While much of the attention surrounding Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” law has been about whether there should be a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, the saga has continued to ripple outward in several directions, including statements being made in support of the law by Canadian and American far-right spokespeople. Here is a round-up of several developments outside the Olympics debate, and some thoughts about what these statements of support are actually saying.
(And before proceeding, I do want to make an important point clear. While many anti-gay / anti-trans groups phrase their revulsion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans — a.k.a. LGBT — people as being a Christian position, it’s worth noting that not all Christians subscribe to it, and many argue that the framing of this struggle as one of “gay rights versus religious freedoms” is un-Christian, and abuses faith to justify bigotry. An online project has been started for affirming people of faith to let their views be known, and is worth checking out. For this reason, I refer to these groups as being far right groups, as opposed to being Christian groups)
1. R.E.A.L. Women of Canada and the Collective Letter of Support
Since making national headlines by speaking out against Foreign Affairs minister John Baird’s support for LGBT people in Russia, Uganda and other hotbeds of violence, R.E.A.L. Women of Canada (RWoC) has joined over 100 international anti-LGBT groups to sign a statement expressing support for Russia’s “Homosexual Propaganda” law.
The letter characterizes Russia’s Federal Law 135-FZ passed on June 29th as “[protecting] innocence and moral formation of children by prohibiting propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among them.” What the law effectively does, though, is to ban any public affirmation or support toward LGBT people, including public Pride events, LGBT community support services and more.
The organizations claim that they are defending families in the name of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 16 (3)). R.E.A.L. Women of Canada has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The organizations go on to make it clear that they refuse to acknowledge the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, which they consider “fabricated”:
“With its new law Russia is protecting genuine and universally recognized human rights against artificial and fabricated “values” aggressively imposed in many modern societies. We also note that the concepts of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are not outlined in the existing binding international treaties and agreements…”
R.E.A.L. Women of Canada faced a backlash over dismissing violence in Uganda during their previous statement of support. After receiving criticism from even traditional right-wing supporters, RWoC went to great lengths to state that they oppose violence against LGBT people. They then blamed the CBC for RWoC leader Gwen Landolt’s dismissive comments.
Yet, not once in this new letter of support for Russia do the organizations condemn the violence and the volatile situation that has arisen in the wake of the law. That decision wasn’t entirely RWoC’s, of course, but they certainly had a choice about whether to raise the issue with other signatories, and / or whether to sign on to a statement in which this wasn’t addressed at all.
2. C-FAM Claims “Human Rights Groups” Support Russia’s Law
The letter that RWoC added their organization’s support to was also signed by Mission: America, GrasstopsUSA, the World Congress of Families, a few Islamic groups, and many Eurasian organizations, some of whom are lobbying for similar laws in their countries, or have such laws in development.
C-FAM and Population Research International (PRI), who are regular contributors at the Canadian website LifeSiteNews, also signed on. Both C-FAM and PRI are offshoots of Human Life International (HLI), an organization that was indicated as being one of the major groups stirring up anti-LGBT sentiment in Africa. HLI itself is not listed as a signatory. C-FAM wrote about the letter of support for Russia as though it were a news item, under the headline of “Human rights groups support Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law,” and without disclosing to readers that they’re one of the groups on board:
“A statement from civil society affirms the recently enacted Russian law, which imposes fines on individuals and groups that promote homosexuality among minors, as important steps towards fulfilling international obligations towards the family and minors…”
I previously challenged LifeSiteNews both publicly and privately to clarify its partnership with HLI, and its stance on the latter group’s alleged fomenting of anti-LGBT hatred in Uganda. While there has been no response to that challenge, there appears to be a marked shift of public advocacy from HLI to its subsidiaries (C-FAM and PRI), possibly because of the report that identified their activities in Africa.
3. Scott Lively Even Wants to Take Away Your Rainbow
Scott Lively, the Massachusetts author, lawyer and activist who gladly takes credit for being the self-described “human rights consultant” who lobbied Russia, Uganda and others to ramp up their anti-LGBT laws, also wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin, in which he repeatedly compared LGBT people to Nazis (which isn’t new to him), and urged Putin to stand firm against international pressure to undo the law:
“The battle to protect your society from homosexualization has only just begun, and you may be surprised to discover in the coming months and years just how aggressively many world leaders will work to try to intimidate and coerce you to capitulate to homosexualist demands…”
In 2006 and 2007, Lively toured Russia and some Baltic states, lobbying for several laws, of which the propaganda law was only one part:
During that tour, which began in the Russian Far East city of Blagoveschensk and ended in St. Petersburg, I lectured in a variety of venues including numerous universities, churches and conference halls, and met with numerous government leaders at various levels of influence. The entire tour spanned approximately 50 cities in seven countries: Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, and Belarus (we also passed through Kazakhstan but didn‘t speak there).
With Lively’s encouragement, the first “homosexual propaganda” ban was enacted by the City of St. Petersburg, Russia, and several other cities, states and countries that Lively lobbied are in some stage of considering or enacting a ban, including Ukraine, Moldova and Lithuania. Lately, he’s been pushing for the opportunity to lobby the conservative governments in Australia and Britain.
And his latest strategy suggestion to Russia? Sabotage any attempt by athletes to make a small visible gesture of support for LGBT people, by taking away the rainbow:
This article is a call to Christians and Jews (and Moslems — who also revere the book of Genesis ) to take back the rainbow from the “gays.” I am urging pro-family leaders and advocates everywhere to start using the rainbow again, especially in ways that clearly link the symbol to Biblical opposition to the “gay” agenda, or which remind the world of its true meaning. One way to do this is to create our own rainbow flags and banners bearing the slogan “The Rainbow Belongs to God: Genesis 6-9, 19” or a similar message.
4. LifeSiteNews’ Sensational Scoop
LifeSiteNews is also attempting to make issue of the concerns that LGBT-positive athletes have, and discussions about the possibility of showing some gesture of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people in Russia during the Olympic Games. To this end, LSN is fixating on an audio recording made by MassResistance in which Patrick Burke acknowledged that some athletes do intend to show some gesture of support, and are still considering how. LSN frames the discussion as being about smuggling LGBT pride symbols and propaganda:
“Here at a journalism conference someone gives a presentation on how they’re planning on disrupting the Olympics, and it’s not news,” Brian Camenker, director of MassResistance, told LifeSiteNews.com. “CBS News was there, CNN was there, Fox News, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Time-Warner, National Public Radio – all of these people were there, and it’s not news.”
“It’s an international incident, and no one seemed to think” it is newsworthy, he said in disbelief. “There’s been a lag time for somebody to say something on this, and nobody seemed interested in reporting this.”
“You’re the first people who have called on this,” Camenker told LifeSiteNews.
If LSN’s and MassResistance’s efforts result in athletes or teams being refused admittance to Russia for the Games, of course, it appears to be of no consequence to them, just as long as support for LGBT people is silenced.
5. What Other Far-Right Spokespeople Are Saying
These have hardly been the only far-right ideologues to voice support for Russia’s bill. Some other examples:
Bob Vander Plaats, head of the group The Family Leader:
Vander Plaats praised Putin for taking a stand and saying “don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country for the Olympics; we believe in one man, one woman marriage; there is no homosexual marriage in Russia.”
Linda Harvey of Mission America (another of the signatories of the aforementioned letter):
In our country the sexual anarchists are whaling [sic] because Russian children and teens will not be allowed to hear homosexual propaganda. Children won’t be told, falsely, that some are born to be homosexual. They won’t be encouraged to declare themselves homosexual at age twelve or thirteen and label themselves for the rest of their school years. Russian children won’t be taught that they are victims of the mainstream, straight world, that they should develop deep resentments and hostiles and shouldn’t trust anything tradition-minded people say or do. The risks of same-sex relationships won’t be carefully hidden from them, as they are here, and they just might have healthier, more stable lives as a result.
They won’t be told that biblical moral standards are hateful and harmful; that abstinence until marriage is impossible and recommending it is discrimination; nor that sex as a young teen is perfectly normal, constructive and manageable with latex. They won’t learn that two men or two women should be seen as a married couple and that no one should ever blink an eye at the terms ‘her wife’ or ‘his husband.’ They won’t be taught that Jesus now suddenly accepts homosexuality and always did and that modern, enlightened theologians have discovered pro-homosexual meanings in Scripture that no one else did over several thousand years and that all those verses that call homosexuality sin really mean something else. In other words, the kids in Russia may get to live lives as kids and not be weighed down with adult agendas laced with adult deception.
Now I would never give a stamp of approval on all that might be going on in Russia but this is one area where it seems I agree with them. They have apparently observed the harm being done to kids in the West as a result of homosexual exploitation and are pursuing a much wiser course before global gay activism gets a foothold there. If there is room in our prayers for the people of Russia friends, and I’m sure there is, let’s pray that children there continue to be allowed protection in this way and in every other way God would want as well.
Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association:
They understand that homosexual behavior is a moral evil among teenagers. Now, they need to get to the point where they realize that it’s a moral evil for anybody, but at least they’re ahead of us on recognizing that it’s a moral evil to propagandize this lifestyle among teenagers…
… in my mind, we ought to be celebrating this, and I don’t know what the timidity is, why there is such a hesitancy in the pro-family community to support this law… but this is public policy that we’ve been advocating and here is a nation in the world that is actually putting it into practice.
Peter LaBarbera, of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality:
Folks, I’m afraid that the lessons that the United States of America has to teach the world on homosexuality these days are mostly negative: Avoid our mistakes. Don’t become like us. Don’t foster the promotion of radical sexual and gender agendas to your young people. Don’t allow your government schools to become ‘pro-homosexuality zones’ for impressionable students. Don’t treat unhealthly sexual perversions and gender confusion as a “civil right” or “human right,” etc.
Ron Gray, of the Canadian podcast, Roadkill Radio, and former leader of the Christian Heritage Party:
You know, that makes good sense. People who take children to watch a gay Pride parade, for example, or in any way push such propaganda on innocent children are inmy mind actually guilty of child abuse. And that goes for teachers, politicians and media types who tell children the lie that homosexuality is praiseworthy. Look, lying to our kids in any form is shameful and wrong.
Homosexual behaviour is, in fact, dangerous. And that doesn’t mean that homosexual people should be persecuted or maligned. They’re unfortunate, and they should be helped to overcome their dangerous addiction to unnatural behaviour. But we shouldn’t tell children that homosexuality is commendable or admirable. It’s not. It’s dangerous. It’s a vector for diseases that have become epidemic among homosexuals and among other sexually promiscuous people…
We’ll discuss Ron Gray’s emphasis on conflating homosexuality with disease and harm, in a moment.
The Ripple Effect
The “Homosexual Propaganda” law has been at the centre of controversy since it was passed, and has sparked an enormous wave of violence against LGBT persons.
It’s an issue that seems to take a new twist every day, and in several directions — with the question of Russia’s hosting the Olympic games only being one. The Russian lawmaker who proposed the bill has been having authorities investigate her critics. A prominent LGBT activist unfortunately also caused controversy when he apparently made abhorrent anti-Semitic comments on Facebook and Twitter. A number of Russian citizens have sought refugee status in order to avoid returning to the country, and the Deputy General Director of the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (RTR) has declared that the hearts of LGBT people “should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”
The controversy has even spilled over into western nations, such as with a UK Department for Education policy ban on affirming LGBT students, which drew comparisons to the Russia’s law.
Several videos of beatings of gay and trans people have surfaced since the law was enacted. One group oddly co-opted the naming and language of the “Occupy” movement, has conflated those targeted by the law with pedophiles, and advocates for violence:
Martsinkevich, who sports a mohawk and often appears bare-chested in his videos, founded Occupy Pedophilia and encouraged his followers to pour urine over their victims’ heads to “cure” them of homosexuality.
Never Mind the Violence. Or the Hypocrisy.
The support for Russia has revealed several hypocrisies among the ideological far right.
Several of the organizations that have signed the letter have previously complained that having to respect LGBT human rights violates their freedom of speech and conscience. Yet they have clearly supported restricting LGBT-positive speech to the point of banning it from public view and discourse entirely.
Many have also complained that their nations have not done enough to safeguard the human rights and safety of Christians around the world. But when it comes to LGBT people, their concern is that attempting to do so would violate nations’ sovereignty.
Why Anti-LGBT Laws are Proving Popular Overseas
The comment on sovereignty is key to understanding why bans laws like Russia’s are proving popular.
Discussions about colonialism and sovereignty are the means by which American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have successfully swayed discussion in many African, Asian, South American and European nations. Given that some of those countries suffered under colonial rule and others fought pressures by western corporate and political interests, it is an accusation that resonates with many nations, who still resist western influence and wish to assert their own power.
By phrasing homosexuality and transsexuality to sound like western inventions and a plot, attitudes like Lively’s have found fertile ground.
What Anti_LGBT Groups Are Actually Saying In Supporting Them
If it’s not already obvious, it’s important to recognize that “protecting” children from anything that might affirm and validate LGBT people is simply seen as a stepping stone to “protecting” anyone from that message. If not, re-read the quotes above.
The far right has realized that in the modern world, people have largely started to realize that people don’t simply choose to become gay on a lark (or transition between sexes on a whim), and that the old mythic characterizations of LGBT people have failed as more friends, relatives, co-workers, celebrities and more have come out of the closet. The first strategy for the far right, now, is to shame, intimidate and silence the next generation back into hiding, and then try to extend that to the rest of society.
This is why education is such a major fight. I previously noted (parts 1, 2, 3) how the far right conflates anything that supports and affirms LGBT students with indoctrinating propaganda. Much of this argument requires the public to believe that schools are encouraging kids to try same-sex encounters, when what they’re really concerned about is anything that contradicts the far right message that homosexuality, transsexuality and such are abominations and unacceptable. It’s what resides between the lines of what many of the aforementioned folks say on the subject, such as this comment from Linda Harvey of Mission America:
Why are we in such a place friends where children learn that homosexual behavior is noble, that amputating healthy body parts [Harvey's way of referring to sex reassignment surgery] is admirable but the mention of Jesus Christ during a graduation ceremony is controversial? I’ll tell you how: it’s because not enough of us are calling this lunacy what it is. We need to have a clear idea about what is evil and speak up about it in order to preserve the good. These actions are pure evil and should be declared child abuse. This all starts with the lie that homosexuality can ever be a good thing or that changing one’s gender can ever be in the child’s long-term best interest when it’s easy to demonstrate that it’s not.
It also requires the public to believe that simply being gay or trans is harmful, and not in the public good… because that is the far right’s second strategy, and it’s easier for them to simply state it over and over as though it were factual, in hopes that the public will follow that lead, rather than to have to quantify it with anything more substantial than pointing to HIV and some faulty or cherry-picked studies that fall apart with a few questions.
Allegations of Harm
R.E.A.L. Women of Canada has not satisfied itself with merely signing a letter to support the Russian law. The group has also posted a brief by an anti-LGBT legal organization which regularly embroils itself in attempts to fight or overturn LGBT human rights advances, Alliance Defending Freedom.
In the brief, ADF claims that Russia’s “propaganda” law is not discrimination, does not ban organizing, does not silence LGBT persons or groups, and does not result in detentions of LGBT people… even though these things have already been evidenced in the way that Russia has applied the law. ADF’s lead author, Roger Kiska, can’t be said to be without bias either, since he has previously signed onto similar letters, including this protest of American support of a Pride Parade in the Czech Republic. ADF does curiously and correctly note that another law passed in Russia calls for sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings,” and has not garnered the same response from international media — but ADF attributes this to hypocrisy rather than a failure of reporting and public response.
ADF’s brief, says RWoC, is evidence that the “propaganda” law is not discrimination, and is merely protecting children. To accept this argument, you have to accept their premise that if children hear anything positive or accepting of LGBT people, or are in their proximity, then that is inherently harmful to them.
In 2011, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman’s polygamy ruling stated that rights and freedoms — including religious freedom — could be limited, provided harm could be demonstrated:
“In my view, the salutary effects of the prohibition far outweigh the deleterious. The law seeks to advance the institution of monogamous marriage, a fundamental value in Western society from the earliest of times. It seeks to protect against the many harms which are reasonably apprehended to arise out of the practice of polygamy.”
Some far right critics have already seized upon this as being contrary to Canada’s rulings legalizing same-sex marriage, and an indication that it could be re-criminalized if enough “harms” could be raised to justify doing so. In applauding Russia’s “propaganda” law, RWoC is expecting Canadians to accept the premise of harm caused by children merely hearing or seeing anything that affirms LGBT people, but without having to quantify that harm.
Russia Isn’t Sitting Still, Either
Russia is now proposing a law to remove children from the homes of LGBT families, in order to protect them. The bill’s author, Alexei Zhuravlev, said that the ban on homosexual “propaganda” should not simply be applied in public spaces, “but also in the family.” He was later asked if a child should be taken from a single mother if she were discovered to be lesbian:
‘Of course she should definitely be deprived of her rights to the child,’ he said.
‘Homosexuals must not raise children. They corrupt them. They do them much more harm than if the child were in an orphanage. I am deeply convinced of this.’
One would expect organizations that claim to be standing up for families and the best interests of children to oppose this new proposal, regardless of what they thought about the parents in question.
But then, you never know.