Religious conservatives are fighting back against allegations of homophobia.
The World Congress of Families (WCF) is “an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, leaders and people of goodwill from more than 80 countries that seek[s] to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit and the ‘seedbed’ of civil society.”
In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added WCF to its list of anti-LGBT hate groups. That same year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), another left-leaning advocacy group, repeatedly accused WCF of promulgating homophobia, hatred, and violence.
SLPC has earned notoriety for listing conservative and religious groups alongside neo-Nazi and white-supremacist organizations on its list of hate groups. After Floyd Corkins attacked the anti-gay-marriage Family Research Council in 2013, shooting one person, he explained that he had chosen his target from SPLC’s list of hate groups. Had he not been stopped, he would have continued on to the Traditional Values Coalition, which SPLC also considers “anti-LGBT.” He had brought sandwiches from Chik-fil-A, the owners of which are outspokenly Christian and oppose gay marriage. He planned to stuff the sandwiches in the mouths of his victims as a form of protest.
SPLC has also made several notable omissions. In 2001, when the Holy Land Foundation was charged with funneling money to terrorists, prosecutors released a long list of unindicted co-conspirators. None of those groups, including the influential Council on American-Islamic Relations, is listed by SPLC as a hate group.
Others have castigated SPLC’s fundraising methods. With the decline of the Klu Klux Klan, the organization’s direct mail campaigns have focused ever more on LGBT issues and “general hate,” as their net assets double every decade. The multi-story office building SPLC commissioned in in the mid-2000s has been dubbed the “poverty palace.” President Jimmy Carter’s former press secretary, Jody Powell, is among many who have criticized SPLC’s fundraising practices. Their appeal to “ignorant Yankee contributors… pisses me off.”
WCF feels the same way.
Their report, entitled “A Call for Civil Dialogue and Constructive Engagement,” responds to 24 specific allegations.
Throughout the document, WCF repeats its commitment to nonviolence, nondiscrimination, and civility. WCF “stridently condemns any violence against homosexuals and would never support any legislation that would advocate such,” and “has never…taken a position on the criminalization of homosexuality.”
In response to claims of “encouraging policies that have led to the harassment, legal punishment and even killing of LGBT people worldwide,” WCF touts its human rights bona fides, including “support[ing] Human Rights at the United Nations as defined by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the Pax Urbis award from [the international ethics and policy think tank] “100 Cities for Peace.”
SPLC pointed to anti-LGBT efforts in Russia and Uganda, among other charges, to justify labeling WCF as a hate group. A main point of contention was Russia’s 2013 law prohibiting gay rights.
WCF denies any role in the legislative process. Their report asserts that they “never lobbied for or against legislation in the United States or abroad,” though they admit to “positively acknowledg[ing]” the Russian “homosexual propaganda” law upon its passage. Additionally, “when Russia looks for scholarly information, demographic studies, and related materials to promote the natural family in that country, WCF will assist, as it will with any government or nation seeking the same.”
WCF also denies any “associations” with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who receives political support from the Russian Orthodox Church, and has been notoriously abusive to gays. The Russian Orthodox Church supports WCF, as do the Roman Catholic Church, European chief rabbis, Mormon leaders, and numerous other religious organizations.
WCF also struck back at HRC for misrepresenting family-related laws. “In the case of Russia’s Child Protection Law,” they argue, “WCF has explained that it is aimed solely at protecting minors from numerous destructive activities, including drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, prostitution and solicitations for ‘non- traditional sexual relations.”
Responding to charges that “WCF’s presence in Africa has corresponded with a disturbing rise of harsh penalties for LGBT Africans in countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria,” the WCF maintains that it “never has and never will advocate for any policy that brings harm to innocent individuals.”
HRC tried to hold WCF responsible for comments made by its former communications director, Den Feder, after he had ended his formal association with WCF. WCF took aim at its accusers, observing that, “Mr. Feder does not speak for WCF… in part, because, as a national columnist, groups like HRC and SPLC dissect his columns that are completely unrelated to WCF and its work.”
The WCF report ends with an olive branch:
Understanding that while all participants and organizations will never agree on everything all the time, the WCF is hopeful that transparent engagement will be possible, continuing the long tradition in this nation that civil disagreement is healthy and that fair-minded citizens want and deserve to know the facts to make up their own minds.
In response to the report, Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, maintains that “[t]he latest attempt by the World Congress of Families to shy away from their horrendous track record does little to mask their true nature.” He adds, “Hate is hate, and we will continue to call it out wherever it lurks.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center did not respond to a request for comment.
Benjamin Parker is an intern at The Weekly Standard.