Religious groups cash in on AIDS
Esther Kaplan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 03:21:24 PM EST
Great to see the AP pick up on the fact that at least a quarter of all of Bush's international AIDS funding is going to religious organizations--with an emphasis on groups with no experience administering HIV grants. Many of these recipients, such as Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, are well-connected players on the Christian right. Not only do most of these religious grantees put a dangerous emphasis on unproven abstinence-only initiatives, but this pattern of grant-making is part of a long-term effort to defund the left (in this case, traditional family planning and AIDS organizations) and shovel money the far right.
As the AP story notes, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), one of the most militant abortion opponents in Congress and a leader behind the effort to require that AIDS grants emphasize abstinence, took a tour of Uganda in January where "he saw pro-abstinence rallies and skits praising Bush." Ah ha. We've known for some time that this federal grant money is often used for religious proselytizing--now we find out that it's being used to give Bush a political boost abroad as well.

Where, exactly, does public health fit in?

On Friday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and five other members of Congress and the Senate wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging her to "repudiate deceptive and divisive attempts to defund essential efforts against this disease" and "endorse a merit-based grantmaking process" emphasizing "the best available science." In other words, stop using global AIDS money for political ends and defunding the experienced AIDS organizations that know how to make a difference. Here's more from the January 27 letter:

We are writing to voice our objections to an organized campaign against federal grantees working to prevent sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS in the developing world. Spearheaded by the conservative group Focus on the Family and joined by dozens of Republican lawmakers, the effort has been based on a narrow ideological view of prevention methods and has relied on numerous errors and distortions of fact. If allowed to succeed in its goal of defunding effective, evidence-based programs, this attack will undermine our ability to fight the HIV epidemic.

A set of evidence-based approaches to preventing the sexual transmission of HIV was endorsed by more than 100 scientific, religious, and public leaders in the medical journal The Lancet. These interventions include condom education and distribution, outreach to commercial sex workers, accurate education on risk behaviors, and partnerships with local organizations, as well as promotion of abstinence. [...] Recently, however, some of the most effective groups implementing these evidence-based strategies have come under attack. In a series of congressional briefings, public hearings, and letters to the Administration, Focus on the Family and conservative politicians have made multiple false or misleading allegations about these groups and their life-saving HIV work. [...]

We urge you to reject these groundless attempts to undermine HIV prevention and to affirm that the Administration will continue to fund groups performing evidence-based HIV prevention work.

The letter goes on to document a Focus on the Family-led smear campaign and quotes from slide presentations the groups created for select members of Congress complaining that many grants don't "reflect Bush administration philosophy" and need "adult supervision." The letter also recounts a string of attack letters from some of the most loyal Christian right supporters in Congress: Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Rep. Smith (R-NJ), and Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). "The series of coordinated attacks against some of the best established and most effective groups performing critical intervention activities," Waxman and his colleagues concluded," threatens to undermine the U.S. response."

We need to start figuring out how to counteract this overtly religious putsch.

by Lorie Johnson on Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 07:54:07 PM EST

It's very most of those groups (aside from the ICC-related group and the Catholic Charities) group are all dominionist-operated charities that have been directly linked to prosyletisation of refugees from Hurricane Katrina.

In fact, the preference of giving aid to "faith-based" groups with links to dominionism was so bad that I actually set up a specific list of charities rated on their inclusiveness (for "good" charities) and on their links to and support of dominionist groups (for "bad" charities).

Of all of these, Catholic Charities USA was the only one listed from my list that did not have at least enough connections with dominionism to rate it a group of concern.

As for the rest, pretty much all were closely linked with dominionists.  I'll list from the "Big List" here:

Listed under the "Bad Guys" section:

Samaritan's Purse (Billy/Franklin Graham's charity group. Both Billy and Franklin Graham have been known to espouse dominionist statements in past, Franklin especially so. Per a report from someone who has sought employment with them. non-dominionists are not considered for employment and employees are required to have a reference from a pastor as well as a "testimonial of faith" on resumes for employment. Also is working with known dominionist group Traditional Values Coalition in promoting a "refugee adoption" scheme that requires statements of faith from both participating churches and refugees.)

World Relief (another dominionist charity that largely operates in the dominionist "shadow economy" and is promoted largely by dominionist evangelical groups; promoted by both Focus on the Family and American Family Association)

Listed as not explicitly dominionist but of concern:

World Vision (generally has had a reputation of being a reliable charity but has also had reports, much like the Salvation Army, of support from or supporting dominionist groups; is promoted by Focus on the Family ( and whilst World Vision does promote condom distribution in African countries for HIV prevention they have taken official policies, in particular regarding homosexuality and church/state issues, which are troubling (see I would be inclined to state that, like the Salvation Army, people who are concerned about money possibly being used to support dominionist causes would wish to avoid this charity. One should be aware that the blatantly dominionist group AERDO actively lists both World Vision and Salvation Army as members, making it even more concerning)

(An aside on AERDO. AERDO is an umbrella group for various charities--almost all of which are explicitly dominionist and exclusionary, many of which actually require statements of faith to be signed for clients.  The "Big List" listing for AERDO is as follows (it's under the "Bad Guys" section, by the way):

AERDO 2nd link (an umbrella group for multiple dominionist charity groups; almost all the dominionist groups listed above are in their members list ( including MAP International and (sadly) World Vision and Salvation Army as well. Many of the links are not even to charities but explicitly dominionist groups (including "Harvest Foundation" a group dedicated to exporting dominionism, as well as groups practicing "creation care" aka dominionist "wise-use". One of the major speakers for AERDO is Chip Ingram, a "Christian counselor" who is blatantly dominionist (see for info) and has, among other things, promoted the "women should be subservient to their husband as their husband is to God" sort of deal up to and including telling women they should not pay bills. AERDO affiliates are required to sign a statement of faith that they operate under the statement of faith of the National Association of Evangelicals (presently a dominionist organisation itself, whose president is also the lead pastor of "New Life Ministries", a Colorado Springs megachurch at the heart of much of the dominionist movement in the US); AERDO's statement is at and NAE's statement of faith at

As for HOPE, I haven't got them listed (yet) but the International Churches of Christ (not to be confused with the mainstream United Churches of Christ, which is actually an inclusive and moderate Christian denomination) is a coercive religious group that is quite frankly regarded by most exit counselors as a Bible-based cult.  In fact, the ICC is probably one of the most extensively researched of "Bible-based" coercive religious groups; Rick Ross Institute, Steve Hassan's Freedom of Mind Institute, International Cultic Studies Association, FACTnet, and practically every other group that does any type of exit counseling for walkaways from spiritually abusive groups has sections on ICC.  (It is not an exaggeration to say ICC is among the "worst of the worst" when it comes to coercive religious groups with a dominionist agenda.  We're talking a group that makes the Assemblies of God look downright warm and fuzzy in comparison.)

The ICC were one of the first groups to embrace coercive "prayer cell" groups in "shepherding", and in fact entire walkaway associations for ICC survivors exist.  One of the reasons ICC has been so well studied is due to its particular targeting of college-age students on campuses; many state schools and universities have banned ICC from campuses altogether due to the spiritual abuse the group is infamous for.  In fact, the ICC is actually used in studies of "Bible-based cults" as a model for how coercive tactics are integrated with Christian imagery in spiritually abusive dominionist groups.

Needless to say, my personal opinion is that anything associated with ICC needs to be walked--no, run--from as if it were carrying the Vietnamese duck flu, but that's my two pence.

by dogemperor on Tue Jan 31, 2006 at 07:31:40 AM EST

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