The event that extreme conservatives have been waiting for is finally here! Get out your scarlet letters, chastity belts and witch feminist-poking sticks. The World Congress of Families (WCF) begins Friday and will be attended by fundamentalist conservative representatives from around the world (with a large faction from the United States, of course). The theme of this 4th Congress is "The Natural Family—Springtime for Europe and the World." (Anyone else hear a song from The Producers in your head? I wonder if they'll play that in the musical interlude on opening day…)
On a more serious note, the WCF and participating groups represent a real threat to sexual and reproductive health and rights; our special series covers the congress and its implications for these important issues. Two of our allies will be writing anonymously (names withheld to protect their safety) with RH Reality Check while they attend the event; this first post provides excellent background on the WCF (including the first three congresses) and why the right-wing chose Poland. More reports from the congress will be published over the weekend. Additionally, Andrea Lynch provides a reality check on the way in which WCF excludes real families around the world.
The list of WCF speakers and participants is an impressive collection of radical conservatives who are anti-abortion (duh), anti-feminist, anti-contraception, xenophobic and homophobic. The main impetus for focusing on the "natural family" is based on conservative Christian ideology, and they use declining birth rates, dwindling church attendance and growing immigration as motivation to push discriminatory policies and restrict tolerance and reproductive rights.
The event is organized by the Howard Center, whose founder, Allan Carlson, spoke at the Contraception Is Not the Answer conference last fall, which had similar themes and participants. And indeed, the WTF WCF speakers and sponsors are opposed to "artificial contraception" because they believe it has led to a population crisis:
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Europe is the battlefield and Poland is pivotal. Through demographic winter and the rule of an anti-family elite, Europe is almost lost to family values. The loss of Europe will have a devastating impact on the family in the Americas, Asia and Africa, as well as in international forums. Poland is a bastion of tradition, faith and family. — From the WCF flyer
There are too many sponsoring and participating organizations to cover them all here, but let's examine a few highlights:
- The Bush Administration is one of the few governments sending official representatives (U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey and Wade Horn, former Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services); there is also a member of the Latvian Parliament speaking at the congress.
The major players of conservative organizations from the United States are participating, several of whom I addressed in a previous post. These groups are a few of the additional cosponsors:
- Heritage Foundation
- Focus on the Family (see their Reckless Rhetoric)
- Family Research Council (FRC's Reckless Rhetoric)
- Concerned Women for America (CWA's Reckless Rhetoric)
- Discovery Institute (Seattle-based organization that promotes "intelligent design" over evolution)
- Manhattan Institute (New York think tank focusing on "free market" and traditional conservatism)
And of course there are various religious representatives, including the following:
- Bruce Hafen: President, European Central Area, LDS Church (also known as the Mormon church)
- John Vining: Director of the Center for Family Ministries, Church of God (Pentecostal church)
- Paige Patterson: former President, Southern Baptist Convention
- Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo: Cardinal Bishop and president of the Pontifical Council for the Family (Colombia)
This may be a primarily fringe Catholic movement, but as shown by the WCF speakers above, it's also attracting fundamentalist protestant and other right-wing religious support.
Finally, I'll leave you with a few session highlights from the WCF program that speak for themselves:
- The New Population Crisis
- The Mother in the Home and the New Home Economics
- The attack on marriage as the union of woman and man
- Dignity of the child from conception and its right to life, home, and family (emphasis mine)
- Beyond the Contraceptive Mentality
- The Family: Seedbed for National Renewal
Don't forget to check back for updates from the World Congress of Families!