"Extreme" is not a word we use lightly. In the Human Rights Campaign’s recent condemnation of the World Congress of Families and its decision to host its annual international summit in Salt Lake City — the first ever in the United States — we chose it to describe the group’s forceful advocacy against LGBT people in many nations around the world. We also highlighted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of the organization as a "hate group."
Although representatives of the World Congress of Families (WCF) disagree, we believe the long and disturbing records of WCF and many of its sponsors, partners and affiliates represent the very definitions of hateful and extreme. Here are a few of the many troubling reasons why.
Scott Lively has been a featured speaker at major WCF summits, and he traveled to Russia as part of a core WCF team to plan their last large international gathering. Lively is infamous for his efforts abroad to promote dangerous anti-LGBT legislation and spread false and deceptive lies about LGBT people. Throughout his travels, he’s proclaimed that LGBT people are responsible for the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
His work in Uganda is well-documented, and following his years of meeting with Ugandan lawmakers as well as faith and community leaders, Uganda enacted a horrific anti-LGBT law this past February. Since the law was debated and enacted, there has been a vicious and violent backlash against LGBT Ugandans. Some Ugandan officials credit Lively with the idea of introducing new legislation to further criminalize homosexuality in the country, and prominent Ugandan LGBT activists say the "bill is essentially his creation."
WCF has also been heavily involved in promoting an appalling Russian anti-LGBT law that was enacted last July. Larry Jacobs, WCF’s managing director, called the law "a great idea," met repeatedly with law’s author, Russian parliamentarian Yelena Mizulina, and the organization released a public letter in support of the legislation. Jacobs had previously said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "defending laws and morality consistent with the freedom in the U.S. Constitution."
Last week, we released a report that documents how LGBT Russians have been subjected to horrific incidents of discrimination, harassment and violence in the year since its enactment. This includes public beatings, assaults by masked men, and poisonous gas attacks on LGBT venues. There have been online witch hunts to find and fire pro-equality teachers, and even an investigation of a 14-year-old girl who allegedly broke the law by coming out to her classmates.
The WCF has also held events across Eastern Europe in an attempt to drum up support for more anti-LGBT laws and suppress LGBT advocacy, and has been active in Nigeria and Kenya as well.
The World Congress of Families is also engaged in international work with a broader impact. LGBT people are considered criminals under the law in nearly 80 countries, and in 2008 and 2009 the United Nations took up a historic resolution that called on all nations to decriminalize homosexuality.
At the time, WCF Managing Director Larry Jacobs described such efforts as "anti-family and anti-faith." Rather than stand with the United States and its dozens of allies in supporting a measure promoting basic human dignity, WCF sided with such notorious human rights abusers as North Korea and Iran in opposing it.
As much as it disturbs us, it isn’t surprising. Sharon Slater, a prominent WCF ally and featured summit speaker, said in 2010 that "Iran is one of the strongest nations in standing up for family values at the UN."
In the Tribune, the World Congress of Families stated that it stands for dignity, tolerance and compassion. But any person or organization that’s engaged in promoting anti-LGBT laws or sowing seeds of bigotry around the world has no rightful claim to such terms.
Hate is neither an American value nor a family value. We reject the World Congress of Families’ assertion that it represents either, and it is our sincere belief that the citizens of Salt Lake City will wholeheartedly agree.
Chad Griffin is president of the Human Rights Campaign.
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