25 October 2015

The World Congress of Families

This week the World Congress of Families (WCF) convenes its 9th international conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is the first time the organization, founded about 20 years ago, has had a conference in the United States. Scheduled speakers and attendees at the event include the governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, and one of the senior apostles of the LDS Church, M. Russell Ballard. Affiliates of BYU and BYU-Idaho are also scheduled to speak at various points in the conference. The event is hosted by the Sutherland Institute, a conservative Utah-based organization.

The mission of the WCF is to “provide … sound scholarship and effective strategies to affirm and defend the natural family”. The “natural family” is a nuclear family comprised of a married man and woman. Unfortunately through their actions, agenda and associations, the WCF has made it fairly clear that LGBT individuals and families are not just viewed as non-ideal in this worldview, but as the enemy. Here are some important considerations when weighing whether the World Congress of Families and its affiliates really work towards the benefit of all families:

- The WCF has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

- In 2009, the United Nations prepared a statement urging that homosexuality should be decriminalized (homosexual acts are illegal in many countries). The WCF opposed this measure.

- WCF’s past partners include the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, both anti-LGBT organizations.

- The WCF openly admits to opposing hate-crime legislation and to laws that ban reparative therapy even while it tries to defend its self as not hateful.

- The WCF calls those who oppose their narrow definitions of family and human sexuality, “sexual radicals”.

- The Sutherland Institute which is sponsoring WCF’s conference in Utah this year, is opposed to same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, and recognition of LGBT people as a protected legal class. They also directly reject the idea that anyone is born gay.

- One of the plenary sessions of this year’s conference includes “The Future After the SCOTUS Decision”, a short series of talks that are quite unlikely to heap much praise on this landmark decision for equality in America.

- Another conference speaker is Professor Mark Regnerus, the author of a high-profile, but discredited, study that claimed to show the superiority of opposite sex parenting over same-sex parenting.

- Past WCF event speakers and organizers include Scott Lively, a rabid anti-gay activist who was intimately tied to the development of Uganda’s recent notorious anti-LGBT legislation that, in its original form, proscribed the death penalty or life imprisonment for homosexual acts. Lively previously claimed that “homosexuals created the Nazi party”.

Unfortunately, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has fairly strong links to the World Congress of Families. In addition to Elder Ballard’s planned keynote address during the opening day of the conference this year, there are other connections between the Mormon Church and this organization:

- Elder Dallin H. Oaks, another senior apostle in the Church, is an honorary member of the WFC board of directors.

-  LDS Apostles have apparently already spoken at past conferences of the organization.

- The renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be performing at the 2015 conference.

Of course every organization or individual has the right to peacefully advocate for their positions, but in the public sphere there is no free pass from the scrutiny of fact. While some WCF work probably does help some families, the organization’s activities and motives are suspect, and Latter-day Saints should seriously ask why their Church is affiliated with this organization. To the WFC and its supporters: If your “defense” of the family involves explicitly or implicitly tearing down other families, perhaps you are going about it all wrong?

Links to other perspectives:

- 3 Sept 2015 Salt Lake Tribune op-ed by a leader in Mormons Building Bridges, questioning whether the WCF really embodies Utah values.
- Inclusive Families Conference 2015 – held this weekend in SLC.

- A defense of WCF in the LDS Church-owned Deseret News.

1 comment:

  1. It blows my mind that Religion still seems to think that can get away with their bigotry without anyone noticing. Perhaps this is why these conferences keep going to smaller less known countries (no offense to Georgia), it allows them to practice their bigotry on a less well known stage. So thank you for exposing their horrors.
    world congress of families