Many of us are familiar with the political and social activism of the Religious Right in the U.S., having observed its affronts to LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, and religious pluralism. It’s easy to think of the Christian Right as an American problem, but we must also remember that it’s a global matter as well. As progressive bloggers and activists in the U.S. keep an eye on the Religious Right, we must also pay attention to right-wing Christian activism on the international stage.
Many key organizations among the American Religious Right network internationally. A well-known example is the role of American religious figures such as Scott Lively and Lou Engle in encouraging homophobia in Uganda, where a draconian anti-gay bill is currently under consideration. Documentaries such as Vanguard’s Missionaries of Hateand God Loves Uganda explore the anti-gay activism of American evangelicals in Uganda, as do exposés such as Box Turtle Bulletin’s Slouching Toward Kampala and Political Research Associates’ Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa.
Unfortunately, Uganda is not the only example of American Religious Right outreach. For instance, global symposiums such as the World Congress of Families conferences provide opportunities for Religious Right minds from around the world to network. The World Congress of Families views “statism, individualism and sexual revolution” as threats to the family, and its symposiums consistently challenge LGBTQ rights, abortion, and declining fertility. Past World Congress of Families symposiums have been sponsored by American Religious Right groups such as Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America. NOM’s Brian Brown, Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse, anti-abortion activist Alveda King, and so-called “ex-gay” activist Richard Cohen are among the many Americans who have been scheduled to speak at World Congress of Families events. Errol Naidoo, founder of the South African Family Policy Institute, described networking with Sharon Slater of Family Watch International and Benjamin Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund at the Sixth World Congress of Families Conference.
Other large-scale gatherings allow American Religious Right leaders to connect with their overseas counterparts. For instance, Errol Naidoo told Joy Magazine that he was inspired to create the Family Policy Institute after attending the 2006 Values Voters Summit in the U.S. In a more recent example, National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown enthusiastically wrote about his time in France while a massive anti-LGBTQ march was taking place.
American Religious Right groups are targeting both domestic and international audiences for outreach. In November 2012, the American Independent reported that NOM sought to target the international business of LGBTQ-supportive companies such as Starbucks. New Apostolic Reformation preacher Lou Engle, affiliated with TheCall and the International House of Prayer, promoted an international missionary effort called Mission Ekballo at OneThing 2012. TheCall’s rallies across the globe in placed such as Brazil, Switzerland have already allowed Engle and other New Apostolic Reformation speakers to promote their flavor of Christianity to international audiences as well.
Just as Religious Right activists are on the move, so too are Religious Right ideas. Right-wing ideas, sadly, have legs. Consider how the following examples of international Religious Right rhetoric resemble that of American groups.
— The Australian Family Association, an opponent of LGBTQ rights in Australia, argues that a family of father, mother, and children forms “the primary nucleus on which all other elements in human society rest,” its website says, arguing that society “should recognise the different biological and psychological functions of the mother and father.” The group claims that anti-discrimination legislation that would make sexual orientation and gender identity “protected attributes” would allegedly “violate the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief for those who have sincerely and deeply held beliefs or values about sexual identity and expression.” Like its American counterparts, the Australian Family Association claims that legalizing same-sex marriage would somehow disadvantage children.
“While two men might each be good fathers, or two women good mothers, neither couples can be both a mother and a father of their child. Children need not only the love of their own biological mum and dad, but to define their identity through that intimate, unique biological relationship. No same sex couple can define a child’s identity. Inevitably, research will be cited claiming that there is no evidence that children of same sex couples are disadvantaged when compared to children in heterosexual marriages.”
— The Australian Christian Lobby seeks “to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community.” It opposes abortion and same-sex marriage and claims to defend religious freedom. For example, in a February 2013 press release, the group warned that religious freedom could allegedly suffer after legislation “redefining marriage” passed in the UK’s House of Commons.
— L’Institute Civitas, a right-wing Catholic organization in France, urges supporters to restore une France chrétienne, a “Christian France”. In a December 2012 blog post entitled “Cet antichristianisme qui se développe en France” (“This Anti-Christianity that Grows in France”), Civitas president Alain Escada accused opponents of anti-Christian hatred. Escada accused protesters at a Symposium for Life event in Biarritz of espousing “visceral” anti-Christian sentiments, claiming that they desired to undermine morality and the family. “Pour les fondamentalistes de la laïcité, l’ennemi c’est le christianisme.” — “For fundamentalist secularism, the enemy is Christianity”, he wrote. In another blog post, Escada belittled same-sex marriage with language similar to that of American anti-gay activists. Escada claimed that if France legalizes same-sex marriage, France’s future would be jeopardized and children would suffer. Only a man and a woman can bring about the birth of a child, he argued, urging readers to take up activism against same-sex marriage.
— South Africa’s Family Policy Institute claims that “marriage and the family is the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society”, promoting “the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.” In a January 15th, 2012 sermon at His People Christian Church in Cape Town, South Africa, Family Policy Institute founder Errol Naidoo insisted that South Africa must have a a Christian foundation. At the 11:30 mark, he had this to say.
“The church teaches mankind the law of God. Its role is to uphold God’s word and bring all institutions of earthly government under Christ’s sovereign rule … The church is the pillar of a nation and it’s also the ground. It lays the foundation of truth on which these godly institutions can stand, like family and marriage and civil government. You need a strong foundation of God’s law for any nation to have a strong and firm foundation. If they don’t have a strong and firm foundation of God’s truth and God’s word, that nation is in trouble. That nation begins to weaken. That nation begins to break down.”
These are only a handful of examples of Christian Right voices across the globe. Granted, Religious Right groups are more prominent in some countries and less powerful in others, but all deserve our attention. If we value reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, and religious diversity, we ignore the international presence of the Religious Right at our peril. Just as the American Religious Right stays abreast of global developments, so too must we stay informed about progressive struggles abroad. Just as the American Religious Right connects with and supports its international counterparts, so too must we support reproductive rights, LGBTQ, and religious freedom efforts abroad. The Religious Right does not limit its scope to the U.S., and neither should we.
Ahab lives in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. and enjoys gardening, homebrewing, and reading. Raised Roman Catholic, Ahab eventually became an agnostic and rejected the church’s teachings, especially on social issues. Ahab volunteers with anti-violence, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ organizations and blogs about the Religious Right at The Republic of Gilead.