Guest Post: Christian Right Activism Is a Global Issue

A Guest Post by Ahab

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.

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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.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Steve

    Don’t forget The Fellowship aka The Family:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fellowship_%28Christian_organization%29

    A secretive, dominionist cult with contacts to the highest levels of government all over the world. It’s run by fundamentalist US congressmembers who conduct secret and unauthorized diplomacy as well government-paid missionary trips. They are the ones who organize the highly questionable National Prayer Breakfast, attendance it which is de facto mandatory for any president. They also have close tied to Uganda (mainly via ultra-fundamentalist Senator Inhofe) and the people behind the “kill the gays” bill.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    Thank you for bringing attention to the global scope of the problem. I think you are absolutely correct that many of us tend to get overly focused on what is happening in the U.S. and miss the damage our Christian extremists are doing in other parts of the world.

  • smrnda

    I wish Christians would look more closely into what sort of ‘missions’ their missions offerings support, though I suspect many would have no problem with the dominionist leanings of these groups and individuals. These are stealth attempts made by people to influence governments by making connections with the right people, which is a nasty subversion of the notion of an open, democratic model of government.

    I really don’t see much promise for these organizations in Western, secular nations, but they’ve obviously made some powerful inroads in Africa. Missionary activity was part of Western colonialism then, and it’s still part of the program now.

  • Mogg

    Hi Ahab! Nice to see you guest post over here. As an Aussie, I find it incredibly disturbing how much political influence the Australian Christian Lobby and its allies have in a country normally seen even by its own citizens as secular. We can have an Atheist, female Prime Minister in a defacto relationship and openly gay senators raising children with their partners, but it is seen as too politically difficult, despite overwhelming public approval according to independent polls, to contemplate same-sex marriage and adoption rights. This appears to be due to the influence of groups such as ACL and the high but fairly secretive number of religiously active politicians, and this situation then produces outcomes such as a conservative Catholic who was responsible for blocking legal approval of medical abortion drugs and disapproves of equalisation of marriage rights even though his sister is gay being the likely next Prime Minister. It now makes me wonder how that affects our overseas aid decisions, something I hadn’t thought of before.

  • MNb

    Some good news then. American right-wing christian proselytizers have been active in Suriname for a few decades, but their results have been very meager. LGBTQ’s have come out of the closet only a few years ago and hardly a Surinamese inhabitant seems to give a f**k.
    Still Suriname is a very religious country; according to the last census there are only 4% atheists.

  • Felicia J.

    This is a side issue, but I get really aggravated when I hear Christian groups make the “children need their biological mother and father” argument against gay marriage.
    I don’t suppose any of them have stopped to consider how this rhetoric sounds to an adoptee. Apparently, according to the Australian Christian Lobby, I lost the opportunity to “define my identity through that intimate, unique biological relationship” because of my closed adoption. These are the same people who advocate adoption as “the loving option” when a pregnant woman is not prepared to raise a child. But when it comes to opposing “the gays,” they make adopted children sound like damaged, second-class citizens.
    If I pointed this out to them, I’m sure they’d stumble over their words. “Ahhh … ummm … we didn’t mean YOU were damaged! You had God-approved heterosexual parents. We’re just talking about kids raised by those evil homosexuals!” Which just reveals their argument as a smokescreen to hide the fact they don’t like gay people and don’t want them to have the same rights they enjoy.

    • Kat

      I did point out that disconnect to someone one time, and the response was, “Well, an adoptive mom and dad could theoretically have been the biological parents. So it’s basically the same.”
      I asked him, “So does that mean people shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children of a different race?”
      “Well…” He never did finish that sentence. He hasn’t stopped using that argument, though; how he resolves the disconnect is anyone’s guess.


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