According to a new report from the Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE), a dense web of connections links the secretive evangelical network that hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast, known as “The Family” or The Fellowship, to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case which has granted new religious freedom rights to private corporations.
As the CARE report details, a September 12-15 2013 conference of The Gathering in Scottsdale, AZ brought together key litigants, funders, and plaintiffs involved in the momentous and controversial Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case, including three generations of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and key plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.
As CARE notes, the president of The Gathering Fred Smith has twice stated, in the official quarterly newsletter of The Gathering, that the annual conference known as The Gathering was conceived during a 1985 meeting at the Arlington, VA mansion headquarters of The Family.
The biggest foundation represented at The Gathering, the National Christian Foundation, is one of the biggest funders of The Family’s two main nonprofits, The Fellowship Foundation and the Wilberforce foundation. The NCF gave the two over $5.1 million dollars from 2001-2012 according to CARE, which further reveals that The Gathering frequently features Family leaders as speakers, including keynote speakers from the Family’s signature event, the National Prayer Breakfast – an event attended by every U.S. president since Eisenhower.
The National Christian Foundation, which CARE research identifies as “perhaps the leading anti-LGBT rights funder in America”, has also financed the Becket Fund, whose lawyers represented the plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case, and funded the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose lawyers represented plaintiffs in the Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius case. The two cases were merged into what became Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Top funders of the NCF, reports CARE, have been the Green family – owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and central plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby case. Three generations of Greens attended the Scottsdale, AZ The Gathering 2013 conference, along with representatives of the National Christian Foundation.
Briefing The Gathering 2013 on the current work of the Alliance Defending Freedom, according to The Gathering’s official newsletter, was ADF president Alan Sears – whose $40 million-a year Christian law nonprofit represented plaintiffs in almost one half of the lawsuits across the nation which have challenged reproductive health care mandates in the Affordable Care Act.
As the CARE report describes, The Gathering is,
“… a community of quietly but deeply radical billionaire Christian patrons helping bankroll a mounting global onslaught against LGBT rights, who have led attacks on public schools and unions and heavily fund creationism and global warming denialism…
The community represented at this annual event – whose membership and foundations give upwards of one billion dollars a year in grants – serves as the financial wing of The Family and represents the main private funding stream bankrolling the ongoing culture wars (see Twocare.org special report, The Gathering: The Religious Right’s Cash Cow), including the mounting international onslaught on LGBT rights and the legal campaign against Obamacare.
The Gathering community includes many of the richest family dynasties on the Christian right. In any given year at the Gathering one might find members and representatives of the billionaire Green, Coors, DeVos, Prince, Friess, Maclellan, DeMoss, and Ahmanson families, as well as heads of the Templeton foundation and the gargantuan National Christian Foundation, now the 12th biggest charitable foundation in America that raises money from private sources according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Disturbing details showcased in the report include The Gathering’s ties to the overtly theocratic Christian Reconstructionism movement. Writes Bruce E. Wilson, author of the CARE report,
One astonishing indication of The Gathering’s underlying radical political and ideological nature is an op-ed, published in the Winter 2005 newsletter of The Gathering, by Christian Reconstructionist pastor Kenneth L. Gentry, who argued that, per the biblical prescription of Leviticus 20:9, parents should sanction the execution of disobedient children who have broken “God’s holy Law”.
In that Winter 2005 Gathering newsletter op-ed, author Kenneth L. Gentry claims that Jesus Christ has advocated such a position by citing Leviticus 20:9. Also contributing an article to the same newsletter issue was evangelical writer Andy Crouch, now Executive Editor for Christianity Today.