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The Russian Connection

Religious Freedom Bills Tied to Russia


With its brutal crackdown on civil rights of LGBT citizens, Russia has joined Uganda as a global center of anti-gay discrimination. So much so that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used his speech to the International Olympic Committee ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games to take Mama Rus' to task.

"We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people," Ki-moon said. "We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face."

But to the web of organizations pushing for "religious freedom" bills in the United States, Russia's policies aren't so abhorrent.

In September 2013, "pro-family leaders" representing about two-dozen organizations from around the world met in Moscow to plan the agenda for the World Congress of Families VIII--a "celebration of the natural family" set to take place in the Russian capital Sept. 10-12, 2014.

Among those attending the meeting as members of the International Planning Committee were representatives of the National Organization for Marriage, Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family--all deeply involved with the crafting, introduction and defense of "religious freedom" bills introduced in states including Idaho and Arizona.

The theme of the 2014 congress: Every Child a Gift--The Future of Humanity. Among the possible items on the agenda: "pro-family" initiatives in Russia, "the ideological roots of the anti-family lobby," "countering the radical sexual rights agenda," promoting "family-friendly" businesses for economic prosperity, and "building the international pro-family/pro-life movement."

It's no accident that powerful, conservative American faith organizations are included in the planning for the Russian conference, just as it's no coincidence that the event takes place in Moscow this year--World Congress of Families is not only a Rockford, Ill.-based organization but has been vocal in its support for Russia's attitude toward faith, family and, therefore, gay rights, calling Russian values crusaders "true allies."

WCF is supported directly by groups including Focus on the Family, which, according to a Feb. 21 report from Mother Jones, pays $2,500 a year as a WCF partner. Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom (the Arizona-based "legal ministry" that wrote the religious freedom bill mirrored by Idaho's HB 427) each spent $20,000 to support the 2012 Congress in Madrid.

"We are proud to work with our allies in Russia and around the world to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman," National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown told Rachel Maddow in an interview last year.

NOM co-founder Robert George was appointed chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by House Speaker John Boehner in July 2013, and the organization on Feb. 27 took to its blog to decry Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of that state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation:

"It is clear that unless particular legislation such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is passed in states across the country, it will be people of faith who have to compromise their beliefs and violate their consciences or face government sanction in the name of same-sex marriage."

What's more, NOM closed its statement with a call for support of Idaho Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador's long-stalled Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (HR 3133), whose language should sound familiar by now--both in Moscow, Idaho, and Moscow, Russia:

"Prohibits the federal government from taking an adverse action against a person on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."