partnered with the President in 2003 on economic development efforts in the wake of the 1994 genocide. It was while visiting Ritchie’s Chicago home that Kagame was initially introduced to Warren’s book. The pastor subsequently received a letter from the President stating, “I’m a man of purpose. Can you come help us rebuild our nation?”

Since their first meeting, the two have become close friends and colleagues.

That Kagame has been accused of numerous human rights violations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others seems not to have deterred Warren, who has hosted him multiple times as a guest of honor at Saddleback Church’s main campus in Lake Forest, CA. This isn’t terribly surprising considering Warren’s close ties to Martin Ssempa, an aggressively anti-LGBTQ pastor in Uganda who was responsible for helping to draft and promote the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.

While Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was ultimately signed into law earlier this year, similar efforts were thwarted in Rwanda in 2009, when penal code revisions that would have criminalized homosexuality were rejected as violations of basic human rights.

In the nine years since his first visit, Warren has returned to Rwanda countless times. He is a member of Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council and has developed an extensive relationship with hundreds of congregations in Rwanda through Saddleback’s PEACE Plan, which is described as “an initiative of Purpose Driven Ministries that brings together all Christian churches in Rwanda with the ultimate purpose of building peace within our community.”²

Specifically, Warren’s PEACE Plan endeavors to tackle what he refers to as the five “Global Giants”:

P – Plant churches and promote reconciliation – to address spiritual emptiness
E – Equip leaders – to address corrupt leadership
A – Assist the poor – to address extreme poverty
C – Care for the sick – to address pandemic diseases and suffering they cause
E – Educate the next generation – to address illiteracy and lack of education

Because the HIV/AIDS crisis is a primary focus of Warren’s work in Africa, one of the major PEACE Plan projects launched in Rwanda is the Rwanda Healthcare Initiative, a “grassroots effort to mobilize volunteers in community health who are proficient in home visits and health promotion, with a focus on the early identification, treatment care and support of people living with HIV through the local church.” Citing a lack of hospitals and clinics in the country, Warren has used the Rwanda Healthcare Initiative to promote the use of churches as distribution centers for medicine and basic healthcare.

Which returns us to the question, what happens when those made responsible for providing healthcare and other social services also hold conservative religious ideologies? What happens when the gatekeepers charged with distributing antiretrovirals also promote reparative therapy? Or when those responsible for teaching young people about safer sex insist that condoms are sinful? And where will women turn when the only people resourced to provide safe abortions refuse to do so?

In addition to these concerns, Rwanda is a signatory to the African Union Maputo Protocol, which obligates African nations to ensure women’s health and reproductive rights (including safe abortions). Given that Warren has advanced an explicitly anti-women agenda in the U.S. (earlier this year, Warren referred to Planned Parenthood as the “McDonalds of abortion” and declared it to be the “#1 baby killing franchise”), it is most likely that Warren aims to pursue a similar anti-SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) agenda in Rwanda, and his close ties to political and religious leadership in the country will assuredly pave the way for increased attacks on women and reproductive freedom.

The connections between religious fundamentalism and international aid were further strengthened when the Rwanda PEACE Plan experienced a leadership transition in April of this year, appointing Apostle Dr. Paul Gitwaza as its new director. Gitwaza—who condemns abortion and describes homosexuality as an abomination—is a member of the International Coalition of Apostles, now known as the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and the primary organizational structure of C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation.

Wagner, who also served as Rick Warren’s dissertation advisor and mentor at Fuller Theological Seminary, writes in his book Dominion! that the PEACE Plan fits into “the 7-M mandate”―the idea that Christians need to take charge of a country by “capturing” the seven “mountains” that represent cultural aspects of society: business, government, family, religion, media, education, and entertainment. This suggests that rather than actually being interested in the empowerment and self-determination of Rwandan people, Warren’s primary interest is controlling the destiny and rights of others.

Warren often explains this multi-pronged approach to development (bringing together business, government, and church) with his “three-legged stool” metaphor. He says that public-private sector partnerships are equivalent to a two-legged stool, which will fall over without a third leg—that of the church. According to Warren, the church is the critical missing link affecting a country’s development.

Unfortunately, Warren’s stool—presented as an instrument of benevolent humanitarianism—is actually more like a soap box for his white savior neocolonial agenda. And as a relatively small country (Rwanda is approximately the size of Maryland) with a population of just over 12 million people (94% of whom are Christian), Rwanda is the perfect test site for this Wagner-inspired, Warren-driven quest for global dominionism.

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[1] Dominionism: The theocratic idea heterosexual Christian men are called by God to exercise dominion over secular society by taking control of political and cultural institutions. This competes in Christianity with the idea of stewardship, which suggests custodial care rather than absolute power.

[2] Warren’s PEACE Plan has since grown, expanding to targeted “Gateway Cities” around the world in order to “live out the Great Commandment and Commission in 12 key cities and all unreached people groups by 2020.”

Eugenics as U.S. Nationhood: Situating Population Control in a Settler State

This post is the third in my series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one and part two.) Today, I continue to discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, an egregious affront to reproductive justice. This segment addresses U.S. initiatives undertaken to limit Native American women’s reproductive autonomy.

In my last post, I discussed right-wing nativists’ efforts to establish a two-tiered citizenship structure, which would institutionalize discrimination against and disenfranchisement of people of color. While this redefinition of citizenship has not gained legal ground, comparable institutions proliferate in the U.S.

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

image via http://nativeamericansterilization.wordpress.com/

Indeed, it is important to acknowledge that the United States itselfnot only the structures it creates and upholdsis such a system. Superimposed as it was, and is, on land once shared by tens of millions, this country is a settler colonial state and a necessarily genocidal project: as Cavanagh and Veracini explain, “settlers want Indigenous people to vanish.” In the United States, this aim has been largely (though certainly not entirely) realized, and sterilization has been among the means of effecting it.

The genocidal practices undertaken during the formation of the U.S. are well documented and fairly well known, as are some of those implemented in the 19th and early 20th centuries. More contemporary iterations of the U.S. genocidal project are less widely known, due in part to the widespread misconception that Native Americans have long been virtually extinct.

Between 1973 and 1976, the Indian Health Servicea federal programsterilized more than 3,406 Native American people who could become pregnant. Dozens of those sterilized were under 21, contrary to a moratorium on sterilizing minors. From 1969 to 1974 (coinciding with President Nixon’s term), the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) subsidized a full 90 percent of the costs of these sterilizations (Ralstin-Lewis). Many were sterilized against their will; moreover, a substantial portion of the providers lacked documentation attesting to fully informed consent. As researchers Jane Lawrence and D. Marie Ralstin-Lewis show, the consent forms the patients signed were often incomplete, and many did not indicate that they had a right to refuse the procedure at no risk of losing benefits. Nor is it evident from any of the forms later evaluated by the U.S. General Accounting Office that providers had fully informed their patients of what sterilization entailed. They certainly did not make a compelling effort to overcome cultural barriers in explaining the procedure. Additionally, consent is difficult to ascertain in light of the circumstances in which Native patients found themselves; the dire poverty inflicted by the United States, constant infringements on sovereignty, and concerted efforts to uproot indigenous cultures shape a landscape in which white doctors could coerce their Native patients in highly subtle ways.

Both Lawrence and Ralstin-Lewis also stress the significance of Native Americans’ ability to have children in the face of continuing efforts to exterminate them. Ralstin-Lewis reports specifically on extensive investigations undertaken by Native Americans. Cheyenne tribal judge Marie Sanchez and Northern Cheyenne tribal member Mary Ann Bear Comes Out concluded that in just three years, a full third of the mere 165 women of childbearing age on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and Labre Mission grounds had been sterilized, “reducing births within this group by half or more over a five-year period” (82). This devastating statistic is representative of what many tribes experienced: a Lakota researcher named Lehman Brightman devoted many years to investigating the sterilizations of Native American women and found that approximately forty percent of all Native women had been sterilized (Ralstin-Lewis).

It would be reductive to attempt to identify the U.S. government’s discrete motivations for reducing the Native American population, which cannot be understood outside the context of settlement and genocide. However, it is worth noting that while many of the arguments put forward for limiting immigrants’ reproductive agency are manifestly inapplicable to Native American populations, some of the explicit justification is the same. Specifically, proponents and practitioners of sterilization frame it as an investment, contending (sometimes implicitly) that when certain people do not have children, the money saved in welfare expenditures will offset the cost of sterilization. The welfare state is a ubiquitous trope in right-wing rhetoric surrounding issues of poor women of color’s reproductive autonomy. Ralstin-Lewis comments, “The noncompliant female body has become the central point of contention for conservative fury about the welfare state” (89).

The conflation of certain bodies with welfare costs, which is inextricable from the degradation of welfare itself, is a means of normalizing and obscuring racism and sexism. The construction of these bodies as burdensome allows bigotry to be couched in ostensibly pragmatic arguments against unnecessary spending. Meanwhile, welfare is seen as objectionable and unnecessary because it is associated with marginalized people. Prejudice is thus woven invisibly through the fabric of public opinion.

This is consistent with Thomas W. Volscho’s thesis that “sterilization racism” is a function of the U.S. having been organized around white supremacy. Volscho uses Cazenave and Maddern’s definition of racism as “…a highly organized system of race-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/race/supremacy,” theorizing that the hierarchy this produces will give those at the top control over or influence within the institutions determining their reproductive abilities (such as health care providers), while those at the bottom will be subject to the whims of the same institutionsand those of others intended specifically to constrain them (19). (This too is part of the colonial project, which necessitates that those in power be able to manage the bodies of those they subjugate.) The next installment of this series will give an overview of ways in which constraining institutions, including the carceral system, have targeted Black women’s reproductive freedom.

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Of Bombs and Wombs: Nativist Myths of Weaponized Fertility

(More Right-Wing Prophecies of White Supremacy’s Decline)

This post is the second in a series examining the U.S. Right’s efforts to alter global demographic trends by re-popularizing arguments and ideologies rooted in eugenics. (Read part one here.) In this post and those to follow, I discuss the U.S. Right’s coercive attempts to limit the fertility of people of color, with a focus on the anti-immigration Right. 

In my last article, I discussed the Right’s fear-mongering narrative that contraceptive use and other exercises of reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy are catapulting civilization into decline. Curiously, there is also a swath of powerful right-wing voices making what appears to be a diametrically opposed argument. They are organized around the perceived threat of population growth, and—like their pro-population growth counterparts—they are deeply invested in regulating exactly which populations are permitted to procreate. In truth, though, these seemingly rival factions are two sides to the proverbial coin, and that coin is eugenics.

Courtesy of peoplesworld, Creative Commons

Courtesy of peoplesworld

Population alarmism, or the notion that high rates of population growth are to blame for poverty, climate change, and a host of other nightmarish global problems, is a well-disguised framework for undermining poor people of color’s reproductive autonomy. Its insidiousness comes from the effective coding of rhetoric surrounding hyperfertility and handout-seeking burdens to taxpayers as references to women of color, particularly poor Black women and immigrant Latina women. The fiction that excessively high birthrates are the source of human suffering becomes a way to mask racism, misogyny, and elitism while still clearly identifying poor women of color as the enemy, the undesirable Other.

It is important to note that not all people who can become pregnant are women; many trans men and nonbinary people can also become pregnant, and they are materially affected by attacks on reproductive health. Of course, such attacks are gendered in their ideology, and in this sense they are attacks on women, which necessarily impact trans women. Therefore, when referring to the logic of limiting reproductive choice, I will use “women”; when referring to actual initiatives to limit reproductive choice, I will use “people who can become pregnant.”

U.S. eugenics are at least as old as Mendel’s laws of heredity, but the pretext of unsustainable population growth for right-wing vilification of women of color’s fertility can be traced back to the emergence of a “new Malthusianism” that gained traction under President Nixon. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich sounded the alarm with his book The Population Bomb (coauthored without attribution by his wife), which argued that the earth was approaching its carrying capacity, and rising population growth would be catastrophic for humans and the environment. Coupled with Cold War anxieties that growing populations would cause resource scarcity, which would give rise to Communism, the Ehrlichs’ arguments helped generate bipartisan support for the suppression and stabilization of population growth. The conflation of the “population problem” and the implicitly racialized “urban crisis” of the mid-1960s further strengthened this support. Derek Hoff writes, “The purported connection between population growth and the urban crisis…injected a fresh dose of racial politics into a population discussion already tainted and racialized via the unfortunate legacy of eugenics” (31).

Right-wing enthusiasm for population control began to wane precipitously, however, when zero-growth efforts became associated with the pro-choice movement (giving way to right-wing resistance from groups like the Population Research Institute and the World Council of Families, which I discussed previously). Additionally, libertarian groups embraced population growth as integral to populist efforts, and the rise of neoliberalism thrust regulation to the political margins. Nonetheless, certain right-wing elements of the zero population growth movement remained.

One such element was the right-wing nativist contingent. 1979 saw the inception of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a virulently nativist organization that began by couching its racist agenda in unscientific environmentalist arguments for shrinking the immigrant population in the United States. According to Priscilla Huang of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a number of FAIR’s highest positions are held by people with “ties to white supremacist groups,” and the organization has been the recipient of more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, whose other grantees include groups that perform “research in eugenics and ‘race science’” (394). FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has openly embraced eugenics. (Tanton also played an integral role in founding NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which both advance nativist efforts to restrict immigration.) The Southern Poverty Law Center has named FAIR a hate group.

FAIR is not alone in exploiting fears of climate change and resource scarcity to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and shape anti-immigrant legislation, but it is spearheading the charge. FAIR is the largest anti-immigrant organization in the U.S., and probably the most influential. With ample congressional influence and a reported 250,000 members, FAIR cannot be dismissed as merely a fringe group.

Nativist advocates of population control have attempted to square their agenda with the anti-choice philosophies of the Right by claiming, as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) did in 2007, “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today” (Huang, 403). The subtext of this ludicrous assertion is that abortion (that evil of evils) is killing the good children: the White ones.

DeLay’s line of reasoning also smooths over another major break between the anti-choice Right and the population control movement. To right-wing libertarians who seek to shrink government, DeLay (along with those who have made similar arguments) suggests that curtailing immigration and immigrant populations will preserve the integrity of a U.S. libertarian movement by restoring power to the right (read: White) people.

In a memo titled “Latin Onslaught,” John Tanton says that White people’s “power and control over their lives [is] declining” as “a group that is simply more fertile” procreates itself to majority status (Sánchez, 2). As Tanton would have it, big government and a growing Latino voting base are co-conspirators in the effort to rob “real” Americans of the autonomy and supremacy they are due. (“More fertile,” of course, implies more promiscuous, more sexual, more irresponsible—all stereotypes with which women of color are branded. In true eugenic fashion, it also implies innate bodily difference from white women.)

Historically, nativist efforts to quell the perceived threat of Latina women’s fertility have gone far beyond altering immigration patterns. An article by Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Taja Lindley at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains that coercive sterilizations of Latina/o people who could become pregnant were widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. This abuse, the authors say, was motivated by “[f]ears about over-population, welfare dependency, increased spending for public services, and illegitimate childbearing,” which “fueled stereotypes about both women of color and immigrant women, and led health professionals and State policymakers to intimidate ‘undesirable’ women into agreeing to surgical sterilization.”

In 1978, ten Chicana women who were coercively sterilized at a Los Angeles County hospital (whose obstetric residents had a quota for tubal ligations) over a four-year period went to court seeking justice. While Madrigal v. Quilligan ultimately led to the enactment of important regulations for obstetricians, the ruling favored the doctors who had performed the surgeries, affirming the stereotype that Mexican women tend to have excessive numbers of children and determining that “it was not objectionable for an obstetrician to think that a tubal ligation could improve a perceived overpopulation problem,” or to perform the procedure in compliance with this racialized and politicized theory. (Read Alexandra Minna Stern’s thorough analysis of the politics of Madrigal here.) Latina organizers, including those who bravely went before the court in Madrigal, worked tirelessly to abolish tubal ligations performed under coercion or without informed consent.

Yet Latina women’s fertility remains a target of right-wing attacks. FAIR and its allies continue to argue (falsely) that hyper-fecund Latina women come to the United States in droves to give birth so that their children—derisively referred to as “anchor-babies”—can reap the benefits of big government’s welfare policies. To mitigate this problem, they propose amending the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented parents, which is currently guaranteed by the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Huang points out that this project, if realized, would create a subjugable second class of “U.S.-born ‘alien’ children…a classification that would apply only to the offspring of immigrant women, the majority of whom are women of color” (401).

The institutionalization of such a racialized classification system would be utterly deplorable. It would undoubtedly visit unspeakable harm on many of the most vulnerable families in the United States; it would erect enormous barriers to access and gut protections for people already deprived of their rights and of recourse. But it would not be unique.

In the next part of this series, I endeavor to problematize the very notion of immigrants to the U.S., which is manifestly premised on racism and exclusion. This installment will discuss U.S. culpability in promoting sterilization as part of the ongoing genocide of Native American people.

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Whose Family? Religious Right’s “Family Values” Agenda Advances Internationally

The U.S. Religious Right has a long history of employing the frame of “traditional family values” to scapegoat a revolving cast of marginalized characters for all of society’s problems. (Consider Anita Bryant’s anti-LGBTQ crusades in the 1970s and Scott Lively’s more recent efforts to eradicate homosexuality in order to “save the children.”) But while they may rail against straw man stereotypes like “welfare queens” and “homosexual pedophiles” in their efforts to “defend the family,” the truth is that the arguments of religious conservatives have absolutely nothing to do with abortion or sex. The Right’s allusion to—and veneration of—some mythological one man + one woman utopian era of the past (where everyone was content with their assigned gender roles and every pregnancy was carefully planned) ultimately serves to pave the way for ongoing colonization and exploitation of the Global South.

United Nations. image via GRU.edu

United Nations. image via GRU.edu

Recently, we’ve seen a new round of right-wing “family values” efforts at the international level, focused particularly on the United Nations.  In May, Family Watch International president Sharon Slater launched a “Protect the Family” petition on CitizenGO. CitizenGO is a right-wing digital platform for online activism based in Spain that includes National Organization for Marriage head Brian Brown on its board of directors. Slater’s petition calls on all UN ambassadors to “fulfill their international obligation to protect the family by including the family in the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” She urges supporters to “Help [UN member states] feel the power that comes when the families of the world arise and demand that policies that undermine this vital institution never advance.” 100,000 supporters have already signed on, and the number is steadily rising.

Protecting families certainly seems like a fine goal. After all, is anybody actually “pro” family destruction? The issue here is that Slater’s petition has an extremely limited definition of what counts as a family, and her list of threats to this “fundamental unit of society” conveniently coincides with many of the same policies the U.S. Right opposes in seeking to maintain male supremacy and white supremacy: According to Slater, the policies that are “undermining” the family include efforts to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected statuses under international human rights law, providing comprehensive sex ed to young people, and ensuring accessible and safe contraception and abortion options.

And while Slater claims to speak on behalf of the “families of the world,” she conveniently excludes those that are led by grandparents, single parents, same-sex parents, and countless other amalgamations of people caring for people.

In Slater’s view, extending human rights protections to LGBTQ people, respecting the bodily autonomy of all, and expanding our definition of “family” to reflect the diversity that is evident throughout the world is just too dangerous.

This growing movement to advance a restrictive definition of “family” gained ground last month when the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on “Protection of the Family.” While the resolution itself doesn’t have immediate policy implications for “non-traditional” families, it is part of a broader agenda led by the U.S. Religious Right aimed at cementing a patriarchal and heteronormative family structure as the fundamental unit of society, and then using that as a tool to advance conservative, right-wing social policies through the UN and other international organizations.

Other conservative organizations have also jumped into the “family” fray.  Following failed efforts led by Chile, Uruguay, Ireland, and France to include language in the resolution acknowledging that “various forms of the family exist,” Austin Ruse—head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)—said the vote reflected widespread opposition to efforts to protect LGBTQ rights in diplomatic agreements—efforts that right-wing leaders insist are Western-imposed initiatives (ignoring the fact that they, themselves, are Westerners actively imposing a particular worldview on families and communities in the Global South).

C-FAM has joined with Slater’s Family Watch International (FWI), National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), and others in establishing the UN Family Rights Caucus. Collectively, these groups lobby against efforts to promote LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice at the UN.

In this coordinated, global campaign, the U.S. Religious Right has also been supported by an increasingly powerful program developed by the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society—the World Congress of Families (WCF). Allan Carlson, founder of the WCF, observed in 2007, “You might say we’re the United Nations of the pro-family movement.”

Indeed, the WCF functions very much like the UN, with elected officials, religious leaders, scientists, and scholars representing countries from all over the world convening at regular international conferences, or “Congresses,” to  discuss and determine strategies for advancing their anti-LGBTQ, anti-SRHR agenda internationally.

At WCF II, hosted in Geneva in 1999, Ruse defined the focus of the campaign that is finally taking hold:

“We have arrived at a perilous moment in the life of the family. Long under attack by her enemies, the family seems now to be disintegrating all around us. In every country of the developed world, families are breaking up under a plethora of pernicious pathologies. The roots of the attack, and their result are easily enumerated by most of the current social science data. But I will focus on one institution with which I am most familiar, the United Nations, an institution that is increasingly at the forefront of the attack on the family.”

The UN functions as the world’s primary decision-making body, working to maintain international peace and security, promote and protect human rights, foster social and economic development, protect the environment, and provide humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. As part of these efforts, in 2000, it established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight goals aimed to be achieved by 2015, including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, a reduction in child mortality, and the advancement of gender equality.

Slater’s “Protect the Family” petition calls for the establishment of an additional, standalone goal focused on the family, and she’s systematically putting the necessary pieces into place to ensure her vision’s success. One of those necessary pieces is the establishment of a conservative voting bloc at the UN, which Slater and other members of the UN Family Rights Caucus have developed by aggressively lobbying African delegates, winning them over with a sort of “reverse colonizer” argument—suggesting that they only endeavor to save poor, helpless Africans from those family-hating Western liberals who are out to destroy the developing world for their own gain.

In a speech delivered at WCF III in 2004, Gwendolyn Landolt, vice president of REAL Women of Canada, outlines the Right’s narrative:

“The west was concerned that the large population of the developing world would precipitate both increased migration to the west and increased civil unrest, which could lead to a loss of access to natural resources in the developing world by the west.

“The western nations, therefore, began to use the UN as a tool by which to attempt to curtail Third World population.  This was carried out by way of anti-family policies, such as reproductive rights (abortion), contraceptive and sterilization programs, adolescent access to these services without parental knowledge or consent (WHO defines an adolescent as anyone from 10 to 19 years), and homosexual rights.”

To put it mildly, the arguments of Slater and her crew are flawed and retrogressive.  To put it more accurately, they are neocolonial, white supremacist, patriarchal—and of grave concern to all those committed to an authentic vision of human rights and social justice.  And unfortunately, Slater and her crew seem to be succeeding—every country in the African Group voted for the “Protection of the Family” resolution without hesitation.

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