Liberal magazines tie Rockford-based group to anti-gay movement in Russia


Separate articles in the liberal magazines The Nation and Mother Jones cite the World Congress of Families (WCF), an offshoot of the Rockford-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, as a moving force behind the rise of an anti-gay culture in Russia.

WCF will hold its next big international doings in Moscow in September.

Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones WRITES:

In November 2010, Russia’s Sanctity of Motherhood organization kicked off its first-ever national conference. The theme, according to its organizers, was urgent: solving “the crisis of traditional family values” in a modernizing Russia…

On the second morning of the conference, the only American in attendance, a tall, collected man, stepped up for his speech. Larry Jacobs, vice president of the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an umbrella organization for the US religious right’s heavy hitters, told the audience that American evangelicals had a 40-year track record of “defending life and family” and they hoped to be “true allies” in Russia’s traditional values crusade.  

The gathering marked the beginning of the family values fervor that has swept Russia in recent years. Warning that low birth rates are a threat to the long-term survival of the Russian people, politicians have been pushing to restrict abortion and encourage bigger families. Among the movement’s successes is a law that passed last summer and garnered global outrage in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” a vague term that has been seen as effectively criminalizing any public expression of same-sex relationships.

Anti-gay groups have made tormenting the LGBT community a national and organized affair…This month, LGBT activists were arrested in Moscow and St. Petersburg hours before the Olympic opening ceremony and have been detained in Sochi itself.

Since Jacobs first traveled to Russia for the Sanctity of Motherhood conference, he and his WCF colleagues have returned regularly to bolster Russia’s nascent anti-gay movement—and to work with powerful Russian connections that they’ve acquired along the way. In 2014, the World Congress of Families will draw an international group of conservative activists together in Moscow, a celebratory convening that Jacobs foreshadowed on that first visit, when he ended his speech triumphantly: “Together, we can win!”

…Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, two sociology professors at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Anatoly Antonov and Victor Medkov, had been watching with mounting concern as marriage and birth rates fell precipitously—this was not how capitalism was supposed to play out. But they thought they knew who could help.

They turned to Allan Carlson, president of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, a historian who made his name studying family policy, earning an appointment to President Reagan’s National Commission on Children. His 1988 book, “Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis,” had set out to define and explain how a similar demographic decay—spurred by the postwar feminist and sexual revolutions—had played out in America. Medkov and Antonov read his work with enthusiasm, invited him to Moscow, and took him to meet Ivan Shevchenko—a Russian Orthodox mystic in whose Moscow apartment the WCF was hatched.  

They envisioned the World Congress as a global gathering for social conservatives dedicated to protecting their vision of the family in a changing society. They soon launched plans to host their first conference in 1997 in Prague. It proved an unexpected success, drawing more than 700 participants. That year Carlson, who had raised most of the money to host the event, helped establish and became president of the Howard Center, which adopted the WCF as a core project.  

WCF has since put on conferences in Europe, Mexico, and Australia that have been attended by thousands. The group has deep ties with the most powerful organizations in America’s religious right, including Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and Americans United for Life. These groups and many others pay $2,500 annually to be WCF partners, and some give additional funds—Focus, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute each chipped in $20,000 to help put on the 2012 World Congress in Madrid. In Russia, they’ve tapped the support of the nation’s religious right and its billionaire sponsors.

Since 2010, WCF has helped host at least five major gatherings in Russia where American evangelicals put their views before Russian audiences. At a 2011 demographic summit in Moscow, the event’s loaded two-day schedule of panels and speeches included just one 10-minute slot without an American presenter.

Adam Federman of The Nation WRITES:

In 2011, the World Congress of Families held its first Demographic Summit in Moscow. Established in 1997 by Dr. Allan Carlson, the WCF is an interfaith, international movement whose mission is to “restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit.” Back in 1995, Carlson was invited to speak at Moscow State University by two professors of sociology who admired his book Family Questions: Reflections on the American Social Crisis. According to Jennifer Butler in Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized, “The professors and Carlson, joined by a lay leader in the Russian Orthodox Church, came to the conclusion that what they needed was to bring together scholars and leaders from ‘newly free Europe and Russia’ to meet with leaders from the West.” The first global conference was held in Prague in 1997 and drew more than 700 participants. 

The 2011 summit was attended by leading US evangelicals like Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America and Larry Jacobs of the WCF. The meeting’s Russian attendees included not only church heavyweights but Natalia Yakunina, chair of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program and wife of Vladimir Yakunin, the head of the state-run Russian Railways and a member of Putin’s inner circle. In promotional material, the WCF claims that the 2011 summit “helped pass the first Russian laws restricting abortion in modern history.” The WCF held a follow-up Demographic Summit in Ulyanovsk in 2012.



  1. Steverino

    Appears the WCF wants to keep Mother Russia pregnant and in the kitchen.

  2. Shawn Robinson

    The people who run this Rockford-based organization think these anti-gay promotion laws are a great idea.

    I think the WCF spokesman speaks very cavalier regarding how he thinks the law is aimed to stop.
    Now, do these guys with connections to a Rockford organization agree with this victim that violence against gays in Russia has gone up since this anti-gay propaganda law passed?


  3. Shawn Robinson

    From the article:
    “Now, here’s what should be happening. Christians — especially evangelicals, and above all evangelicals who oppose gay marriage but insist they are not anti-gay (you know who you are!) — should be publicly repudiating what Lively is doing. They should make a very uncomplicated moral statement: ‘It is wrong and it is un-Christian to go abroad and help demagogues persecute homosexuals, whether intentionally or not.’ They should treat Lively the way white blood cells treat a bacillus, walling him off before he discredits evangelicals more broadly — as surely he will.
    “But to my knowledge, not a single prominent U.S. Christian leader has spoken up. Not one. Think about that.”

    • Scott Lively was very active in a group called The Oregon Citizen’s Alliance. They tried to do unsuccessfully in Oregon what he was able to accomplish in Africa. He and Lon Mabon recruited the Russian community in Oregon to align with their anti-gay petitions. The Russian and Eastern European communities are very conservative and were easily co=opted into the OCA’s agenda.

      Scott Lively is filled with hatred, just as Lon Mabon was. If I recall correctly, the OCA was sued by a lesbian who was attacked at one of their meetings. She won and it bankrupted their organization. If I recall correctly, Scott Lively was the one who attacked her. He’s not a nice person.

      Scott is so anti-gay it makes one wonder what he thinks about in his fantasies. The OCA tried to equate gay people as people who had sex with cadavers (necrophelia) and all the other ugly stereotypes people like Scott and Lon liked to throw around.

      • Uganda newspaper names top 200 newspapers. This is all being brought to the world by Evangelicals who were frustrated they couldn’t be successful in launching gay hunts here in the USA. They are the same religious group that Reagan courted in the 80s, that would eventually destroy the Republican Party, because of their far right and extremely mean spirited ways. They are the face of Christianity in the USA.

        I know the youth in the Evangelical faith are distancing themselves from their older peers, who can be quite vicious as evidenced by the like of Scott Lively, but I think you’ll find that a majority of the hard right wingers in our government are affiliated with the Evangelical faith.

        Don’t think for a moment these hard rightwingers wouldn’t jump at the chance to do what Scott Lively has accomplished in Africa here in the USA if they had the chance. And they wouldn’t stop with just the homosexuals. They got a list. You can bet on that.


  4. Shawn Robinson

    I think these guys are promoting the world view in which they were raised. However, this is an outdated worldview. If you look at the ages of people on TV defending these laws, they are usually over 60.
    However, I think really these countries like Russia and Uganda are just being used as testing grounds for discriminatory laws. I don’t see why conservatives they complain about Sharia being a menace (I think it would be) when some Christians seem to want to attempt the same thing incrementally. These bills are being marketed under “religious freedom” or “family values.” Really I think the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Paul’s letter to the Romans have been used as excuses to marginalize others more than Sharia.
    Can you imagine if people started started writing legislation aimed at disenfranchising Christians? Really that’s what I think these Republicans in Arizona, these guys connected to Rockford and Scott Lively are doing is setting up their version of Christianity as a privileged religion while others have to live under their yoke. I say their version, since I think everyone makes their own version of their supposed religion. Maybe you’ve heard the sales pitch “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”?

  5. The guy in the picture, Jim DeMint, is the person whose behind the funding of the TP. Now you know where the TP is getting their agenda. If there were ever a guy that would love to bring back Old Testament values, that’s the guy. Like I’ve said, don’t think for a moment the far right evangelicals and the other far right factions within the other Christian sects wouldn’t do that in a heartbeat if they ever had the chance. What they want to do in Arizona is no different than what the Nazi’s did with the Enabling Act. That’s how it all started in Nazi Germany. But shhhh, they don’t like it when they get compared to what they are most easily comparable to.


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