An Eccentric Agenda All of Its Own: World Congress of Families Regional Congress
London, June 2-3, 2010
This week is the UK’s National Family Week. According to the official Web site, “thousands of record-setting, action-packed and fun-filled family events are taking place in every corner of the country.” Perhaps one of the most fun-filled events is likely to be the World Congress of Families Regional Congress, its first-ever UK event, organized in conjunction with Family Values, a Mormon organization. It takes place at Baden Powell House in London on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 June. The World Congress of Families Regional Congress has a similar flavor to last summer’s meeting in Amsterdam, with speakers from the conservative wings of a variety of religious denominations, including Catholics like Christine Vollmer of the Alliance for the Family and Edmund Adamus, director of the Westminster Diocese’s Pastoral Affairs Department. Vollmer is a woman of significant experience in this field. She is widely described as a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. It was founded in 1603.
While National Family Week celebrates “the great diversity of families in the UK,” this conference has something a bit more particular in mind. According to its Web site, the purpose of the World Congress on Families is to defend the traditional family from “ideologies of statism, individualism and sexual revolution,” and a shopping list of associated problems including “divorce, devaluation of parenting, declining family time, morally relativistic public education, confusions over sexual identity, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, poverty, human trafficking, violence against women, child abuse, isolation of the elderly, excessive taxation and below-replacement fertility.” To call this gathering conservative would be an understatement. And what happened to the fun?
Family Values director David Eaton puts the conference in the context of the recent General Election in Britain: “The election has concentrated minds and debate on the threats to the traditional family, and the Family Values conference will provide an excellent independent and open forum to discuss issues that could shape political, societal and institutional thinking and decision making for the next five years.” In fact, threats to the so-called traditional family barely featured in the election campaign, with the only relevant controversy surrounding Conservative proposals to give a rather measly £150 tax break to married couples (amounting to less than $5 a week), and this is not even supported by the Conservatives’ coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
While most Britons are more worried about whether the new government can successfully tackle the grim economic situation and offer a brighter future, the Family Values Conference has an eccentric agenda all of its own. The following brief descriptions of the speakers will give an indication of what’s coming.
Session 1: The Family Structure
Brenda Almond on Family – Social Construction or Natural Phenomenon?
Almond is Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Hull, UK. She is president of the Philosophical Society of England and vice president of the Society for Applied Philosophy. Her books include: The Fragmenting Family, Exploring Ethics: a traveller’s tale, Moral Concerns, and The Philosophical Quest. She is regularly cited in the press lamenting the effects of sex education and other “liberal establishment” attacks on the family.
Don Feder on Declining Birth Rates
Feder is the WCF’s communications director. He is a former opinion writer for the Boston Herald and now a media consultant and freelance writer with a somewhat alarming shock-jock style Web site: www.donfeder.com.
Janice Crouse on Is There Hope for Marriage and Families in the 21st Century?
Crouse is a senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America, and claims to be an authority on sex trafficking, the United Nations, US domestic issues, as well as national and international cultural, children’s and women’s concerns. She was twice an official US delegate to the United Nations (2002 and 2003). She serves on five task forces and coalitions on national and international issues: Against Sexual Trafficking, Against Abuse of Women, Against Childhood Obesity, Promoting Human Rights, and Promoting Religious Freedom.
Session 2: Defence of the Family
Christopher Carmouche on Pornography and the Family
Carmouche is executive director at GrassTopsUSA, based in Washington, DC (tagline: WAGE WEB WARFARE AGAINST THE LIBERAL ESTABLISHMENT).
Darko and Marijo Zivkovic on Council of Europe and Report from Croatia
The Zivkovics run the Catholic Family Center in Croatia which distributes free books, posters and brochures promoting “justice, honesty, kindness and love.”
Paul Diamond on Christian Concern for Our Nation
Diamond is a UK barrister who works with the Christian Legal Centre defending Christians and other religious people who are allegedly persecuted over questions of faith. High profile cases range from Christians dismissed from their jobs for wearing religious symbols to teachers and counselors in conflict with the employers over attitudes to homosexuality.
Sharon Slater on A Strategic Plan to Defend the Family
Slater is president of Family Watch International which aims to “preserve and promote the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman as the societal unit that provides the best outcome for men, women and children.” She founded the organization after attending the World Congress of Families in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999, and is also the author of a book, Stand for the Family.
Session 3: Faith and the Family
Bryan Appleyard on Observations over a Period of Time and the Buddhist Relationship
Not to be confused with the well-known British journalist of the same name, Appleyard is vice president of the UK Buddhist Society.
Dr A. Majid Katme on Our Shared Islamic-Christian Values on the Family
Katme is the Muslim Coordinator of the UK Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) – a vehemently antichoice organization. As well as opposing abortion, he has attracted controversy for advocating the segregation of the sexes in medicine, and for arguing that the use of vaccines is against Muslim teaching.
Farooq Hassan on The Sanctity of Life – Faith as the Underpinning of the Family
Hassan is a jurist in Pakistan and the US, and a member of the Pakistan Family Forum. He is critical of the emphasis on diversity of families among international NGOs, and has described the legalization of homosexuality as a “very pernicious and ominous development.”
Elder Patrick Kearon on Family Proclamation
Kearon is a British Mormon and has lived and worked in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United States and has worked in various fields, including healthcare, food, automotive and transport. He currently runs his own communications consultancy. Civic and community involvement has included service on the boards of a charity, a school, an enterprise agency and a college.
Session 4: The Influence of Media on the Family
Andres O’Hagan Threats to the Family from Addiction to Pornography
Hernandez represents the Institute for Safety and the Internet and describes himself as a magician and lecturer.
Amy King on The Front Page Campaign
King is a Scottish Mormon who set up the Front Page Campaign to oppose the display of sexually explicit magazines where they can be seen by children. The campaign’s goal is to have all printed media with sexually graphic covers sold in bags from the top shelves, and to establish appropriate age-ratings for material containing sexually graphic photography, sexualized language and themes of sexual violence.
Vivenne Pattison on Media Watch UK
Pattison is director of Media Watch UK, which was founded by Mary Whitehouse in the 1960s. The late Whitehouse was notorious as the scourge of sex and violence on British TV and a staunch upholder of family life, social cohesion and “Christian values.” Pattison is keeping up the fight for good taste and decency, opposing pornography, violence and swearing in the media.
Session 5: Family & Marriage
James Parker on Religion and Social Action
Parker facilitates the London EnCourage group for men and women “with homosexual attraction” who want to resist adopting a gay or lesbian lifestyle. The group is Catholic, but open to non-Catholics. Parker opposes equality legislation concerning homosexuality.
Miguel Moreno on The Concept of Marriage with Respect to Family
Moreno is director of International & Government Training at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, VA. The institute’s mission is “to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.” He has worked with and trained for USAID, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, University of California, and the National American University.
Edmund Adamus on Building Strong Marriages for the Future
Adamus is director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster’s Pastoral Affairs Department. He represents the diocese in a range of capacities with public bodies and is frequently asked to conduct interviews by the media on the hierarchy’s teaching across a range of topical issues. More recently he has represented the diocese at the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family. He has also had work published by the John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage & Family in Rome.
Session 6: The Education of our Family
Matthew Nichols on Promoting a Culture of Sexual Responsibility
Nichols works at Merchant Taylors’ School, one of the original nine English public schools.
John Smeaton on The Fight against Compulsory Sex-Education in England
Smeaton is director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). He became director of SPUC in the UK in 1996, having been general secretary since 1978. He was elected vice president of International Right to Life Federation in 2005. He has coordinated more than 150 antichoice/pro-family groups at UN conferences in Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing, Istanbul and Rome.
Louise Kirk on A Different Approach to Sex Education and PSHE
Kirk represents the “Alive to the World” PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) program. The program was established by Christine Vollmer to emphasize the teaching of moral values. It is Catholic but not exclusively so.
Session 7: Strengthening the Family
Theresa Okafor on Strengthening Motherhood – the African Perspective
Okafor is CEO of Life League, Nigeria, an organization in Nigeria for young professionals committed to promoting the dignity of the human person, character formation and sanctity of life. She is also a director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH), a network of 20 antichoice and pro-family organizations in Africa.
Sam Smethers on Strengthening Family Life – an Intergenerational Approach
Smethers is chief executive of Grandparents Plus, a national charity which champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances. She has also written on related issues for the Guardian newspaper’s Web site.
Christine Vollmer on Educating for Strong Families
Vollmer is president of the Alliance for the Family in Latin America and Europe. In addition to her work with the Latin American Alliance for the Family, which was “established to help children learn to cherish themselves and others,” Ms. Vollmer claims to be a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (it was founded in 1603 by the pope) and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family. She is opposed to women working, claiming that “it is also a proven fact that children brought up by their mothers have a better intelligence level and health than those in day care.” She also claimed that “it is worth any sacrifice for mothers to stay home until their children are in school…. This is an urgent need in order to preserve the family in the future.” She developed the “Alive to the World” PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) program.