International funding of political campaigns against sexual and reproductive rights

This article covers:

Part 1 — Funding of Political Campaigns of Religious Bodies
Part 2 — EPF Report on International Funding of Religious Bodies
Part 3 — EPF Report on Agenda Europe Discussion Document
Part 4 — Protecting Democracy from Big Money Between Elections

Part 1 — Funding of Political Campaigns of Religious Bodies

Millions of euros in international funding, including from America and Russia, are spent within European countries to campaign politically against sexual and reproductive rights. Some of this money is used for political purposes in Ireland. The Irish SIPO laws should be strengthened to prevent this from happening here, and not weakened to allow an unregulated free-for-all of political donations between elections.

In Ireland, churches and religious charities can take unlimited donations, from Ireland or internationally, and use that money for political purposes. Secular NGOs can also take donations to use for political purposes, but we have to get a lot of small donations rather than a small number of large donations. This is good for democracy, because it helps to make politics a battle of ideas not a battle of bank accounts.

Atheist Ireland is lobbying to strengthen the SIPO laws so that churches and religious charities have to comply with these requirements. Unfortunately other groups, including ICCL and Amnesty, are lobbying to weaken the SIPO laws, to allow anybody to take any political donations in between elections. That would be bad for secularism, and bad for democracy, as most political influence is sought and granted between elections, not during election campaigns.

This article highlights two reports from the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights. One is about the source and use of this international funding. The other is about a detailed discussion document circulated within the Agenda Europe network whose members advocate for laws against sodomy, divorce, gay propaganda, abortion, contraceptives, IVF, stem cell research, euthanasia, and anti-discrimination laws.

The Oireachtas All-Party Group on Sexual and Reproductive Rights is affiliated to the European Parliamentary Forum that produced these reports. The IFPA acts as its secretariat. The group is co-chaired by Senator Annie Hoey (Labour), Holly Cairns TD (Social Democrats), and Senator Lorraine Clifford Lee (Fianna Fáil). Senator Alice Mary Higgins sits on the Executive Committee of the European Parliamentary Forum.

Part 2 — EPF Report on International Funding of Religious Bodies

The European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights recently published a report called Tip of the Iceberg, about the funding of conservative religious advocacy groups that oppose sexual and reproductive rights in Europe. The report concludes that in the ten years from 2009-2018, such groups received over $700 million, of which $270 million came from Russia and the United States.

The report says that American-based groups Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Acton Institute donate funds to European groups, with ADF spending €4.3 million in Europe during 2018 alone. One of the recipients is the Agenda Europe network of over a hundred members and groups in thirty countries that describe themselves as pro-life and pro-family.

The report says that Agenda Europe’s central organisers are Catholic activists and groups with direct links to the Vatican hierarchy, including Gudrun Kugler and Terrence McKeegan. In Ireland, Senator Ronan Mullen, Irish family and Life, and the Iona Institute have links to the Agenda Europe network. The Agenda Europe network holds private annual summits. In 2015 it held its summit in Ireland.

The report also says that the Milan-based Novae Terrae foundation gave €2.3 million of funds originating in Russia-Azerbaijan to various European groups between 2012-2015. It says these groups included Citizen Go in Madrid, Dignitas Humanae in Rome, Mum Dad & Kids in Brussels, and the Iona Institute in Ireland. It does not say how much each group received.

The report also refers to a transnational conservative Catholic body called Tradition, Family and Property which strongly opposes abortion and LGBT rights. Its main European political focus is in Poland. Its Irish affiliate, the Irish Society for Christian Civilisation, is a registered charity with the aim of advancing religion. It had income of €390,000 in 2019.

Part 3 — EPF Report on Agenda Europe Discussion Document

The European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights also published a report in 2018 about a detailed policy discussion document circulated within the Agenda Europe network, titled Restoring the Natural Order: An Agenda for Europe.

The Internet Archive shows that large sections of this document were already published word-for-word in articles on the now-private Agenda Europe blog, on or before Feb 2015. That blog endorses the content of the discussion document.

This Agenda Europe document traces the moral decline of Western society to a cultural revolution that opposes the Natural Law. It says this revolution uses political ideologies such as Marxism, Darwinism, feminism, homosexualism, gender theory, relativism, and anti-discrimination ideology. It says that this cultural revolution can also be described as a sexual revolution, and that:

“The ‘sexual revolution’ comes as a package – one can either accept or reject it, but it seems hardly possible to accept one part and reject the rest. Whoever finds the use of contraceptives ‘normal’ must also accept homosexuality, and whoever has accepted assisted procreation will find it difficult to argue against abortion.”

The Agenda Europe document then describes a policy agenda to restore a legal order that is consistent with the Natural Law, which it says is a law which human reason can discern and understand, but which human will cannot alter. Agenda Europe stresses the practical nature of its aims:

“In order to be successful in this task, it will not be sufficient to merely have a defensive interest. What we need in addition is a positive agenda that can be achieved step by step as an incremental process. This paper therefore seeks, with regard to each of the issues treated, not only to explain how it should ideally be regulated, but also to identify incremental steps that could be taken to achieve this goal.”

3(a) Issues from the Agenda Europe Document

The Agenda Europe document then describes three main areas in which it must work for change. These are marriage and the family, the right to life, and opposing equality and anti-discrimination laws. Here are summaries of and extracts from these descriptions:

1. Marriage and the Family

The nature and purpose of marriage is procreative: to create the stable environment that is necessary for the successful rearing of children. Marriage is not just one of many options for two persons who want to found a family, but it is the only option that is morally acceptable. The adoption of liberal divorce laws sanctions the breach of a promise. By undermining the stability of marriage it undermines the institution of marriage. The commitment that marriage is a life-long commitment between one man and one woman must be reflected by the law.

“Given that the fundamental purpose of sexuality is procreation, it is self-evident that sexual attraction should naturally be felt for persons of the other sex who are of reproductive age. By contrast, a sexual urge that is directed at a person who is not of the other sex and of reproductive age, or the sexual intercourse with such a person, is, objectively speaking, misguided and contrary to nature. This reasoning applies to homosexuality in the same way as it applies to pedophilia or to sex with animals.”

2. The Right to Life

“Abortion is the deliberate destruction of a child while still inside the womb of its mother. Given that life begins at conception, it is irrelevant whether the destruction of the embryo takes place at an early or late stage of the pregnancy, before or after implantation, before or after the foetus has reached the status of ‘viability’. It also is irrelevant whether the pregnancy is confirmed or whether it is only suspected… A directly willed abortion can in no case and under no circumstances be justified.”

With regard to euthanasia, “It is always wrong to kill a human being, even if it is likely to die soon. This applies also in situations where a person asks to be killed… if doctors or nurses were to accommodate such requests, the deontology of their profession would be undermined. The task of doctors and nurses is to cure, not to kill… It is not legitimate to withhold ordinary care (such as feeding the patient, or providing him with oxygen) in order to cause the patient’s death.”

3. Opposing Equality and Anti-Discrimination Laws

“In a free society, people should be allowed to have personal preferences, and to act accordingly without being subject to any censure or scrutiny. This includes also the possibility to make choices that are ‘discriminatory’… In a certain sense, contemporary ‘anti-discrimination’ policies appear to be a new strategy to re-animate socialism, albeit under a different name.”

“Norway imposes a quota of 40% of female board members for public companies. The EU is currently discussing whether such a quota should be imposed Europe-wide… What provisions like Article 23 of the EU FRC do is that they cancel out the concept of ‘equal rights’ and replace it with ‘equal benefits’… There is, at least in theory, still some leeway to apply those criteria whenever there is a justification for doing so: Catholic schools, for example, may continue employing Catholic rather than non-believing teachers.”

“It can safely be said that sodomy is with good reasons considered both immoral and unhealthy by many… By prohibiting ‘discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation,’ the law attempts to exclude all moral judgments from a debate on what is essentially a moral issue. In fact, the true question here is not about the discrimination of a group, but about the morality of that group’s behaviour, and whether it should be tolerated, accepted, or even promoted.”

3(b) Strategies from the Agenda Europe Document

The Agenda Europe document then outlines the strategies that its members should use. Here are summaries of and extracts from these strategies:

1. The need for an Offensive Agenda

“It is necessary to develop an offensive agenda, i.e. a list of policy objectives that will hurt our opponents… We should therefore not be afraid to be ‘unrealistic’ or ‘extremist’ in choosing our policy objectives. On the contrary, the seemingly ‘unrealistic’ objectives may be helpful in achieving the more ‘realistic’ ones. And once we begin achieving the ‘realistic’ objectives, the ‘unrealistic’ ones will no longer be out of reach.”

2. The Need to Understand, and Learn from, our Opponents

There is a “long-standing, mutually supportive coalition” at EU and international level “between the abortion and ‘reproductive services’ industry, the lesbian and gay lobby, the radical feminist lobby, and militant atheist and masonic networks.” These groups are funded by the European Commission and wealthy donors, and they rely on “persuasion through clever propaganda, and intimidation of those who fail to be persuaded.”

These groups’ propaganda includes overstating their numbers; asserting the ‘normality’ of the un-normal such as showing sodomites as caring ‘family people,’ loving ‘parents,’ etc.; keeping the facts out of the debate (the gay lobby does not want the public to be aware what gays actually do when they ‘have sex’); posturing as (a class of) ‘victims’; holding ‘society’ responsible for everything; and appealing to ‘ambivalent skeptics.’

“The use of intimidation and outright physical violence plays an important role in the promotion of abortion as well as of the gay agenda … Rather than isolated cases, they seem to be part of a larger strategy… Our opponents are aware of the intrinsic injustice and irrationality of their agenda [so] where persuasion fails and continued dissent cannot be accepted, intimidation and violence are the only available tools.”

In response, we must learn from strategies proposed by gay activists Kirk and Madsen. We should communicate; appeal to the skeptics; give our audience a good cause to fight for; and frame our issues in terms of ‘rights’ e.g. the right of fathers to prevent the abortion of their children, the right of parents to be the first educators of their children, and the right of children to receive correct information, not propaganda, on sodomy.

We must also debunk our opponents’ propaganda. Where they want to ‘desensitise’ we must sensitise the audience… we need not be afraid of ‘shocking’ the audience… Where they seek to avoid certain subjects (e.g. the health risks associated with sodomy), we must bring precisely those subjects to the public attention… We must debunk their claim to ‘victim status’ (if anything, they are the victims of their own behaviour: e.g., sodomy is a source of illnesses) and we must show that they are oppressors.

3. The Need for Networking

We need a network that can act locally (at the level of each country) as well as globally (at the level of the UN, the EU, or similar fora). Each member organisation should be autonomous at national level but should adhere to the problem analysis set out in this paper, as well as to the long term strategic targets.

The EU provides considerable financial support for civil society that act EU-wide. Although those funding mechanisms seem to have been tailor-made for our opponents, it would be possible also for us to benefit from them, if we meet the conditions. This would increase our budget and diminish that of our opponents.

In the aftermath of the European Citizens’ Initiative One Of Us, there is now a momentum towards a European Federation of pro-life organisations. There could be similar federations to specifically deal with other issues set out in this paper, such as marriage and family, religious freedom, etc.

4. The Need to Adapt to the Political/Legal Environment

Bring the right people into the right positions. Draw up a list of key positions that will become vacant, and proactively identify and promote suitable candidates. Such key positions include: key UN Personnel, members of relevant UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies, UN Special Rapporteurs, the judges of the US Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and similar international law courts, Constitutional judges and Supreme Court judges in all countries, the EU Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and High Representative for Human Rights in the EEAS.

Influence the academic debate, create a network of like-minded journalists, use the weapons of our opponents and turn them against them (for example, concepts like ‘freedom of opinion or ‘freedom of assembly’ can be used not only by the organisers of ‘gay pride’ events, but also by their opponents), countering strategic litigation by our opponents (e.g., where possible, through amicus curiae briefs), lobby the European Commission which is the sole EU institution to possess a ‘right of initiative,’ monitor and criticise decisions and statements by ‘human rights institutions’ such as the European Court of Human Rights, propose dismantling bodies like the FRA or the EU Agency for Gender Equality.

5. The Need for Glossary

Our opponents use ambiguous terminology and euphemisms. We do not need to create our own neologisms, but rather correctly interpret existing terminology. For example, ‘rainbow families’ means broken-up families, ‘freedom of choice’ means freedom to kill, ‘equal treatment for homosexuals’ means privileges for homosexuals, ‘reproductive rights’ means free abortion, and ‘homosexual love’ means sodomy.

3(c) Targets from the Agenda Europe Document

The Agenda Europe document includes a detailed list of long-term targets, short and medium term targets, and possible strategies for the issues of marriage and family, contraception, abortion, pre-natal diagnostics, medically assisted procreation, stem cell research, euthanasia, and equality and ‘anti-discrimination’ laws. Here are some examples from the document.

1. Examples of long-term targets

A clear definition of marriage explicitly excluding same-sex marriages, repeal of all laws allowing for divorce, adoption of anti-sodomy laws, prohibition of sale of contraceptives, legal ban on abortion in all jurisdictions and in international law, prohibit pre-natal diagnostics except for diseases that can be treated through pre-natal therapy, prohibition of IVF, prohibit all uses of and research on human embryo stem cells, repeal existing laws on euthanasia and adopt laws against ‘assisted suicide,’ abolition of controversial ‘equality’ legislation at EU level including Art 21 and 23 of the Fundamental Rights Charter,

2. Examples of short or medium term targets

Adopt laws that make divorce more difficult, a resolution (EP, CoE) against surrogate motherhood in Europe, restrict the sale of contraceptives based on health risks and being abortifacient, limited bans on abortion, defund the abortion lobby, prohibit funding of abortion and pre-natal diagnostics through public health insurance, restriction of IVF and prohibition of financial gain for surrogate mother hood, cut funding for human embryo stem cell research, where existing euthanasia laws cannot be repealed immediately search for possible restrictions, prevent adoption of 5th Equal Treatment Directive at EU level and of similar bills at national level.

3. Examples of possible strategies

Expose gay marriage to ridicule, draft an answer to the ‘Toledo Guiding Principles’ to speak in favour of affirmative teaching of religion, when speaking of sodomy consistently use that term, dismantle the concept that sex with condoms is ‘safe sex’ (e.g. if people are induced to have more frequent sexual encounters with HIV-positive persons, the overall result of promoting condom use will be to spread the disease), use One Of Us as a model for similar petitions at national level, make abortion visible, e.g. through films, posters, pro-life events, or through erecting monuments to the unborn in churchyards or similar, use sex-selection (gendercide) or forced abortions in China as arguments to build consensus including with feminists, when speaking of pre-natal diagnostics consistently use the term ‘selection’ rather than ‘diagnostics,’ emphasise the connection between IVF/surrogacy and human trafficking, promote alternative research on adult stem cells instead of human embryo stem cells, ‘everybody could be a victim’ (explain to people, esp. elderly people, that they could be the victims of euthanasia), build coalition of small/medium enterprises, business corporations, house owners against ‘anti-discrimination’ laws.

Part 4 — Protecting Democracy from Big Money Between Elections

If those with more wealth are able to acquire a disproportionate influence in the conduct of public affairs, then such discrimination represents an infringement on human rights. The Irish SIPO laws need to be strengthened not weakened. This would enable all NGOs, whether their underlying philosophies are religious or secular, to campaign on human rights issues, on a fair and equal basis, in a battle of ideas not bank accounts.

4(a) Right to take part in the conduct of public affairs

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees equal suffrage within democratic elections. Article 2 of the UDHR prohibits discrimination based on property. The human right to equal suffrage can be compromised if wealth disparities imply that some special interests have a disproportionate influence on democracy. This is a problem that has been well documented in many countries and this is the issue that the Electoral Act seeks to remedy.

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also guarantees the right “to take part in the conduct of public affairs,” to vote “at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage… guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors,” and to access public service “on general terms of equality,” and without any of the distinctions in Article 2, which includes property. The word ‘property’ is translated as ‘fortune’ in the French version and as ‘economic position’ in the Spanish version.

4(b) Strengthening the SIPO Laws

We ask politicians to consider the following ways that the SIPO law should be strengthened:

  • The SIPO law should continue to apply to all parties, including third parties, at all times, and not just during election or referendum campaigns.
  • While maintaining limits on political donations, the trigger for being accountable should be moved away from political donations and towards political spending.
  • Both political spending and political donations over a set threshold, and their sources, should be published immediately.
  • The law should be modernised to cover international social media campaigns that can influence our democracy from abroad.
  • For referendum campaigns, there should be public funding for both sides, limits on spending, and no anonymous donations, as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    John O Brien September 20, 2021

    The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan again is a warning about the danger of theocracy. We do need a society were people can live in freedom and equality. Secularism harms no one.