Radical right-wing South African groups rally against anti-LGBTIQ + campaigns
FWI has supported and networked with individuals and conservative organizations like FPI in East and Southern Africa for several years, working with partners able to localize their programs in national and community contexts.
The Christian legal interest group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has also conducted several court cases in the United States and around the world in an attempt to assert religious freedom as a ground on which anti-LGBTIQ + discrimination can be justified. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the ADF is “one of the most dangerous organizations in the country working to prevent equality for LGBT people. An enthusiastic leader in defending the unreasonable “right” to discriminate against LGBT people, [it is] also a global exporter of [its] own brand of hate.
Last year, openDemocracy found that since 2008, Alliance Defending Freedom has spent at least $ 21,338,551 for the international defense of religious freedom in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Religious freedom versus equal rights
Amid the current wave of homophobic and transphobic hate-motivated killings in South Africa, Christian legal advocacy organization FOR SA has replicated ADF’s legal defense strategies in an effort to block legislation that would extend protections urgently needed by LGBTIQ + people. Currently, FOR SA is campaigning against the provision on hate speech in the proposed amendments to the Law on the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unjust Discrimination, which aims to “strengthen its capacity to prevent discrimination and promote discrimination. ‘equality for all South Africans’.
FOR SA says the proposed changes would “have far-reaching and harmful implications for religious freedom in South Africa”. The proposed revisions that would broaden the definition of discrimination, FOR SA argues, would undermine “the autonomy of religious organizations to determine their own doctrine and beliefs, and to regulate their own internal affairs, free from interference by the State ”.
FOR SA also refers to ADF’s strategic advocacy for religious freedom in its campaign for the rights of marriage agents and service providers to “consciously oppose” the equal recognition and treatment of same-sex marriages. In his recent campaign to support a case that was referred to the South African Human Rights Commission for refusing to host same-sex marriages, FOR SA Executive Director Michael Swain said: “At the end of the day. ultimately, this case is about freedom – the freedom for all of us to choose to live our lives in a way that is consistent with our beliefs…. if the court can force them to do work that goes against their conscience, religion and belief, it can force anyone to do it.
Criticism and analysis of ADF’s anti-LGBTIQ + advocacy in other contexts provides insight into current attempts to pit religious freedom against equal rights in South Africa. As political theorist Wendy Brown has shown in ‘In the ruins of neoliberalism ”, while the rights of Christian service providers to deny services to same-sex couples may be the immediate focal point of ADF’s strategic litigation, these are individual maneuvers in what she describes as a “long game” which uses LGBTIQ + rights as a playground to “(re) Christianize culture through challenges to political and legal apparatuses linked to secularism, egalitarianism and inclusion”.
This strategy, argues Brown, is ultimately aimed at challenging democratic principles of equality, civility and inclusion and replacing them with “the values and demands of the market, combined with those of heteropatriarchal Christian familialism.” . The replication of this strategy in South Africa and other global contexts by local organizations further testifies to the transnational and geopolitical dimensions of ADF’s anti-rights campaign.
At first glance, organizations like the Family Policy Institute and FOR SA may appear relatively small and ineffective in their local context, or as representing a radical right-wing minority perspective. However, it is imperative to recognize the ideological and financial constellations of power from which these groups have sprouted, and which provide the deepest levels of sustenance to continue and embolden their anti-rights agendas. It is also necessary to recognize the deeper implications of conservative advocacy seeking to make certain forms of discrimination admissible.