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Catholics Call on Dutch Minister to Withdraw from Conservative Conference

August 7, 2009

Washington DC – The Catholics for Choice European Advisory Group today called on André Rouvoet, the Dutch Minister for Youth and Families, to withdraw from a conservative conference in Amsterdam. He is due to address the conference’s opening session by video feed on Monday.

The World Congress of Families has been organized by the ultraconservative Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and takes place in Amsterdam from August 10-12. In a letter to the minister, the Catholics for Choice European Advisory Group urge him to withdraw. Henk Baars, a Dutch member of the group, cited “the intolerant, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic sentiments that several speakers at the conference have expressed in the past. These views,” he said, “have no place in Dutch society and go against the Netherlands’ long record of tolerance and acceptance.”

This is the fifth meeting of the World Congress of Families. Previous conferences sought to marginalize those with more tolerant views and promoted campaigns against advances in civil and political rights around the world, with the work of the United Nations a particular target.

A cursory look at some of the speakers and sponsors illustrates the case against the World Congress:

Anna Zaborska, Member of the European Parliament, is noted for her antigay views with comments including “AIDS is God’s vengeance for homosexuality” and “I don’t want to discriminate against anyone, but with these people [homosexuals] there is the potential chance that their outlook on life in basic family matters, on male and female relations, could influence children.”

Babette Francis is the founder of the Australian organization the Endeavour Forum which was set up to “counter feminism, defend the unborn and the traditional family.” She has said that “a feminist is an evolutionary anachronism, a Darwinian blind alley” and has urged mothers to withdraw from the workplace so that they can stay home and ensure their children do not become obese.

Rene Bullecer of the antiabortion group Human Life International in the Philippines has threatened to conduct a mass boycott of paying taxes in order to oppose the commonsense Reproductive Health Care Bill currently being discussed in congress. Dr. Bullecer is also opposed to divorce and granting rights to homosexuals and has falsely claimed to speak on behalf of all Catholics in saying that “Catholics are open to sex education as long as it is based on the practice of the Church centered on chastity.”

Sponsors of the conference include the Family Research Council, which has initiated a campaign against gay teachers and the inclusion of basic reproductive health measures in the ongoing debate over healthcare reform in the United States and the Polish Fr. Peter Skarga Association for Christian Culture whose chairman, Slawomir Olejniczak, vehemently opposed the European Constitution’s Charter of Fundamental Rights because it proposed that EU countries treat gay men and women equally.

One of the signatories to the letter, Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “It is disappointing that a government minister has accepted an invitation to speak, because, no matter what he says, he is giving succor to the types of ideas that led to the deaths of people like the politician Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, the film-maker. We need to ensure that when these ideas are raised in public, they are confronted and defeated, not condoned and legitimized.”

To read the letter to Minister André Rouvoet please visit