Wednesday, October 14, 2015

World Congress of Families IX Coming to Utah -- But So Are Two LGBTQ Conferences!

The World Congress of Families IX Conference will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 27-30. The content of the conference has a decidedly right-wing flavor. In past years, the World Congress of Families event has featured presentations on anti-abortion efforts, gender roles, "traditional" family, demographic winter, and the alleged evils of contraception and LGBTQ rights. The 2015 conference will be no different, judging from its lineup of workshops and panel discussions.
  • "The Beneficial and Harmful Influences of Feminism"

  • "Pro-Family and Pro-Life Victories at the United Nations"

  • "Personal, Family and Cultural Casualties from the Decline of Faith"

  • "International Pro-Life Initiatives"

  • "The Economic and Social Costs of Family Breakdown"

  • "The Future After the SCOTUS Decision"

  • "Reversing the Crisis of the American Family: Solutions Which Offer Hope and Elevate the Importance of the Family in the Public Square"

  • "Encouraging and Promoting Pro-Family Scholarship and Research"

  • "How the Culture Undermines Life and Family"

  • "New Findings in Gender Differences"

  • "Dad’s Don’t Mother, and Moms Don’t Father: The Distinctive Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Children’s Development"

  • "For Love or Money? The Economic Consequences of Delaying Marriage"

  • "The Pro-Life Movement’s Strategic Successes"

  • "Planned Parenthood's Abortion Industry"
The list of conference speakers is a who's who of Religious Right speakers from the U.S., including Rev. Raphael Cruz (the controversial father of Sen. Ted Cruz), Brian Brown (National Organization for Marriage), Lila Rose, (Live Action), Alveda King (Priests for Life), David Bereit (40 Days for Life), Peter Sprigg (Family Research Council), Glenn Stanton (Focus on the Family), Sharon Slater, (Family Watch International), and Mark Regnerus (Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture).

High-profile religious leaders will also speak at the event, including Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson and Mormon elder M. Russell Ballard. At least one political leader -- Utah Governor Gary Herbert and his wife Jeanette Herbert -- will speak to attendees as well. Much to my disappointment, Elizabeth Smart is scheduled to speak as well. What's an enlightened woman like Smart doing at a place like that? I wondered.

Religious Right leaders from around the globe will receive awards from the WCF for their activism. Nigerian activist Theresa Okafor is scheduled to receive the Woman of the Year Award, while Andrea Williams of the UK-based Christian Concern and Luca Giuseppe Volante of the Italy-based Novae Terrae Foundation will receive Familia Et Veritas Awards. Father Maxim Obukhov, a Russian Orthodox anti-abortion activist, will receive the International Pro-Life Award.

For years, the World Congress of Families conference has has come under fire for its anti-abortion, anti-feminist, and anti-LGBTQ messages, as well as its unsavory ties. For example, Restore Our Humanity founder Mark Lawrence condemned the World Congress of Families in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.

To counter the toxic messages of the WCF conference, two inclusive conferences will take place in Salt Lake City in late October. First, the Inclusive Families Conference will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 23-24. Sponsored by Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, Utah Pride, and the University of Utah College of Social Work, the Inclusive Families Conference will celebrate all families, including LGBTQ families, multicultural families, multigenerational families, and homeless families.
"The Inclusive Families Conference aims to highlight and celebrate the rich diversity of families, especially  those families who love and accept each other despite divergent beliefs and attitudes, “non-traditional families” and those families which may be marginalized or excluded by others.  These families include same-sex couples, those with members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, identify as transgender (LGBT), or have exceptional gender identity/expression, families with mixed ethnic, racial and religious identities, street families (homeless youth families), families led by elders, adoptive, differently-abled, matriarchal, multi-generational families, and others."
The Inclusive Families Conference cherishes the family as a cornerstone of society, but the family values it champions are far more inclusive than those of WCF.
"We believe the family is the basic human community through which we all are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parents for all children. We understand the family as encompassing a wider range of options than that of the two generational gender binary unit (the nuclear family). We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of consenting adults. We encourage social, economic, political, and religious efforts to maintain and strengthen relationships within families so that all may be nurtured toward complete personhood."
The workshops and panel discussions explore a wide range of topics related to families, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, homelessness, and trauma.
  • "Embracing & Supporting Your LGBT Children"

  • "Growing Up LGBT & Mormon in America: What Our Youth Have to Tell Us"

  • "Utah Homeless Youth & Street Families"

  • "Considerations, Priorities, and Supports for an Intentional Family"

  • "Trans Vets & Trauma"

  • "Transracial/Mixed Adoptions"

  • "Cultural Trauma & Minority Stressors: A Community Discussion"
Second, the Faith & Family LGBTQ Power Summit will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 20-23. Hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Faith & Family LGBTQ Power Summit will explore the intersections of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and race. The summit will feature speakers from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Soulforce, Political Research Associates, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Equality Utah. The summit's web page calls out the World Congress of Families for its anti-LGBTQ agenda.
"Later in October, the World Congress of Families, the largest organization of people staunchly against our families, will be meeting in Salt Lake City to continue spreading an anti-LGBTQ agenda that restrictively codifies who counts as family and who does not. Their style of work is evident in the over 100 bills filed in legislatures across our country this past year that negatively target our families and issues we care about such as reproductive justice/health/equality and state sanctioned discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Join us in Salt Lake City, Utah to ensure that, as a movement, we’re strong and resilient enough to face the challenges and opportunities ahead, as we declare that our faith and our families matter."
Enlightened people will not allow the intolerant vision of the World Congress of Families to go unchallenged. Utah progressives are resisting the WCF's messages by taking part in conferences offering a far more inclusive vision. Expect good content to come out of the two conferences -- and expect more voices to condemn the WCF as its conference approaches.


  1. Believe it or not, Utah is a melting pot of opposites. The conservative majority is offset by a growing liberal demographic. It is an interesting dynamic.

    As for how Elizabeth Smart can participate in a conference like this, simply stated and intending no ill will toward her, she is a cult member. It is how she survived an extremely brutal and terrible time in her life and still accepts her gender-based lesser status in a patriarchal culture.

    1. Agi Tater -- It's comforting to know that Utah isn't utterly dominated by conservatives. I hope Utah's liberals protest the WCF event later this month.


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