Sheep in WoLF’s clothing: Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) and its Christian Theocrat Funders

stc sheep wolf

Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) is being funded by right-wing Christian theocrats who have an immense international reach and national influence over USA politics and legislation.  More than that, however – it has also directed resources the way of anti-woman extremists. 

On Nov 5, 2016, members of WoLF were notified that it had solicited and received $15,000 from Alliance Defending Freedom.

This email said:

WoLF Board member Kara Dansky applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group of conservative lawyers who are representing states and parents in lawsuits similar to ours across the country. Also pretty darn phenomenal.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)  is the largest right-wing evangelical Christian nonprofit law firm, with a reported total revenue of $61.9 million for the year ending June 30, 2015, and net assets of $39.9 million.

ADF was founded by James Dobson and Alan Spears.Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family, an anti-feminist, anti-gay and lesbian organization with $139 million in revenue. Alan Spears is “a former Justice Department official under President Ronald Reagan who wrote The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.

Some of ADF’s biggest funders have been:

  • Betsy DeVos, current secretary of education,
  • her brother Erik Prince of Blackwater, the billionaire private mercenary who got away with murder and was accused by his former employees of “wanting to start a religious crusade against Muslims” and who is allegedly advising Trump “on matters related to intelligence and defense” and
  • Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO, billionaire David Green. Hobby Lobby is the company that won the Supreme Court ruling that Hobby Lobby could refuse to pay for women employees’ birth control on the grounds that women having control over their reproduction violated the religious beliefs “of the corporation” (of Mr. Green).

ADF also is the law firm which has been the driving force behind recent Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. ADF advised former Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill would have allowed individuals and businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians on the grounds of “religious rights”.

ADF is also now an international organization with UN status, and is expanding into other countries, notably Latin America and Eastern Europe, to fight against legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage.

As Gillian Kane writes:

Today, ADF is one of the largest conservative legal organizations in the United States, with a budget dwarfing those of sister groups like the Becket Fund and Liberty Counsel. Indeed, one might argue that it is chiefly responsible for the rightward jurisprudential shift on religion in the public sphere. ADF engages the question of religious freedom broadly. They are best known for litigating on the role of religion in public life, a category encompassing abortion, LGBTQ rights, freedom of expression—including the right to religious free speech in public schools—homeschooling, parental rights, and family, among other issues.

They claim to have been active on six continents and across at least 41 countries, where they prosecute their anti-gay, (straight) fathers’ rights and anti-abortion agenda, sometimes successfully blocking human rights protections for lesbians and gay men in other countries¹.

We cannot afford to deny that ADF’s activities detrimentally affect women around the world given this group’s power and reach, as Kane describes:

ADF’s ambition is boundless; they work not only in national courts, but are also vigorously inserting themselves in regional courts and at the United Nations. In 2010, ADF launched their Global Initiative, ramping up the “international fight for religious liberty for Christians and establishing a larger ADF footprint to accomplish this mission.” That same year, ADF was granted United Nations ECOSOC special consultative status. This status is significant because it gives them virtually unfettered access to U.N. missions during key convention and treaty-drafting meetings. They advocate face-to-face with delegates and help them develop rights-limiting language for inclusion in U.N. documents.

In 2012, ADF opened their first international office in Vienna, Austria, which enabled them to easily toggle between the various European courts, including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They have also inserted themselves at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna, the European Parliament in Brussels, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In all these regional bodies they have focused their efforts on issues like abortion, euthanasia, registration of churches, and homeschooling, wielding their influence across countries such as Sweden, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

Knowingly or unknowingly, WoLF has basically solicited and accepted funding from the ideological wing of the Trump administration. That is pretty darn phenomenal, indeed.

ADF is the largest right-wing evangelical²  law firm because they took over all their competition and they have a reputation of playing hard with their own kind. ADF requires loyalty pledges from those who work with them. Was WoLF required to sign a loyalty pledge? Who the fuck knows – and if they had, they would be required to lie about it.

WoLF’s involvement with ADF is not merely a concern to feminists in the USA, but is also a concern to feminists outside the USA, as WoLF has ambitions to insert itself in international women’s issues and events, and plans to attend the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage had been ADF’s biggest cash cow.

Between July 2002 and June 2003, ADF raised an impressive $15.5 million. In November of 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courtruled that same-sex couples were guaranteed the freedom to marry. ADF denounced the “extremely disturbing” images of “homosexual couples receiving pseudo-‘marriages’” — and raised $17.7 million, $21.6 million, $25.3 million, and then $30.6 million in the years that followed.

Concerned homophobes were solicited by ADF to encouraged donate $$$$$$$$ to “defend marriage”. Well, that cash cow died. However, there is a new culture war to exploit now and boy, is it a doozy: ADF can now exploit women’s reasonable fears of overly broad gender-identity laws that allow any man to self-identify into women-only spaces and solicit funds in the name of “defending women”.

What ADF really needs to attract the cash is some friendly feminist white faces to sell opposing LGBT rights to the US public as “defending women’s rights”. Overly broad gender-identity ‘protections’ that allow people to self-identify into opposite-sex facilities have been hog-tied to civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. It’s been absolutely disastrous, as civil rights for gays and lesbians in the US are not provided at the federal level; they are state- or locally based, and civil rights bills have been defeated due to the inclusion of these overly broad ‘protections’. But what a boon for political forces who wish to roll back civil rights for gays and lesbians! Now they can exploit the public’s reasonable objections to these overly broad laws in order to defeat civil rights ordinances that would prevent gays and lesbians from being fired. Trans people are already covered under Federal law; gays and lesbians are not.

It’s an awful situation; the civil rights of gays and lesbians should not be tied to the right of any man to self-ID into female-only spaces. One would think that if WoLF wanted to “reach across the aisle” and work with conservatives, reaching out to conservative gays and lesbians who are in favor of civil rights for gays and lesbians, but opposed to overly broad gender-identity protections, would be the logical thing to do. Nah, WoLF doesn’t do that. WoLF decides to go knocking at the door of ADF, the law firm which wants homosexuality to be a criminal offense again.

According to one former Board member, the decision to take money from ADF was done out of desperation following WoLF’s decision to pursue a lawsuit contesting the Obama administration’s executive orderthat transgender students be allowed to use locker rooms and bathrooms, and to play on sports teams, according to their ‘gender identity’ instead of sex. The lawsuit (which is now a moot case and waste of money since Trump tossed out the Obama administration’s executive order) turned out to be more expensive than WoLF expected. Now WoLF owed lawyer David Bookbinder, (who is also the husband of a WoLF member, hmmmm) far more money than they could raise. It was to be a one-time thing and something which WoLF intended to keep secret, this former board member alleges.

At any rate, WoLF seeking money from anti-feminist, anti-gay and lesbian right-wing evangelical Christians wasn’t a one-time thing.  On January 12, 2017 board meeting notes informed members that:

The board voted unanimously to engage Imperial Independent Media to fundraise for WoLF on a 20% commission basis, and to authorize Natasha to enter into a contract for these services on behalf of WoLF.

Imperial Independent Media is one man, Zachary Freeman:

Zachary Freeman

Managing Partner at IIM, LLC

Greater Seattle Area

Public Relations and Communications

Current
  1. Imperial Independent Media
Previous
  1. Family Policy Institute of Washington,
  2. Alaska Family Council,
  3. The Family Action Council of Tennessee
Education
  1. Liberty University
Websites
  1. Company Website

Freeman is a right-wing evangelical Christian who graduated from Jerry Falwell’s right- wing evangelical Christian university and has pretty much only worked for Focus on the Family-affiliated groups that work to criminalize abortion and deny civil rights to gays and lesbians.

Even more disturbing was Freeman’s recent involvement in an attempt to release the names of scientists and lab workers who utilize fetal tissue in their research to an anti-abortion group.

A group of researchers and employees affiliated with the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Center has filed a federal class-action lawsuit and is seeking an injunction to prevent the release of its names to anti-abortion activists through a public-disclosure request.

The employees say they fear harassment, backlash and violence if their names and other identifying information — including some home addresses and telephone numbers — are turned over to the California-based Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group whose founder, David Daleiden, is responsible for the release of controversial “sting” videos about fetal-tissue experimentation and Planned Parenthood that resulted in a national furore last year.

Daleiden and Zachary Freeman, the communications director for the anti-abortion Family Policy Institute of Washington, are named as defendants in the lawsuit since they are seeking the release of the records through the Washington Public Records Act. The UW is named as a defendant as the agency preparing to release the information.³

Such tactics in the past by anti-abortion activists have resulted in harassment, bomb threats, bombings, and murder.  This is the man who WoLF wants to enter into a mutually beneficial fundraising contract with. So not only is WoLF willing to solicit and accept money from anti-feminist, anti-gay and lesbian right-wing evangelical Christians, but it is also willing to use itself to fund these people.

Is Freeman going to have access to WoLF’s membership list for fund-raising purposes and have an international list of names, emails, addresses, phone numbers of women who think they are joining a  feminist organization? Who knows, but I imagine that if he and his fellow right-wing evangelical Christian cohorts wanted access to it, it would be easy to obtain.  Getting a membership list wouldn’t be hard for people who have come to power by engaging in stealth politics for the last 30 years. These are the same people who took over the Republican Party in the 90’s by using stealth tactics.

WoLF has already proved to be neither feminist, strategic or smart.  I mean, when WoLF’s members are rightfully freaking the fuck out, and publicly discussing its decision to take money from and fund right-wing evangelical Christians (who want to imprison women for miscarriages and make it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians), WoLF considers that to constitute a “leak” and a “security breach”. So I find it hard to believe that that they have any actual security regarding sensitive information like member’s names, emails, addresses or phone numbers.

A former board member of WoLF alleges that she resigned after being pressured by a current board member to go along with WoLF’s proposal to enter into a fundraising contract with a “male right-wing fundraiser” she called “Zack”. This man “Zack” she alleges, “was willing to do this paid work if WoLF agreed to stop advocating for abortion rights”. It would seem that someone like Mr. Freeman whose professional life has involved working to make abortion illegal would be compromising his professional and personal integrity by agreeing to enter into a mutually beneficial fundraising contract with WoLF. One would assume that a radical feminist group would advocate for abortion rights. Perhaps the only one here with their integrity intact is Mr. Freeman.

There are women who are former Board members who object to what WoLF has done and who could come forward and speak out, but they are afraid of hurting the organization. I think they should be afraid of WoLF’s success.

Who is going to fund WoLF now that it has publicly aligned itself with the likes of Focus on the Family, Alliance Defending Freedom and Mr. Zachary Freeman, and other right-wing organizations? WoLF has found its base and it’s not one that has any interest in women’s liberation. However, it is one with very deep pockets that can easily fund a “radical feminist” group to do things that advance the Trump administration’s political agenda.

The Trump administration’s ideological base IS right-wing evangelical Christians; 81% of them voted for Trump because Mike Pence is one of them.

“Oh that’s crazy, you crazy lady;  what would right-wing evangelicals want with a radical feminist group?” Well, ADF already has invested money in WoLF and I’m sure it’s ADF who recommended WoLF hooking up with Zachary Freeman, so they see something possible in that relationship. Large political organizations with very set political agendas don’t go around giving non-profits thousands of dollars just to feel good; they donate money because they want results. For instance, they feel that your organization’s work aligns with their political goals, or they see you as a threat and want to co-opt or neutralize your organization. For Pete’s sake, on ADF’s grant application webpage it states:

We offer a partnership that goes beyond monetary support. We invest together and offer consultation and legal expertise when you request it.

Just put on your thinking cap for a few minutes and think “what would I do with a “radical” feminist group if I were a Christian theocrat who wanted to roll back the rights of women, gays and lesbians and minorities?”

Well,

  • Use radical feminists to oppose civil rights ordinances for gays and lesbians, on the grounds that such ordinances are tied to overly broad gender identity laws and are a threat to women’s safety, would work like a charm. It would be much more effective than using the likes of Michele Duggar, as one could raise money via WoLF from women who would never donate money to an anti-feminist, anti-gay and lesbian group but willdonate to WoLF, unaware that someone like ADF is getting a cut for providing media connections and legal support.
  • It would be really easy to use WoLF by funding them in agitating for Planned Parenthood to be defunded on the grounds that Planned Parenthood is providing cross-sex hormones on an informed consent basis. Defunding Planned Parenthood is one of ADF’s and Mike Pence’s goals.
  • Maybe use WoLF to sponsor anti-Sharia laws that serve only to stir up Islamophobia, or laws that serve only to harass Muslim citizens, by giving Child Protection Services or ICE the right to remove any child that may be at risk of being subjected to FGM .

 

WoLF has pretty much set itself up to be the Femen of the Trump administration: a group of “radical feminists” who are funded by anti-feminist, anti-gay and -lesbian, anti-Muslim racists. Good lard, why are any former members standing by WoLF? WoLF has utterly betrayed its membership and women in general; it is not owed any loyalty.

 

¹ As this section from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) explains.

² Christian Theocrats, these people

³ Mike Carter at The Seattle Times

FURTHER SUGGESTED READING

 

Previously posted elsewhere, including at Stop Trans Chauvinism.