Organizers of the World of Congress of Families IX, to be held at the Grand America in Salt Lake City this month, insist that the Congress is not anti-gay, but actually very inclusive and loving of all. The list of speakers and awardees, however, tells a very different tale. Among them are some of those working the hardest across the world to thwart equality efforts for LGBT people. Their rhetoric of hate is undeniably anti-gay and anti-trans*. Here are a few examples among the many awardees and speakers at the event and their recent comments and deeds relating to LGBT issues:
Woman of the Year Award
WCF’s African regional director, Theresa Okafor of Nigeria, who also heads the conservative groups Foundation for African Cultural Heritage and Life League Nigeria will be the first awardee of the event.
Okafor’s group backed Nigeria’s recent ban on all same-sex relationships, which included a ban on gay people meeting in groups of two or more. The ban quickly led to arrests of reportedly dozens of people alleged to be gay. In 2014, FACH joined a coalition of NGOS that commended Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan for signing the law. FACH shared on its Facebook page videos of a press conference it organized in support of the bill in which speakers called homosexuality “abhorrent” and compared it to alcoholism.
In a speech to the World Congress of Families annual gathering in Madrid in 2012, Okafor speculated that Western countries advocating for gay rights in Africa were involved in “a conspiracy” to “silence Christians” with the terrorist group Boko Haram that was bombing churches. She also defended moves toward harsh anti-gay laws in Nigeria and Uganda and speculated that efforts to defend LGBT rights in Africa are “another ploy to depopulate Africa.”
Okafor also recently refuted the notion that LGBT people experience prejudice in Nigeria.
“I have heard accusations that they are being discriminated against,” Okafor said, “but this is completely false because if you think deeply about it, it is not the person that is being despised, it is the conduct.”
For her anti-gay work, the World Congress of Families gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award and at this conference, they will present her with the Woman of the Year Award.
Familia Et Veritas Award
Another person being awarded for his anti-gay work is Luca Volonté, who sits on the board of the conservative online campaign platform CitizenGo along with National Organization for marriage’s Brian Brown. Volonte’s foundation contributed a significant amount of money to the organization that headed the “No” movement in Ireland’s fight for same-sex marriage and is working with Brown to create an International Organization for Marriage.
Volonté has an active Twitter feed, where he often says such things as “Non c’è paragone tra #famiglia e #queer (There is no comparison between #family and #queer.)”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern is being awarded as well. She lauded Dolce and Gabbana’s condemnation of Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s adoption of a child.
“Same-sex couples having a baby by way of reproductive medicine are deliberately depriving a child of either a mother or a father,” she said. “Couples such as Elton John and David Furnish put their own selfish needs above that of a child. They are satisfying their own needs, not considering the child’s.”
She says that anti-bullying campaigns in schools are a “Trojan horse” designed to disallow “Christians to speak about Jesus Christ in the public space, particularly in the areas of marriage and sexual ethics.”
She flew to Jamaica to speak against the repeal of that country’s law criminalizing same-sex intercourse.
“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, saying it is a “big lie” that sexuality is an inborn trait, that it is caused by the lack of a strong father figure and “sometimes a level of abuse.”
She reportedly illustrated that point by saying openly gay Olympic diver Tom Daley was “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends” and had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago.”
RETIREMENT CEREMONY as WCF Founder
WCF’s founder has been very involved in anti-LGBT rhetoric and actions since the group’s inception. During the 2004 WCF conference in Mexico City, Carlson declared that “homosexual marriage is a clear and present danger to the family” and that “homosexual marriage” is nothing more than a “weapon” intended to destroy the family. He testified against same-sex marriage before the Washington State Supreme Court and has written several books and papers denouncing homosexuality.
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Ballard was the point-man for the Church’s involvement with California’s Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, which was ultimately declared unconstitutional. He also directed the Church’s fight against same-sex marriage in Hawaii back in 1997.
“We know that [the battle against same-sex marriage] is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it’s place in our Father’s plan,” Ballard wrote in a memo encouraging LDS members to fight for Prop. 8. “What we’re about is the work of the Lord, and he will bless you for your involvement.”
Ballard, speaking at a 2003 devotional at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, said that same-sex marriage threatens God’s plan of happiness for his children here and in eternity. He also helped draft the World Proclamation on the Family, which he said came in response to concerns by Church leaders over “social movements to design families in ways contrary to God’s plan.”
Noting that the Mormon Church spent millions of dollars battling same-sex marriage, he said as the “vacillating whims of convention and political correctness” march forward, “families continue to be assaulted openly and viciously,” Ballard said, with “gender being confused and traditional roles being repudiated.”
“Life is being trivialized and subjected to the vacillating whims of convenience and political correctness,” Ballard continued. “Children are considered a choice rather than a blessing. … Almost every trend indicates that we are on a slippery slope downward from God’s plan for his children.”
Live Action’s Lila Rose once called for abortions to be performed “in the public square.” She currently is one of the ultra-conservative activists trying to defund Planned Parenthood, calling it the “single most evil organization in human history.”
But her disdain is not only reserved for pro-choice activities. In a recent speech she said she would leave the Republican Party if it were to drop abortion and gay rights as platform issues.
“The Left is unafraid and unashamed to stand up for their pet projects, abortion and homosexual activism,” she said. “We need to have the same courage in standing up for the truth, for family, for marriage, and for life.”
“To redefine marriage as anything [but between a man and a woman] is to throw painful emotional, psychological and spiritual confusion on future generations, while publicly affirming dangerous sexual behaviors.”
University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus claimed to “prove” same-sex parenting is inherently harmful to children by concocting a study that’s been thoroughly debunked as methodologically and ethically flawed, and experts far and wide — including Regnerus’ own university — have said they want no affiliation with it. The study was paid for by a conservative think tank, a fact that a judge in Michigan said, “The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.” That, however, doesn’t stop the Right and Regnerus from waving the study as proof against same-sex marriage and child-rearing nor his celebrity status at the WCF.
Unfortunately, for lack of space, we have only been able to provide background on speakers and awardees midway through the first day. For more information on additional speakers and background of the organization itself, Restore Our Humanity has developed a web site at WorldCongressOfFamilies.org.