Christian groups spent hundreds of millions in ‘dark money’ waging war on LGBT+ and women’s rights around the world

Conversion therapy

Right-wing Christian groups, many with ties to the Trump administration, have funnelled thumping amounts of money into lobbying campaigns against LGBT+ rights as part of a “frightening global empire”, a report published Tuesday (27 October) found.

In a scathing exposé by openDemocracy, a media monitoring group, 28 right-wing American groups have spent hundreds of millions of “dark money” into projects across five continents seeking to peel back the rights of LGBT+ people and women since 2008.

From legal lobbying giants staffed by former Trump advisers to powerhouse faith groups whose spending is veiled by legal loopholes – the organisations have sought to snarl progress by channelling money into court cases or fighting for religious impunity.

Such boosterism of anti-LGBT+ agendas is just the tip of the iceberg, campaigners warned PinkNews. The snaking underground labyrinth of siphoned money is serving to “extort homophobia around the world”, top British LGBT+ rights activist Peter Tatchell said.

Christian groups are using heaving wealth from moneyed donors to sink LGBT+ rights across the world, says report.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) emerged as a top power-spender even though openDemocracy was only able to obtain filings from 2007 to 2014 – it re-registered as an association of churches the following year, making its records private.

BGEA, led by an evangelical leader and homophobic hate preacher Franklin Graham, has spent more than $96,000,000 globally on campaigns,

Large swathes of money were also distributed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), according to the thousands of pages of US financial filing scrutinised by openDemocracy.

With a combined contribution of at least $25 million, the two lobbying groups have intervened in around seven cases, including in defence of the Polish government’s abortion ban and to attack same-sex adoption in Austria.

Christian-leaning organisations tend to be registered as tax-exempt non-profits, so are barred from participating in partisan politics. This is not the case for the groups, openDemocracy warned.

Many have vocally supported the Trump administration as well as his Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett.

ACLJ, which is run by Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and employs gay ex-Trump official Richard Grenell, sought to defend Italy’s hackneyed ban on marriage equality and support Poland’s government limiting women’s access to healthcare and divorce, the dataset showed.

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Outside of Europe, and openDemocracy mapped Christian group Family Watch International pouring cash into training lawmakers and religious and civil society leaders to oppose LGBT+ rights, chiefly inclusive sex and relationships education, across Africa.

Other groups belaboured to keep the death penalty against queer people in the continent.

But openDemocracy stressed that the dataset is still only threadbare, being that many US Christian conservative organisations are registered under the vague banner of “church” and, as a result, do not have to disclose funding details.

“Trump-linked US evangelicals, funded by secret donors, are exporting homophobia around the world,” Tatchell said.

“This Christian imperialism is menacing the well-being and human rights of millions of LGBT+ people.

“It echoes the way Christian missionaries in the nineteenth century imposed their faith and homophobic attitudes on colonised peoples.

“They are financing opposition to LGBT+ equality legislation and legal action to subvert existing laws that protect LGBTs.

“When they say they are defending religious freedom what they are really defending is the right of religious people to discriminate against LGBTs.

“These are basically hate groups who use religion to hide and excuse their attacks on human rights.”