‘Anti-LGBT’ American Christian Right Wins UK Case
TruePublica Editor: The story below is one that we should all be worried about. Leaving aside the case itself, a dark-money foreign-based entity in the guise of the American Christian right is changing the outcome of court cases very close to home. And this is something we should fear.
We already know that US Christian rights groups (classed as fundamentalists and extremists) linked to US President Donald Trump’s administration have spent millions pushing ultra-conservative anti-rights agendas in Europe. And as the London School of Economics say – ‘The ‘Christian right’ in the UK may not be as powerful as its US counterpart, but it still tries to exert influence on public policy.’ Steven Kettell – an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies, at the University of Warwick, says these groups are – “primarily helping to shape a right-wing news agenda.”
A good example of this form of open warfare against progressive values occurred in public in May 2018. Ireland held a referendum on abortion rights. Factions of US Christian right funded activists to take flights to Ireland and influence the outcome. There is evidence, according to a report in The New Republic that “these same groups were using Facebook to promote their case to the people of Ireland”.
Then there are leading Conservatives, including a Tory Party donor and Vote Leave’s Matthew Elliott, named in some of the 17,000 documents released by WikiLeaks last August. OpenDemocracy writes – “The depth of the ties between leading Conservative Brexiteers and the global Christian Right, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT movement are laid bare in a series of documents released by WikiLeaks last week. They are among 17,000 internal files“
The files include copies of speeches in which activists talk openly about how to launch worldwide “culture wars” and import controversial American tactics into the UK. This report confirms the heavy influence of the American Christian right. They even include documents relating to an ultra-conservative network between US and Russian campaigners that go as far back as the 1990s, now influencing British politics – something that is now well known to have affected the outcome of Brexit.
Indeed, in religious circles, it is quite well known that the EU is regarded as an evil organisation. Religion Dispatches, an American online magazine writes – “The European Union has been a powerful advocate for advancing the rights of women and LGBT people. That’s why so many Religious Right activists see the EU as an enemy to “traditional values” and the “natural family”—and it helps explain why so many religious conservatives cheered the British vote to leave, and weaken, the EU.”
One of the most dangerous of organisations known to be transporting their culture wars of hate from America to our shores in Britain is the World Congress of Families. This report (LINK) from the Human Rights Foundation makes for sobering reading. And the link between them and Tory donors and Brexit is laid bare in this report (LINK).
As previously mentioned, the case below shows how British politics is being manipulated. This is by far not an isolated case.
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‘Gay cake’ case shows power of US Christian Right – By Nandini Archer
Gay rights activist Gareth Lee has lost his seven-year battle with the Christian owners of a Northern Ireland bakery who refused to make him a cake decorated with the words ‘Support Gay Marriage’ in 2014.
The European Courts of Human Rights ruled today that Lee’s case was inadmissible because he had failed to invoke the ECHR at any point in those domestic proceedings.
But what’s not being talked about is the coordinated and wealthy US Christian legal armies that helped win the bakers’ case using ‘freedom of speech’ arguments.
The high-profile UK case was originally heard at a county court in Belfast, where the owners of Ashers bakery were found guilty of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and ordered to pay £500 in damages to Lee. After a failed appeal, the bakery went to the Supreme Court, which overturned the original decision.
Lee then referred the case to the ECHR, claiming that the UK Supreme Court had failed to give appropriate weight to his case for discrimination.
ADF International, the UK arm of the US group Alliance Defending Freedom– which is described as an anti-LGBT “hate group” by the influential civil rights organisation Southern Law Poverty Center – said in its 2019 annual report that it had prepared legal briefings in the case.
The bakers were also supported by the Newcastle-based Christian Institute– a group that ADF has called an “ally”. Both groups had previously supported the case of a London registrar who refused to officiate at same-sex civil partnerships. The Christian Institute was involved throughout, while ADF submitted legal arguments once the case reached the ECHR.
Across the Atlantic
At the same time as submitting arguments to the UK Supreme Court, ADF was defending a Christian baker across the Atlantic in a remarkably similar case. The US Supreme Court ended up ruling in favour of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, which had refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Baker Jack Phillips had taken his case to the Supreme Court after his refusal to make the cake got him sued in Colorado.
ADF International’s executive director Paul Coleman wrote in 2017 that the Colorado and Belfast bakers’ cases represented “a fork in the road” and that they would “shape the directions of Western freedoms in the years ahead”.
openDemocracy revealed last year that ADF was among more than 20 US Christian Right groups pumping $280m of ‘dark money’ around the world. The group does not reveal who its donors are, or disclose details of how exactly it spends its money overseas, but one of its few known funders include the family foundation of Betsy DeVos (Trump’s former education secretary), which is also a major donor to the Republican party.
Influence in Europe
There were several third-party interventions (arguments made by those other than the state or complainant, also called amicus briefs) at the ECHR, including from the Christian Institute, ADF International and the Polish government.
ADF International’s 2019 annual report said it had achieved “18 wins” at the ECHR since 2010, though it gave no details about the specific cases.
The group also says it successfully supported its allies in Norway to defend a doctor who refused to provide women with IUDs (intrauterine devices, a form of long-acting birth control) because of her religious beliefs.
And it has also intervened at the ECHR to defend Italy’s ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, said: “Today’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights is a backwards step for equality. Human rights belong to people, not businesses. No business should discriminate against their customers, and no discriminatory behaviour should be held up by equality law.”
Kelley added: “[This] decision leaves the door open for legal uncertainty across the UK and causes continued unease for our communities.”