Religious Right’s Trip to Poland: From Nazism to Communism to the ‘Forces from San Francisco’

At a convening of U.S. religious-right activists and reactionary leaders from around the world, Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey passed along an important message. “I bring you greetings from President Bush!” she told the World Congress of Families in Poland, helping to legitimize the controversial conference. Sauerbrey also specifically thanked the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society “for all of their hard work in organizing this wonderful opportunity to celebrate and reflect upon the family and its vital role in society.”

WCF was organized around the theme of the “natural family”; in practice, that meant, as the Howard Center’s Allan Carlson put it, the “religious right … gone global.” Carlson’s group warned of a “demographic winter” in Europe with declining birthrates in many countries. Naturally, women bore much of the blame for this. Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that 60 percent of college students are female and warned that the advance of feminism and “the marginalization of men” are leading to a dire threat to the home. Soon, Patterson warned, men will be underrepresented in “the intelligentsia.” David Mills of Touchstone Magazine decried that even conservatives “will often ‘stiffen and scowl’ when they’re told the calling of each girl is to become a wife and mother,” as the American Family Association’s news service reported. And Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation declared: “Feminists of Europe take note, the safest place for children is in the natural family.”

Speakers at the conference also took aim at gays and lesbians. “Marriage will be destroyed by making all relationships equal,” warned Ben Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund. Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, said, “Legalizing same-sex marriage will drain marriage of its social meaning.”

The centerpiece of the conference, however, was the anti-gay activism of the Polish Education Minister, Roman Giertych. Giertych, a leader of the right-wing League of Polish Families party, drew fire from the European Union for his recent proposal to fire teachers found to be promoting “homosexual culture.” Giertych – along with the president of Poland – spoke at the conference, declaring his efforts to combat the vaguely-defined “propagation of homosexuality” in Poland as “something I have to do.”

The host country’s embrace of anti-gay policies and defiance of the EU was roundly cheered by the activists at WCF, and the Polish officials there “made it clear that Poland will be assuming the leadership role to end the demographic winter in Europe,” according to According to other speakers, they have their work cut out for them – Catherine Vierling of the European Forum for Human Rights and Family warned that some EU members “actively promote and implement very aggressive anti-life, anti-faith, anti-family agenda behind closed doors.” Robert Knight of the Media Research Center declared that Poland was “nearly alone” in Europe and “inspiring people around the world with their stance.” Said Knight, who compared Poland to far-right former Sen. Jesse Helms,

This is a nation that has suffered enormously over many decades. First from Nazism and then communism. They’re a tough bunch of people who appear to have the strength to resist especially the homosexual agenda. If you’ve been victim of communists and Nazis, you’re not going to run in fright from the forces from San Francisco.

Scott Loveless, managing director of the World Family Policy Center at Brigham Young University, outlined a world in which two competing moralities stand “militantly” against each other. Assistant Secretary of State Sauerbrey’s presence, with greetings from President Bush, and her congratulations to Poland for its “pro-family” policies, gave this far-right assembly a much-desired stamp of approval – and made clear who the Bush Administration is standing with.