This July in Ukraine, even as anti-gay American evangelicals met with Ukrainian leaders intent on building a new “biblical” society, the son-in-law of longtime Fellowship head Doug Coe – whose group The Fellowship (also known as “The Family”) sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast and has been accused of helping inspire a viciously anti-LGBT crusade in Uganda – was on hand to represent The Family at the 4th Ukrainian National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast (Doug Coe himself spoke at the 2nd.) These facts, and financial trails leading from American evangelical activity in Ukraine to The Family’s financial affiliate The Gathering, may not be coincidence.
Once again, another American evangelical group virulently hostile to gay rights – the American Pastors Network – is cultivating influence abroad, this time in Ukraine, where a coalition of Ukrainian politicians and religious leaders inspired by those American evangelicals is planning to reconstruct Ukrainian society through the implementation of “biblical values” which, judging by APN rhetoric, would not include much legal space, if any, for LGBT citizens.
And once again, as in Uganda and Russia, funding for the initiative has come from individuals and organizations represented at The Gathering, America’s premier annual meeting of multimillionaire and billionaire evangelical right financiers and an event identified by the Center Against Religious Extremism, a project of the LGBT rights group Truth Wins Out, as “The Religious Right’s Cash Cow”.
As documented in a growing body of evidence amassed by CARE, The Gathering – an affiliate of The Fellowship, which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast – may well be the biggest American source of funding for evangelical organizations and ministries fighting against LGBT rights both in the United States and, increasingly, around the globe.
In a July 22, 2014 press release, the American Pastors Network described being invited to an “International Leadership Summit” in Ukraine that was attended by “approximately 15 key government officials from the Executive and Legislative branches, including top advisors to the office of Speaker and President as well as heads of government agencies and departments.” The event included top Ukrainian religious leaders as well: “Also present were key pastors representing over 10,000 churches in Ukraine – some of whom are the lead officials of the largest denominations in the country.”
Old Time Religion
As American Pastors Network representative Pastor Gary Dull of the Altoona, Pennsylvania Faith Baptist Church, who attended the Summit, told a local Pennsylvania TV news station,
“The invitation that we received to come to this Summit was clearly for us to be able to teach them what kind of principles they need in that country to have a nation like the United States of America has been over the years.”
The website of Pastor Dull’s Faith Baptist Church currently features, on the same web page that links to a PDF document of the Resolution adopted at the Ukraine Leadership Summit, a link to another PDF document, by lawyer David W. New, titled “LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – 7 Reasons Why Homosexuality is Wrong” in which New (also author of a booklet which purports to explain “How The Ten Commandments And Monotheism Became The Foundation For American Law And Government”) claims that,
“The Homosexual Lifestyle is Wrong Because it Must Engage in Predatory Conduct. Either overtly or covertly, homosexuals must engage in predatory conduct. They have no choice… they must look to the heterosexual community for their numbers
“…Evolution Teaches Us That Homosexuality is Wrong. Since life on this planet owes its existence to evolution, our public policy should be guided by evolutionary principles. It is obvious that evolution and nature discourage homosexuality. A cardinal doctrine of human evolution is reproduction. For human evolution to exist there must be reproduction. …homosexuality violates a cardinal principle of evolution. Homosexuals cannot reproduce. As a consequence, evolution severely punishes homosexuality with small numbers and death.”
The official resolution adopted by participants at the Ukraine International Leadership Summit declares the intent to “activate a constructive dialogue, partnership and cooperation between the Church and the state as for the implementation of Christian (biblical) values.”
The same Altoona Baptist Church web page also links to a local news story – on Former State Senator and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Sam Rohrer’s views on same-sex marriage – in which Rohrer is quoted,
“The question is is marriage something that has origination in a Biblical position or from God himself? The answer is obviously 1,000 percent yes. That’s where it came from. That is the concept of marriage, the idea that there is one man, one woman was God’s model from the beginning. What civilizations have done is either protected, supported or defended that model or worked against it. You cannot point to any civilization that has diluted that standard and found a long history there after.
Communities are made up of strong families.”
The Altoona Baptist Church was also a participant in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an initiative that encourages pastors to “stand up and speak out to restore fundamental freedom of speech and freedom of religion rights in America’s pulpits” and was organized by the mammoth Christian right law nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom.
As described in the July 14, 2014 Center Against Religious Extremism special report Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, “The Family”, in September 2013 President of the Alliance Defending Freedom Alan Sears was a featured speaker at The Gathering 2013 along with three generations of the Green Family – owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and key plaintiffs in the controversial Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case that gave sweeping new religious freedom rights to private corporations. Also at The Gathering 2013 were funders of both major law nonprofits, the ADF and the Becket Fund, involved in litigating the two lawsuits that were merged into the Supreme Court’s Burwell decision.
The American Pastors Network
One of the attendees of The Gathering has been Dr. John Templeton, Jr., head of the Templeton Foundation, who provided startup funding for the 501(c)(4) political advocacy group Let Freedom Ring, Inc. that launched the Pennsylvania Pastors Network which has now morphed into the APN.
Headed by former Pennsylvania State Senate member Sam Rohrer – known in the Keystone State for his legislative efforts to promote the teaching of Young Earth creationism and Intelligent Design in public schools, the nascent American Pastors Network currently has two state chapters, in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
On July 15, 2014, leaders of the North Carolina APN chapter, the North Carolina Pastors Network, held a press conference at the North Carolina State Capital in Raleigh at which NCPN representatives called on North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory “to specifically defend marriage for all states that fall under the 4th Circuit, should the court rule against the protection of traditional marriage in the state.”
Other indications of the American Pastors Network’s anti-gay preoccupation are not hard to find. The APN website is replete with jeremiads against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, such as a recent tirade by APN President Samuel Rohrer titled “The Homosexual Agenda, America’s Demise, and the Only Solution”, in which Rohrer proclaims that the “homosexual agenda” includes a push by gays to legislatively “ratify their lust”.
Speaking at a the thinly-attended Washington, D.C. June 19th “March For Marriage” that was organized and funded by the anti-same sex marriage groups National Organization For Marriage, Former Senator Rohrer told a meager audience that,
“Laws that bless the murder of the unborn, and now arrogance in seeking to rewrite God’s eternal law on marriage and family are destroying the very fabric of our nation.
The American Pastors Network is an outgrowth of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network which was launched as a project of Let Freedom Ring, Inc. a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group jump-started in 2004 with a $1,000,000 donation from Dr. John (“Jack”) M. Templeton, Jr., who heads the Templeton Foundation, a major funder of educational institutions in the U.S. Templeton was chairman of Let Freedom Ring, Inc. until early 2008 according to the New York Times
In 2007 at The Gathering, John M. Templeton, Jr. personally introduced author D. Michael Lindsay, before Lindsay’s speech to The Gathering for the inaugural release of his new book Faith In The Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, a book criticized in a New York Times book review as being a near-stenographic presentation of interviews Lindsay conducted with over 300 leading conservative evangelicals. Dozens of those Lindsay interviewed for his 2007 book have spoken at or attended The Gathering.
Prior to the 2004 election, Let Freedom Ring, Inc. (LFR) distributed to over 10,000 U.S. churches a video touting the evangelical faith of President George W. Bush, then running against Senator John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. During the 2008 presidential election LFR ran ads slamming Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama as a “flip-flopper”. In 2009 LFR made 50,000 robo-calls in Maine and 100,000 in Pennsylvania in an attempt to pressure moderate Republican senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins to vote against President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package. Other projects of the organization have including advocacy for a high tech fence along the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border.
One of the consultants hired by Let Freedom Ring., Inc. as an adviser has been Timothy Geoglein, described by the New York Times in 2008 as “a former White House political operative who worked closely with Karl Rove as a liaison to social and religious conservatives”.
According to an official biography (from the website of the hard-right Leadership Institute founded by Morton Blackwell) of Let Freedom Ring president Colin Hanna, Let Freedom Ring’s Pennsylvania Pastors Project is,
“an association of Biblically-faithful pastors in the Keystone State who want to engage their congregations on matters of public policy and culture that are legitimately connected to the Christian faith, but without politicizing their pulpits or endangering their churches’ tax status.”
From the APN to The Gathering and The Fellowship
The Center Against Religious Extremism has previously reported the yearly event known as The Gathering to be what is perhaps the biggest source of money for evangelical organizations and ministries fighting against LGBT rights both in the United States and, increasingly, around the globe.
As documented in a ongoing CARE survey, the biggest foundation represented at The Gathering, the National Christian Foundation, finances dozens of evangelical efforts directly involved in attacking gay rights from America to Uganda to Russia.
Detailed in the CARE special report Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, “The Family” is the notable origin of annual event known as The Gathering – it conceived during a 1985 meeting at the Arlington, Virginia mansion headquarters of The Fellowship known as “The Cedars”.
In 2010, journalist Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart of American Power accused The Family/The Fellowship, which hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast, of having inspired the now-notorious Uganda Anti Homosexuality Bill signed into law in early 2014 by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a member of The Family according to Sharlet.
The Fellowship Goes To Ukraine
In 2012, longtime head of The Family (or “The Fellowship”) Doug Coe – who (as covered by NBC News) is known for celebrating the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao – made an unexplained trip to speak at the second annual event held by what appeared to be an affiliate of The Family in Ukraine, the Ukrainian National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast.
In 2014, notes UK researcher Richard Bartholomew, the 4th annual Ukrainian National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast was attended by several notable individuals: Viktor Hamm, Vice President of Crusades for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Doug Burleigh, son-in-law of longtime Fellowship head Doug Coe. The title of the event, “New Ukraine: Into the Future with God”, was very suggestion of the rising Christian nationalist tone of Ukrainian politics.
Held in almost perfect sync with the 4th Ukrainian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast coalition was the “International Leadership Summit” referred to by the American Pastors Network, a meeting of Ukrainian politicians and religious leaders inspired by by the Christian nationalist teachings of anti-gay American evangelicals tied to funding from the premier yearly evangelical funding event associated with The Family, “The Gathering”.
As the American Pastors Network press release quoted APN President Sam Rohrer,
” ‘The American Pastors Network was invited to Ukraine because leaders in that nation understand that America became a great nation because America was built on a Biblical foundation, and they want that foundation for their own nation,’ said APN President Sam Rohrer. ‘At the summit, APN and its speakers presented the Biblical principles of authority, government, law, jurisdiction, ethics, integrity, and what it means to have a righteous government. These principles refer heavily to the American experience, to the view of our founders, and to the principles that drove the writing of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.’
Rohrer added that the Ukrainian leaders who spoke at the summit confirmed their desire to establish a righteous government free of corruption and bribery and one that would recognize and protect the basic and inalienable rights granted by God.
‘The leaders we spoke with made it clear that they want what made America great, not what is currently motivating and directing our nation, which is anything but a firm adherence to Biblical or constitutional principles in government or in life’ “
On its website the American Pastors Network describes itself as an affiliate of the Capstone Legacy Foundation, which in 2011 received $99,998 in funding from the National Christian Foundation, the biggest foundation represented at The Gathering. The NCF is currently ranked #12 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy “Philanthropy 400″ list.