Last week, I posted parts 1 and 2 of a discussion about the LDS Church’s involvement with the World Congress of Families. Part 1 gives an overview of the origins of WCF and its global anti-LGBT advocacy. Part 2 describes the Church’s connections with and involvement in WCF.
But the LDS Church has been involved with this group since 1996–so why the interest now? Well, because Russia invaded Ukraine. While this is only one of many imperialist activities Putin has undertaken in the last 20 years, it is the most blatant example of Putin’s desire not just to control strategic locations but to undermine democracy and United States and European Union influence globally and especially in Eastern Europe. WCF has supported Putin’s agenda of culturally and politically aligning Eastern European countries to it instead of the West and has specifically targeted countries where there is strife between pro-Russian and pro-EU factions to hold its world congresses, which often include sessions that specifically address geopolitical topics and attempt to grow support for pro-Russian factions. If this seems conspiratorial, you don’t have to look any further than the numerous high-profile members and supporters of WCF who are either pro-Putin Russian imperialist oligarchs or pro-Putin European fascists, as well as WCF’s U.S. leadership’s praise of Putin.
Before I get into the details, let me be clear about what I am not saying. I am not saying that WCF “caused” or “enabled” Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. I really couldn’t even comment on the extent to which WCF’s activities in Eastern Europe have materially aided Russia’s imperialistic cultural and political aims. I’m also not going to address here WCF’s connection to the rise of the Russian Christian Right (which commentators note did not exist in Russia before recent years) or its connection to the U.S. Christian Right / Trumpism, although that would be an interesting topic for exploration.
I am also not saying “Russians are bad.” I think that authoritarianism, the erosion of democracy and human rights, and Russian imperialism (i.e., attempting to annex / take over independent countries) are bad. But please don’t mistake my references to “Russia” and certain Russians who are participating in Putin’s agenda to be a wholesale attack on Russia or the Russian people or culture. We can criticize the Russian government, and certain Russian individuals and institutions, while recognizing that the Russian people are not monolith, many oppose the war, many who do not oppose the war are victims of a misinformation campaign, and, above all, they are all humans just like us.
Having said that, let’s first look at the prominent pro-Putin Russian imperialist and European fascists involved with WCF and the support that even American WCF leaders have shown for Putin. Then we’ll look at why and how they are using WCF to further Putin’s agenda.
Russian and Far-Right WCF Participants
As described in my initial post, WCF’s Russian roots go straight to the beginning as it was always a joint effort between Russian sociologists concerned about the West’s influence on population decline and a U.S. researcher who wrote about the negative impacts of gay rights and feminism on the population.
That involvement in Russia has now expanded to other private actors who act as a “parallel state” and are “aligned out of personal conviction, patriotism, and commercial interests with the political ambitions of the Kremlin [and have] been the primary channel of Russian influence and funding into the global anti-gender movement” as well as funding pro-Putin far-right allies throughout Europe.
Some specific high-profile Russians involved in WCF include:
- Vladimir Yakunin, a WCF Founder, railroad magnate and Russian government official who is on a U.S. sanctions list because of his ties to Putin and Russia’s annex of the Crimea Region of Ukraine. He was also placed on Australia’s restricted trade list because of his close personal and professional connections to Putin. He is, in fact, so close to Putin that he was once considered a potential successor. He continues to participate in WCF events. His wife, Natalia Yakunina, has spoken at most WCF events I reviewed.
- Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, who has given millions in funding to WCF. Malofeev is notoriously pro-Putin, has been put on U.S. sanctions lists for his support (financial and personnel) of Russia’s invasion into Crimea and other Russian military activity in Ukraine, and has also been put on Ukraine’s “Wanted” list for sponsoring paramilitary activity in Ukraine. The European Commission, United States, and Ukraine have all put him on watch and sanctions lists for trying to destabilize and financing separatism in Ukraine. Bulgaria banned him for 10 years because of his involvement in a spy affair aimed at turning the country away from a pro-Western orientation and towards Russia. Malofeev is a monarchist who wants Putin to be appointed as Tsar and rule forever, and U.S. intelligence services “consider him as Putin’s right arm for operations of political interference in Europe” and as a key player in Russia’s disiniformation campaign in Russia and abroad. He founded a television station (with the help of a former Fox news producer) that is known for supporting Putin. Although Malofeev delegates much of his international activities to his employee and close associate Alexey Komov, Malofeev is on the attendee list of numerous WCF events.
- Alexey Komov, WCF’s official Russian representative and a close associate of Malofeev who generally carries out Malofeev’s objectives abroad. Most recently, Komov was involved in a scandal revealing Russia’s attempts to secretly finance Italy’s far right (including the host of the most recent WCF event held in Verona).
- Former Duma member Yelena Mizulina, author of numerous anti-LGBT and anti-abortion laws in Russia and one of the first seven people put on the U.S. sanctions list after Russia’s 2014 invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine (because of her role in authorizing the invasion).
- Alexander Dugin, an ultranationalist Russian philosopher and founder of the “Eurasianist” movement who believes that “concepts of liberalism, freedom and democracy are alien to Russian culture” and has called for the creation of “an illiberal totalitarian Eurasian empire stretching from Dublin through Vladivostok” (the Russian Far East), which would require the annexation of Ukraine and Finland. Dugin held a Eurasian conference in Moldova in 2017, where it was announced that Moldova would also be the location of the next WCF congress. He works for Malofeev’s media company and has been sanctioned by the U.S. and Canada for his role in the invasion in Crimea.
Outside of Russia, far-right politicians were attending events as early as 2007 in Warsaw but have increased involvement since 2017. They include:
- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who hosted WCF’s Budapest event (themed around “Making Families Great Again”) and is blamed for Hungary’s democratic backsliding and descent into kleptocracy. Orban is regarded as a dictator, white supremecist, and “Putinist,” but WCF loves him and has congratulated him on his victories. He attended the 2016 Georgia, 2018 Moldova, and 2019 Verona events.
- Katalin Novak, president of Orban’s far-right party in Hungary, who attended the 2017 Budapest and 2019 Verona WCF events.
- French WCF Representative Fabrice Sorlin, former head of the nationalist organization Dies Irae, member of the ultra-right National Front, and former president of the France-Europe-Russia Alliance, whose goal is to strengthen ties between Europe and Russia, unite “Christian civilizations”, and stand against Islam and America. Sorlin is a proponent of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, the Russian breakaway state in Ukraine. Sorlin organized the first regional WCF conference in France, where the agenda included a number events that seem puzzling for a “family” congress:
- Tactics and strategies of the gay lobby at the European Union
- Georgia’s Liberal Experience
- Russian Revival in the 21st century
- Europe or European Union – which way for Serbia?
- The aggressive anti-family policy of the European Union as a factor in destruction of Ukrainian statehood
- Former Moldovan President Igor Odon. The WCF Congress that was held in Moldova under his watch was during a Moldovan conflict between pro-EU factions in the country and pro-Russians, lead by Dodon. He asked Yakunin and Malofeev to finance the Moldovan WCF event.
- Italian politician Matteo Salvini, part of the Italian far-right party La Lega (which received illegal funding from Russia operatives). Salvini is an open-admirer of Putin who opposed 2014 sanctions against Russia for Russian’s invasion of Crimea and who cannot even bring himself to condemn Putin in the wake of Russia’s latest invasion. He is also extremely racist and anti-immigrant.
- Spanish / French Monarchist Luis Alfonso de Borbon, who claims he has the right to the French throne, supports the late Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco, and works for what is referred to as “Hugo Chavez’s bank”. He attended WCF’s 2018 and 2019 events.
- Levan Vasadz, a Georgian politician who made his fortune in Russia and is known for being stridently xenophobic, homophobic, and has called for Russia and Georgia to unite against Western influence. He has close ties with Dugin, advocates for Moldova to become a Russian vassal state, and attended the 2015 Salt Lake City and 2018 Moldova events.
Finally, WCF’s American leadership has also expressed support for Putin.
- Larry Jacobs, former managing director of WCF, has expressed support for the Russian right as “the Christian saviors of the world” and bragged about his work with the Kremlin.
- Scott Lively, long-time associate of WCF, frequent speaker at their events, and one of the most well-known anti-gay crusaders in the U.S., wrote a “thank you” letter to Putin praising him for his example of “moral leadership” and concluding “Once again, thank you, President Putin, for standing firm in defense of the natural family, which is the essential foundation of all human civilization. Perhaps through the inspiration of your leadership, an alliance of the good people of our countries with those of your own, can once again in some cooperative fashion, redeem the future of mankind from a Fascist Leviathan, just as we did in World War II.” (Ya’ll, this letter is totally bonkers.)
- WCF Spokesman Don Feder defended Putin after Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine, calling him “a power player who cares more about Russia’s national interests, and Russian minorities in his near abroad (smaller countries around Russia that were formerly part of the Soviet Union), than in that mythical force known as world opinion,” agreeing with Putin’s desire not to have the EU “on his doorstep”, and stating that he doesn’t “care about a possible Russian annexation of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine (with its Russian-oriented, Orthodox population)”. (This letter is also totally bonkers.) In Feder’s words:
Putin is a strong man. Obama is a weak man (except when it comes to bullying our allies). Obama venerates multilateralism. Putin is willing to go it alone. Obama is committed to the entire LGBT agenda (including gay “marriage”). He’s also the only sitting president to address Planned Parenthood, such is his commitment to abortion without borders. Putin believes the foregoing is the road to national annihilation.
Where does the threat to America lie?
Indeed, WCF did not seem to care about Russia’s aggression in Crimea–in 2014, the Congress was scheduled to take place in Moscow. Just before the conference, the United States and other countries imposed sanctions on Moscow resulting from its invasion of the Crimea region of Ukraine. While WCF publicly announced it was canceling the conference, an identical conference—featuring largely the same lineup of speakers, including American WCF leaders who were arguably flouting U.S. sanctions law–was held during the original timeframe.
One wonders if WCF has been duped by Russians using its resources to mask a pro-Russia expansionist geopolitical agenda as a holy war. And if so, whether the LDS leaders who would have rubbed shoulders with the fascists listed above had a clue that their biases were being exploited. This involvement is what I’ll address next.
WCF and Cultural / Political Support for Russia in Eastern Europe
Apart from ties to pro-Putin oligarchs and politician, how does allying with WCF actually advance Putin’s agenda in Europe? For this, I’m going to rely and quote heavily from two reports to the European Parliament about the Russia and the far right in Europe generally and WCF specifically.
A 2021 report from the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights describes the ways that Russia has “over the past decade … positioned itself as the global champion of Christian values.” Why? The report continues:
This new role as an Orthodox Christian Champion serves several simultaneous purposes, namely as a shield to deflect human rights criticism from the West (or what are perceived as Western-dominated institutions), and to offer itself as an authentic alternative to a perceived hegemonic West which has turned its back on its Christian heritage. Antigender discourses thus play an important role in Russia’s domestic policymaking and political legitimation, as well as in its international geopolitical positioning. Adopting anti-gender positions also opens the possibility for new alliances with likeminded actors beyond Russia’s borders or those with similar axes to grind with the West.
While some of Russia’s support for this agenda comes from state-funded government agencies, much of it is channeled through private Russian actors and through dark money chanelled to political actors outside of Russia (like Salvini). And the two largest private actors in this arena are Yakunin and Malofeev, both of whom have close ties for WCF. Indeed, the parliament report describes them as WCF having for years “acted as the primary link between sanctioned Russian oligarchs and leaders among the American religious right.”
A 2021 briefing prepared by the European Parliament more specifically called out this relationship with WCF:
The WCF is a prime example of an ideologically motivated actor. WCF’s longstanding cooperation with the Russian government, where both parties take advantage of their complementary status, motivates their marriage of convenience. The partnership allows the Russian government to act through a strategic partner and local proxy actors, and hide behind an alliance of like-minded motivated by religious and ideological convictions. The WCF’s religion-based normative agenda can thus be successfully used to conceal the real end goal – an EU weakened by ideological tensions and strife. It is an effective alliance. The EU Members States’ internal debates and different opinions and policies on LGBTI+ issues, laced with traditional bigotry and intolerance, are utilised and taken advantage of to polarise and erode the foundation for a common understanding of equality, fundamental rights and protection of minorities- but also of democracy and rule of law, as demonstrated by the procedures against Poland and Hungary[.]
In sum, WCF has framed gay rights as a culture war between Eastern Europe and a (morally bankrupt) West. Russian members of WCF and their sympathizers have used the European Union’s more progressive stance on gay marriage as a reason to encourage Eastern European countries to remain less integrated with Western Europe and more closely aligned with Russia, including specifically in the Ukraine–arguing that Ukraine signing an association agreement with the EU would “lead to the inevitable ‘homosexualizing of Ukraine.” Many of the events WCF has sponsored have taken place in countries experiencing division between pro-Western / EU vs. pro-Russian factions, such as the events in Moldova and Georgia, and are intended to orient governments to and gain popular support for Russia. And LDS Church representatives were there, watching.
I don’t think the LDS Church actually wants to support Russia’s imperialist efforts–on the contrary, I think it probably doesn’t, which is why it is so puzzling and frustrating that they’d turn a blind eye to this just so that they could have some anti-gay allies. It only takes about ten minutes of digging into the WCF to see its deep ties to pro-Putin Russian imperialists and Eastern European fascists and that the Russian arm of WCF took advantage of WCF Western allies to pursue an anti-gay, imperialist, fascist agenda in Eastern Europe. How did Elder Feo feel attending an event sponsored by a racist, xenophobic, Putin-loving Italian fascist in his home country? Were Elders Kacher or Golden uncomfortable during the overtly political portions of the Georgia and Moldova conferences or the anti-western sentiment expressed there, or the fact that there were numerous individuals present who were sanctioned under U.S. law for their participation in the unlawful annex of Crimea and paramilitary activities there? Was Professor Wardle concerned about being hosted by a notorious dictator at the Budapest event? Did Sister Gay, who has spent years living in Africa and has done a tremendous amount of service and good things there, find anything troubling about rubbing shoulders with people who advocated for the death penalty for homosexuals in Africa during her tenure on the WCF board? Did the former Utah Supreme Court Justice and purported proponent of democracy and the rule of law Dallin Oaks find it troubling when his fellow WCF Board members wrote love letters to Putin?
Well, I hope so. I hope they were uncomfortable. But then, why continue to participate? Either way, the Church’s continued involvement with WCF is a compelling example of yet another rotten fruit springing from the Church’s unrelenting assault on queer families–an assault it seems willing to carry on with at any cost.
That cost is high because gay rights are human rights. Waging a battle against human rights–in addition to making the world a worse, not better place–will inevitably support, directly or indirectly, a deterioration of the rule of law and global democracy. There’s nothing less at stake than that.
The writing and research above is excellent. Thank you. I’ll just leave you with the following two quotes:
David Bednar 2016: “There are no homosexual members of the Church”.
M. Ahmadinejad 2007: “In Iran, we do not have homosexuals”.
Thoroughly researched and well written post – thank you. Talk about unholy alliances – the Christian Right (including the LDS Church), and Putin’s puppets. Russia clearly manipulates the WCF narrative for political and territorial purposes. Apparently the LDS Church turns a blind eye to harsh realities in favor of pursuing their anti-gay agenda. How inspiring.
Over time, the Church’s anti-gay posture will result in greater losses than benefits – as measured by membership outflow and the holy grail of tithing $. Infallibility has a cost.
A brilliant phrase from the OP bears repeating: “Either way, the Church’s continued involvement with WCF is a compelling example of yet another rotten fruit springing from the Church’s unrelenting assault on queer families – an assault it seems willing to carry on at any cost.”
I look forward to Elder Oaks’ humble apology at GC.
Elisa: I can’t overstate how incredible your reporting on the Church’s ties to WCF, and its various actions have been. So well done, and done frankly with as neutral and generous a spirit as one can given the facts.
I do wonder, on a deep level, just how committed to democracy the Church really is, for the reasons this group is not. I have heard many times at Church that the “ideal” form of government is a theocracy, but given the fact that the only theocracy I was familiar with growing up was Iran, I didn’t see how that was desirable on any level. The idea that there can be a “good” theocracy feels incredibly unlikely. Brigham Young certainly didn’t achieve it. Theocracy in practice seems like autocracy with a religious flavor. Suppressing human rights and freedoms appears to be the core of both forms of government. Growing up where the Church was a teeny tiny minority, I couldn’t fathom being against pluralism. I still can’t fathom twisting “religious freedom” to mean the freedom to discriminate or oppress in the name of religion as the right (and Oaks specifically) seems to mean. Democracy is the only form of government designed to recognize the right of all people to find happiness, make their own choices, and pursue happiness. “People aren’t changing, after all. It’s just that for the first time, there’s enough freedom for people to stop changing who they are.” Glennon Doyle
Elisa, this has been a really well-researched, eye-opening and interesting series. I’d only vaguely heard of WCF before this. It’s creepy that an authoritarian group would try to camouflage behind the idea that they’re trying to help families. It’s Orwellian doublespeak.
This: “That cost is high because gay rights are human rights.”
And the quote in Hawkgrrl’s comment: ““People aren’t changing, after all. It’s just that for the first time, there’s enough freedom for people to stop changing who they are.” Glennon Doyle”
It’s frightening that the conservatives are so angry that some people want to live a different sort of life that they’re willing to destroy democracy in order to stop it. The far-right fearmongering about a gay agenda is balderdash – the only gay agenda is to be treated as equals. Gays aren’t out to stop straight people from marrying and having children.
I am no longer shocked by what I learn about the LDS church, but information like this still saddens me. Amazing research!
Thank you for your extensive research Elisa. This is all very illuminating and disheartening. Our leaders absolutely have to disengage from this awful organization. I knew it was rotten – but just not how much. It’s also highly concerning to see the dismantling of many human rights in several US States and seemingly in the name of religious beliefs. I don’t see these politicians as being Christlike or agreeing at all with the idea of human rights or agency. It’s scary.
@Elisa Another incredibly informative and well-researched post. Thanks for putting this all together. I hope this sees wider distribution than just W&T.
@angela, I think you’re right that maybe we don’t actually love democracy all that much. Certainly not when the majority wants to give people rights.
Side note, I don’t get offended by thumbs downs but I am genuinely so intrigued and amused about what’s going on in someone’s head here. Like, it’s so hard to imagine it being controversial to say that Putin is not a great guy and that collaborating with its his people is sketchy at best. Hah!
For starters, read through the list of questions that members employed by BYU will be asked, especially note those related to “the family”.
From the official newsroom: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/ecclesiastical-leader-questions-new-ces-hires?fbclid=IwAR1DhtfTc0vd6uZ_4CO56muUiQqkczvMk62vnH2G9KR3EOzxPzMlR5oUTVQ
What an important series here at W&T.
My most charitable take is that they’re simply naive as to how WCF aligns with a regime that puts people like Nadya Tolokno in prison. Certainly there are Mormons like Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney who I suspect are savvy enough to grok what’s going on here. Nelson, Ballard and the other amateurs palling around with WCF, not so much.
As horrific as this criminal mistake has been for Ukraine, we will hopefully see the end of Putin sooner than later because of it. The taint of Schröder will be expunged from the social democratic scene in Germany and we can begin dealing with our complicity in propping up the oppressors of our Eastern European brothers and sisters.
This series is worthy of more than being buried in bloggernacle obscurity. I consider myself lucky to read it. It hasn’t changed my outlook, but my disappointment and sadness is deeper. I’m also no longer mystified by the far-right American news orgs who openly shill for Putin, and support his false narrative the Russian government uses to justify the warmongering and brutality.
Yesterday I listened to Terry Gross interview a Russian journalist, working in Moscow for 20 years, now in self exile after press reports about the Ukrainian invasion to the Russian people were shut down, and uncooperative journalists intimidated by the threat of arrest into fleeing. Another eye-opening and alarming experience.
I hear rumors of escalation into chemical or nuclear weapons by the Russian aggressor. I saw a report (that I haven’t been able to verify) that the operational nuclear power plants inside Ukraine are under Russian army control, as is the non-functioning Chernobyl site, and that Chernobyl experienced a power interruption in the past few days. My memories renewed of watching the 2019 HBO series about the Chernobyl nuclear accident. I went back to review the definitive thesis, for me, of that moving account, in episode 5, when the scientist Legasov is questioned on the witness stand at the official hearing, and is warned that blaming the Russian government is treading on dangerous ground. His reply, seared into my brain then: “I’ve already trod on dangerous ground; we’re on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They’re practically what define us. When the truth offends, we… we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it IS still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes: …lies. “
Which also explains how regular Americans, otherwise good and decent folks, can welcome Putin’s reign of terror.
Side note re: upvotes and downvotes— I am able to vote a second time using a different device, and to revisit comments that are older, and vote anew. So I take the numbers of downvotes as dubious representation of actual discrete readers.
Thanks for your work here, Elisa. Informative and rather depressing, but necessary to learn about. How I wish the church could commit itself to humanitarian causes with the same fervor it employs against LGBTQ people.
Elisa, this has been a wonderfully disturbing trilogy. Thank you for the mountains of work you have done.
Taking it all in, I wonder if the church’s involvement in the WCF reveals an underlying sympathy with Putin’s operating principles (not specifically his actions) among top church leaders and some politically conservative elements of the membership – which might account for the higher than usual downvotes.
Dallin Oaks said, in a 1988 AP interview (occasioned by the 10 year anniversary of the lifting of the priesthood/temple ban for Black members), “I don’t know that it’s possible to distinguish between policy and doctrine in a church that believes in continuing revelation and sustains its leader as a prophet…” and “The only fair, just way to think about it is to reaffirm your faith in the prophet, and he says you don’t do it now, so you don’t do it now. And if he says tomorrow that you do do it, then you do it.”
Two things held in common:
1 – Extremely high bias towards a single authority figure, supported by a powerful cadre of aligned top leaders, and a legion of faithful followers.
2 – The leader’s unfettered ability to “declare it so”.
Where does one find the definitive listing of Church doctrine (now that McConkie is gone)? I don’t know. Policy is easier: It’s the General Handbook of Instructions. It’s online. It can be – and frequently is – changed instantly. Disbelief in and being against *Policy* is now considered apostasy – as amended in the GHI.
How does policy get set? I don’t know. I do know that nobody asked us about it. There is no vote by the membership. Common consent is a relic of our past.
All of the church’s policies regarding sexuality and gender issues are in the GHI.
We’re fond of saying this is the Lord’s church. Could it be that the autocrats have taken it from Him?
BeenThere wrote: “We’re fond of saying this is the Lord’s church. Could it be that the autocrats have taken it from Him?”
And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;
2 Nephi 28:5
Elisa, this series was soooo good. Thanks for the considerable amount of effort you clearly put into these. I hope more people pay attention. You should consider presenting something at Sunstone on this topic.
Great series! One quote or ancient proverb kept coming to mind when reading this, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. And it seems the church made very dangerous friend to combat what they likely viewed as a very dangerous enemy. It doesn’t seem the risk was worth the reward now looking back at it, which makes the doubling-down on negative policies at the BYUs and CES departments all the more interesting. The leaders appear to still fear their enemy of LGBTQ+ inclusion and marriage. This series really helps me understand how so many on the right can align themselves with Putin and others who push nationalist and theocratic ideas (i.e. the US is a christian nation and the laws should be pro-christian to the exclusion of other religions and progressive ideas we don’t like, LGBTQ+ being at the top of the list).
Elisa, I must say this series was very well written and documented, thank you. It added more questions to my list of questions that I want answers to someday.
@Angela says – ” I have heard many times at Church that the “ideal” form of government is a theocracy,”
I’ve wondered about what the ideal form of government is. I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideal form of government depends almost entirely on the people being governed. In other words, it is different for different groups of people. We’re told that when Christ comes again, He will be THE King. We will live in His Kingdom — so some form of monarchy?? Have monarchies worked very well for the people living in them up until now? No, not really. Will some form of monarchy work well during the Millenium? I would have to think so if Christ is in charge of it. King Mosiah claims that a monarchy is a great form of government *IF* you can always have righteous men as your kings. (Mosiah 29:13)
If you happen to read this and you wouldn’t mind sharing more, I’d love to hear more about theocracy being pushed at church as the ideal form of government. Is it being pushed as a better form of government for our current time or for some time in the future? Were the Founding Fathers incorrect somehow in establishing the Constitutional government we currently live in? Are there certain requirements or general values needed by the governed for a theocracy to be considered a good form of government? Interesting stuff…
I noticed in Parts 1 and 2, the SPLC’s labeling of an organization or group as a “hate group” was used as some sort of trustworthy measuring stick. I’ll admit I knew nothing of the SPLC until I looked them up recently. Based on some of the things I read, granted it came from a more conservative news outlet, I’m not sure whether the SPLC’s labeling, or annual “hate map”, is something we should put much trust in. There is a documented history of racial discrimination and sexual harassment in its leadership, several defamation lawsuits, one of which ruled against SPLC and for which SPLC paid a hefty fine and offered an apology, as well as some questionable financial affairs with offshore accounts with hundreds of millions of dollars.
@BWBarnett, thanks for your comment. As for SPLC, I have a lot of thoughts about this.
(1) Where did you see me deferring to SPLC’s judgments in this series? If I wanted to defer to them, I could have simply linked to their profile and basically been done because they make conclusory statements about WCF as a hate group *and* the LDS Church’s support. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I researched independently to present factual information about WCF based on primary sources and other articles. I read countless sources footnoted in SPLC’s report and to validate any assertions. The only times I even referenced or linked to SPLC’s report was when a footnoted source in that report was no longer available online because it’s old. I’m well aware that many of my readers won’t take SPLC seriously, so I did a whole lot of work so that you wouldn’t have to take their word for it.
(2) The Human Rights Campaign also labeled SPLC a hate group.
(3) I never claimed SPLC is a moral arbiter, but do you want to argue that WCF isn’t a hate group? They lobbied for “kill the gays” laws in Uganda, they lobbied to criminalize homosexuality and allyship in Ghana, they lobbied for “don’t say gay” laws in Russia that have been correlated with an sharp increase in violence and discrimination against gay people there. They compare homosexuality to pedophilia and blame the spread of diseases on homosexuality. Their president said that he could not co-exist in peace in civil society with a gay woman. They associate with Scott Lively, one of the most notorious and harmful homophobes out there.
I have come to my own conclusions about WCF and I’ve tried to give information to my readers to allow them to come to their own conclusions. I mentioned those designations as data points. I never, ever relied on them in coming to my conclusions about WCF. WCF’s actions and statements speak for themselves.
(4) If you are trying to argue that SPLC is suspicious because of some of the actions of its leadership, or because it’s hoarding millions, that’s your prerogative, but by that same measure you’d need to condemn WCF and for that matter the LDS Church for the actions of theirs. So I don’t see that as a reason not to look at their data seriously.
Saying these posts are relying on SPLC and SPLC is bad is really a red herring. I think that has almost zero relevance to the substance I’ve presented based on the dozens of other sources I’ve relied on here, and still throw in with SPLC a thousand times over before touching WCF.
Thanks everyone for the comments and for sticking out this series. If you think more people would benefit from this information, please of course feel free to share.
From Part 1:
“I’ve tried to find primary sources where I could, but not all are available online. For those that were unavailable, I’M RELYING ON the HRC and SPLC reports.” (CAPS ADDED FOR EMPHASIS ONLY)
“I AGREE WITH SPLC that WCF is a hate group.” (CAPS ADDED FOR EMPHASIS ONLY)
From Part 2:
” FWI has been designated by the SPLC as an extremist hate group”
A few other references to SPLC in Part 2 as well.
Mainly I was just suggesting that perhaps the SPLC references should not have been included with all of your other more reliable ones. To your point #4, using data from a suspicious organization (SPLC) to build a case against another suspicious organization (WCF) doesn’t seem like a good way to build a case.
Don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate the depth and breadth of information and references provided in all three parts of your series. I was just questioning the inclusion of SPLC. Great job!
@bwbarnett thanks. I disagree that comparing SLPC to WCF in terms of credibility is balanced, I think they are worlds apart. I don’t see a compelling case that Morris Dees’ misconduct invalidates this research or reporting on WCF, which was factual and accurate, even though I certainly don’t condone his behavior. A hate group is a hate group.
When I said I was “relying” in the reports I meant for factual background because the sources SPLC relied on and footnoted were no longer available online. When I said I “agreed” that was intended to convey that I am not regurgitating their opinions but rather based on my own review of WCF I think they were correct. As was HRC.
So I still disagree that SPLC’s report isn’t an important data point – I think it is a good data point and don’t think it’s rational to dismiss the report outright.
You should have seen the effort I went to not to include Mother Jones articles – I could have shortcut a lot of other research but I knew that source would instantly be viewed as suspicious and not-credible so I left it out!
@bwbarnett the only situation in which I’d want to be part of a theocracy is if a benevolent god (who knew the hearts of all their children and was incapable of inequity towards any of them) was physically and literally in charge. Any form of theocracy in which mortal men present themselves as spokesmen for God is susceptible to corruption and abuse even if (and it’s a big if for me) those men actually commune with God in some literal fashion.
Absent an all-knowing, purely benevolent god in charge, democracy is the best we’ve got.
@Kirkstall – I agree that any form of theocracy is susceptible to corruption. I would broaden that to “any form of government by mortal men” is susceptible to corruption, but some forms can get there much quicker than others. My immediate preference would be a physically present God at the head as you mentioned. I think eventually though, I would prefer 100% self-governance, but it seems that this type of government, at a minimum, would require that those involved all had a perfect understanding of and willingness to live the two great commandments.
“What happens today and tomorrow in Ukraine will shape the global order of the next century.” -Jonathan Green
Things I have learned:
The Russia Soul and the Ukraine Soul will come to see this conflict as being ignited by the schism between their respective Orthodox Patriarchs.
American “Regime Change” foreign policy serves corporations instead of constitutions, contracts instead of constituents.
Putin employs a legal framework of the United States: “preemptive war” and “preventive war” (also known as the Bush Doctrine, John Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty https://lawcat.berkeley.edu/record/1122492); he deploys military force (State vs. Donbass), after the model of the 1990s Balkan “ethnic genocide” conflict; annexation of Crimea he learned from the annexation of Hawaii.
@Travis, the Orthodox schism is a really interesting angle too! Malofeev, Yakunin, and Komov are all super involved in the Russian Orthodox Church and have close ties with the Patriarch. I didn’t have the background or wherewithal to get into that, but it is super relevant to all of this as well.
@Elisa, yep. And saying the Russian Orthodox Church is infiltrated by the FSB is a bit like saying the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is infiltrated by the CIA (or NSA).
The ‘Ukraine’ problem exists as a direct result of Western foreign policy failure, particularly by the USA and Western Europe. They broke promises made by George Bush (Jnr) that NATO would not extend further East than the countries shielding under its security barrier as at 2014. The arrogant Americans responded that those promises were made with the former USSR and not the new FOR (Federation of Russia). So PUTIN asked, against who are the NATO missiles protecting Western Europe from, us?
That’s it in a nutshell, and i can understand PUTIN’s motivation, but i absolutely deplore his invasion of Ukraine. And what do we see? PUTIN and his military invading Ukraine. And what is the USA and NATO doing. Nothing apart from supplying munitions and armaments. Why? Because Ukraine is not as strategically important to NATO/USA as President Zelensky thought his country would be. USA/NATO, the Western hand-wringing nations more than prpared to stand by and watch Ukraine sink. Unbelievable. The Americans and NATO wont be ignoring Russia again. God bless Ukraine, its President, and peoples, because the USA/NATO won’t. And tell me, were George Bush and Tony Blair ever prosecuted for war crimes in Iraq after invading that country based on false intelligence that Iraq was in possession of WMD’s. Not on your Nelly.