The World Congress of Families (WCF), an anti-LGBT hate group based in Rockford, Ill., holds a yearly major gathering (Tbilisi in May) that often showcases anti-LGBT and anti-choice sentiment. It also helps organize and co-sponsor smaller, so-called “regional conferences” throughout the year in various parts of the world. This weekend, and fresh off a similar gathering in Belgrade, the organization is involved in a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, that starts Friday.
The African Regional Conference on Families is being held at the Hotel Intercontinental and the Kenyatta International Convention Center and will deal with the theme of the future of the family in Africa.The conference will address various topics, including “pressure from the west [sic] to legalize abortion and same sex unions”; “erosion of parenting responsibilities”; “family attack by media”; and “adoption of liberal laws.”
These WCF international convenings are key sites of right-wing networking and strategizing, and often involve local political figures who then use WCF talking points in the development of anti-LGBT and anti-choice policies in their home countries.
Africa continues to be a nexus of anti-LGBT and anti-choice activism on the part of U.S.-based individuals and groups, some of which, like Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, openly call for violence against LGBT people. Anderson was recently banned from the UK and South Africa and deported from Botswana because of his virulently anti-LGBT rhetoric. But many other anti-LGBT groups cloak their rhetoric in terminology like “support for the natural family,” which sounds benign on the surface but actually excludes any family structure that does not follow the so-called “one man/one woman” model.
Kenya has been a particular focal point of the U.S. Christian right for years. In 2010, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ; founded by televangelist Pat Robertson), opened an office in Nairobi, around the time that Kenya was debating a new constitution that included controversial addendums to its penal code regarding abortion. The ACLJ pledged when it opened in Nairobi to lend financial support to help defeat the constitution. It has also supported the criminalization of same-sex intimacy.
Ann Kioko, president of sponsor African Organization for Families and one of the main organizers of the gathering in Nairobi, said that her organization is concerned about a recent push to legalize abortion and implementation of comprehensive sexuality education. “These programs go way beyond regular sex education and are designed to change all the sexual and gender norms of society,” Kioko stated. Kioko has described homosexuality as a “learned behavior” imported from the West, and claimed that “homosexuality exposes those that practice it to health and mental issues.” Sex education is one of the things that anti-LGBT groups battle because of fears that it promotes such things as homosexuality and promiscuity.
Conference organizers in Nairobi have already indicated that Phyllis Kandie, cabinet secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection will be in attendance and the conference agenda includes an exclusive closed-door meeting for speakers, dignitaries and members of parliament.
Here are some of the others on the speakers’ roster:
- Don Feder, WCF director of coalitions. In addition to his role at WCF, Feder sits on the board of advisors of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Feder has a long history working against LGBT equality, and has also been a strong promoter of the idea of a “demographic winter,” an idea based on conspiracy theories that humans are doomed because birthrates (particularly in European countries) are allegedly falling, something caused by abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and other perceived “unnatural deviations” from the “natural family.” He has argued against adding Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill because “American history was made by white males, who were overwhelmingly Christian,” and has called for “Islam control.”
- Sharon Slater, president of the Arizona-based anti-LGBT hate group Family Watch International, has been doing anti-LGBT and anti-choice activism at the UN and in Africa for years. In her book, Stand for the Family Slater links homosexuality to pedophilia, claims that LGBT people “recruit” children, and claims that homosexuality can be “successfully treated.” Resource materials on the FWI website claim that “children raised in same-sex households have serious problems.”
- Michael Hichborn, president and founder of the Virginia-based right-wing Catholic Lepanto Institute, will be presenting on behalf of the Population Research Institute, an anti-choice and anti-LGBT organization. Hichborn has referred to homosexuality as a “disordered condition” and commented on Facebook on a post about same-sex marriage that compared it to a toilet with a plunger in it that, “a shaft in a sewer in a pretty apt analogy of sodomy.” Hichborn also launched a campaign against a gay man at Catholic Relief Services that included a report on the man that included social media posts he had made as well as an unofficial copy of the man’s marriage license that revealed his name, the name of his husband, and their address. As a result of the stress, the man eventually resigned from CRS after 16 years of service.
- Steven Langa, founder and executive director of Family Life Network, Uganda, hosted the notorious March, 2009 “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda,” a gathering that included anti-LGBT activist Scott Lively, whose presentation provided materials for Uganda’s infamous “kill the gays bill.” Langa has been indicted in an ongoing federal lawsuit against Scott Lively for “crimes against humanity.”
- Theresa Okafor, WCF’s African regional director and recipient of WCF’s 2015 “Woman of the Year” award, has advocated for and supported harsh anti-LGBT laws in her area that support prison terms for gay sex and ban gay people from meeting in groups. She has also suggested that pro-equality activists are in league with the jihadist terrorists of Boko Haram in a conspiracy to silence Christians.
- Wahome Ngare, a gynecologist who is also a member of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association (listed in a WCF newsletter as a member of the Kenya Christian Professionals Organization), has claimed that homosexuality is “learned,” and cited an example of a boy being brought up by a single mother, which socializes him “into a female lifestyle.” Ngare, who has no infectious disease experience, has also been involved in conspiracy-mongering about vaccination drives in Kenya, claiming in 2014 that a tetanus vaccine was actually an attempt to sterilize women and in 2015 that a polio vaccine was an attempt to sterilize children.
- Bishop Alfred Rotich, Military Ordinariate (responsible for the pastoral care of Catholics serving in the armed forces), is a retired Kenyan military chaplain who holds the rank of colonel. He is slated to offer a “report” in a conference session from Kenya. Rotich signed on to a 2015 pastoral statement issued by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (which helped organize this gathering) that included opposition to the official registration of an LGBT organization in Kenya. The statement continued by saying that allowing the registration was “a deliberate attempt…to push dangerous agendas and ideologies that are unnatural, un-African and un-Christian” and claimed it was a “threat to the family.” The letter further stated that, “we will not allow our country to be a sowing ground for strange ideologies…[w]e reject any agenda fronting this kind of unnatural ideologies [sic].