Opposition to contraception? Check. Calling homosexuals "perverts"? Of course. Fighting immigration? You betcha. But this is not just the usual roundup of opponents to sexual and reproductive health & rights—it's the World Congress of Families, a veritable who's who of the extremist right-wing movement. And a member of the Bush administration is attending in an official capacity: Assistant Secretary of State Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
Americans should be embarrassed that a prominent government official is committing such a "diplomatic faux pas." Members of the European Parliament have asked Sauerbrey to reconsider attending the conference in Poland next month, citing several speakers' positions that clash with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Who is involved with the World Congress of Families, you ask?
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- Wade Horn is still on the list as a speaker—he's the former Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Allan Carlson of the Howard Center—you may remember him from such events as the "Contraception Is Not the Answer" (CINTA) conference last fall, at which his particular presentation focused on and implored a return to the Protestant roots against contraception.
- Roman Catholic Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family—he states that condoms don't protect against HIV and that safe sex campaigns lead to an increase in sexual promiscuity. (Reality check.)
- Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International—he was also a speaker at CINTA and represents an extreme organization that sees sniper attacks on doctors who perform abortions as a "superb tactic."
- Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute—whose weekly briefing this week defends PRI's statement that Muslim immigrants are contributing to European countries' "demographic suicide."
- Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CFAM) — who has previously "joked" about "taking out" Hillary Clinton.
- What about Sauerbrey, herself? Bush made a recess appointment when her nomination originally stalled in the Senate because of her conservative social views. Incidentally, she attended the last World Congress of Families in 2004.
"Many respectable people who hold different views about [abortion] than my own would not be seen at a meeting like this," O'Brien said. "That's what makes it disturbing, that a leader in this Bush administration who has responsibility for sensitive issues [would] be seen to be giving her backing. Her presence in one way or another gives an official stamp of approval to this fringe meeting."
The letter from the European Parliament Working Group on Separation of Religion and Politics to Sauerbrey expresses concern about the extremist and intolerant views of the World Congress of Families speakers and participants:
We fear that by providing official support for these views, you will undermine Europe-wide efforts to promote tolerance in Europe, especially among newer members of the European Union.
The sole aim of the World Congress of Families is to turn back the clock on recent advances in civil and political rights around the world, with the work done at the U.N. and at the E.U. a particular target. In your role as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, you must be aware of the impact that the unrepresentative views of the people attending this conference will have on the life and death issues that affect the world's poor.