The Religious Right and adoption
Over the years much has been written about the Religious Right, but mainstream media have often overlooked the adoption angle when describing the workings of this section of American society.
Ever since the late 1970's the so-called Religious Right has managed to gain an enormous influence in American politics and that influence can hardly be overstated. While consisting of many different organizations, the movement is very homogeneous in its goal and very little dissent exists among its members. That is mainly so, because the Religious Right is the works of a relative small group of highly influential and highly affluent individuals that make up the boards of these various organizations.
The agenda of the Religious Right can be summarized in three main goals:
- Eliminate the public sector and break down the separation between church and state
- Institute social laws based on biblical rule
- Facilitate free market economy
It would go too far to get into too much detail about these three goals, suffice it to say that each of these goals is been attained by the use of wedge-issues. The Religious Right tries to undermine public eduction by insisting on the teachings of creationism in science classes, trickily called "intelligent design". It uses wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion to get a grip on the judiciary system in an attempt to institute biblical rule in American law.
The Religious Right should not be mistaken with people believing in traditional values, although they do pander to those who do. The goal of the Religious Right is mainly political and financial. Despite an outward appearance of religiosity the Religious Right is very much an unchristian coalition whose ultimate goal is worldly power.
The Religious Right has many ties to the adoption industry and a central role is being played by Bethany Christian Services, America's largest adoption agency, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Like many adoption agencies, Bethany Christian Services started as an amateur run organization when in 1944, Mary DeBoer and Margueritte Bonnema wanted to establish a Christian residence for homeless children. By now Bethany Christian Services has 81 offices in 31 states and has international presence in 17 countries. Their services include abstinence education, adoption, foster care, pregnancy counseling, home studies and post adoption services. With that they cover the whole spectrum of child placement services. In that sense Bethany Christian Services is the Walmart under the adoption agencies, the one-stop shop for all child placement services.
Bethany Christian Services presents itself as a pro-life agency and that already indicates their position, but Bethany's links to the Religious Right go much further than that.
While receiving more than $45 million in service fees annually, Bethany Christian Services receives another $11 million in grants.
The biggest contributor to Bethany Christian Services is the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, which contributed nearly $4 million since 2000. This foundation is one of the principal contributor to the Religious Right and Bethany Christian Services has been one of its main recipients in the last decade.
Richard DeVos is the founder of Amway, a multi-level marketing organization that made a fortune for its founders and has been a disaster for many people that signed up to the marketing scheme. Over the years Amway has been a highly controversial organization, often likened to a pyramid scheme, which allegedly managed to stay out of judicial trouble because of huge political donations made by its founders.
Some Amway distributor groups have been accused of using cult-like tactics to attract new distributors and keep them involved and committed. Allegations include resemblance to a Big Brother organization with paranoid attitude to insiders critical of the organization, seminars and rallies resembling religious revival meetings and enormous involvement of distributors despite minimal incomes. DeVos himself calls this "compassionate capitalism"
Not only Richard DeVos' businesses are highly controversial, so are his political activities and affiliations with and donations to Religious Right organizations. He was treasurer of the Republican National Committee and has served as president of the Council for National Policy, a secretive, but highly influential Washington, DC based umbrella organization and networking group for social conservative activists, founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye. The Council for National Policy is a virtual who is who of the Religious Right and is claimed to be the true power within the Republican Party.
Over the years Richard DeVos has donated large sums of money to Coral Ridge Ministries, a fundamentalist Presbyterian church in Fort Lauderdale, ran by D. James Kennedy. Kennedy is one of the founders of the Moral Majority, together with Jerry Falwell, Charles Frazier Stanley and Tim LaHaye. He also is the founder of Hope Women's Centers, a pro-life pregnancy counseling center, which in collaboration with Focus on the Family's Option Ultrasound Program was one of the first pregnancy counseling centers that deliberately introduced ultra-sound equipment to show pregnant women the movements of the fetus to discourage them from having an abortion.
D. James Kennedy is one of the founders of the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization that receives considerable contributions from Richard DeVos too. Alliance Defense Fund is a joint initiative of D. James Kenney, Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), James Dobson (Focus on the Family and Family Research Council), Larry Burkett (Crown Financial Ministries) and Marlin Maddoux (Point of View - Radio Talk Show).
Several other noteworthy organizations Richard DeVos contributes to are:
- Young America's Foundation - a conservative youth organization for the promotion of conservative ideas among students.
- Prison Fellowship - a controversial organization for the evangelization of inmates, founded by Watergate felon Chuck Colson;
- The Heritage Foundation - a right wing think tank founded it the 1970's with money from the Coors family;
- Focus on the Family - guardian of family values and evangelical power house founded by James Dobson
- Evangelism Explosion International - another D. James Kennedy organization
- Crystal Cathedral Ministries - known for the Hour of Power show
- Alliance for School Choice - an organization that tries to eliminate the choice to have public education
- FreedomWorks - Dick Armey's astoturfing group that can be hired for any conservative goal
- Media Research Center - a content analysis organization that considers facts to have liberal bias
- Hope Women's Centers - pregnancy counseling center founded by D. James Kennedy
- Pregnancy Resource Center - a pro-life pregnancy counseling center in Michigan
- Campus Crusade for Christ - organization that promotes evangelism and discipleship in more than 190 countries around the world.
- Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty - organization that promotes conservative religious thought and free market economics
- Mackinac Center for Public Policy - free market think tank
- The Federalist Society - an organization that seeks reform of the current American legal system in accordance with an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.
As a staunch pro-family advocate Richard DeVos of course has offspring, who themselves are big contributors to the religious right and to Bethany Christian Services. Douglas DeVos started the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation and Dick DeVos started the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation.
Betsy DeVos is another interesting link to both the Religious Right and to Bethany Christian Services, she is the daughter of Edgar D. Prince and Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, who started the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. Edgar D. Prince, an entrepreneur from Michigan is one of the founders of the Family Research Council. FRC is essentially the political leg of Focus on the Family and an organization that is often mistaken by the media to be a mainstream family advocacy group.
The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, like the Richard and Hellen DeVos foundation is one of the big contributors to the Religious Right and to Bethany Christian Services. Over the years the foundation has provided grants to some of the same organizations DeVos has contributed to, though their contributions are somewhat more geared towards James Dobson's activities than to those of D. James Kennedy. So they made major contributions to Focus on the Family, to the Alliance Defense Fund and to the Family Research Council and of course Bethany Christian Services.
Over the last couple of years the Prince family has gained notoriary as a result of the business activities of Erik D. Prince, son of Edgar and Elsa Prince and vice-president of their foundation. His mercenary army organization Blackwater has been most controversial and has made the headlines of many news paper articles over the last couple of years.
Some other contributors to Bethany Christian Services are James P. and Debra K. Hovinga Charitable Foundation, Scaife Foundations, Dewitt Families Conduit Foundation, Aimee and Frank Batten, Jr. Foundation and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. All of these organizations also donate substantially to other Religious Right organizations.
The Bradley Foundation is especially noteworthy, since they also donate substantially to the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), a memberships organization of Christian adoption agencies, of which Bethany Christian Services is one of the most prominent members together with the Gladney Center for Adoption and LDS Family Services.
The National Council for Adoption has its own ties to the Religious Right. Former president Thomas Atwood, once a board member of the Virginia branch of Bethany Christian Services, worked for The Heritage Foundation, the presidential campaign of Pat Robertson and was a board member of the State Policy Network, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy and was vice president of the Family Research Council.
Another president of the NCFA, Patrick Purtill, later became director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. That connection ended up being very lucrative for both the NCFA and for Bethany Christian Services; both received large sums of money from the federal government for Infant Adoption Awareness (NCFA), and for embryo adoption, abstinence-only education and basic operation (Bethany Christian Services).
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives offers another link to the Religious Right adoption practices through its director Jedd Medefind, who after his stint at the White House, became executive director of Christian Alliance for Orphans. This organization is a mix of adoption agencies, orphan relief organizations, foster care agencies, adoption advocates and churches.
The Christian Alliance is one of three closely related organizations, the other two are Hope for orphans and Cry of the Orphan. Essentially these three organizations are an initiative of Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ/FamilyLife, and are closely affiliated to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
It goes without saying that Bethany Christian Services is a prominent member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans as well as of Hope for Orphans and Cry of the Orphan.
By now we have established some of the many relations between the Religious Right and Bethany Christian Services, so now lets see how the Religious Right agenda fits the business of Bethany Christian Service like a glove.
The Religious Right calls itself pro-family, which is code for promoting sex as only part of heterosexual marriage while shunning and bashing everything that does not fit that ideology. The shunning aspect is pivotal here. The biggest sin for the Religious Right is of course gay sex, which to some elements deserves capital punishment, but the second biggest sin is heterosexual sex before marriage. Their approach to that "problem" is:
- abstinence-only education
- preventing access to birth control
- fierce anti-abortion activism
- bashing of single mothers and praising their sacrifice when relinquishing a child
These four elements of pro-family activism contribute highly to the number of babies available for adoption. Abstinence-only education helps create unwanted pregnancies, birth control prohibition makes prevention of unwanted pregnancies less likely, anti-abortion activism promotes unwanted pregnancies to be carried to term and the bashing of single mothers prevents mothers to choose to keep their baby.
Of course coercion is not allowed, that's why pro-family organizations often don't mention adoption as one of their goals, but given all elements of their pro-family agenda, there is simply one option left when facing pregnancy outside of wedlock: adoption.
A fundamentalist approach to religion helps the Religious Right movement. It claims the inerrancy of the Bible and by extension the inerrancy of their preachers is assumed, even when they are sinners themselves at the same time (fundamentalism always gets convoluted). Fundamentalism is by definition not self-critical, there is no interpretation, no curiosity, there is only the word.
So when it comes to the masses there is no need for education and certainly not for education that leads to critical thinking and to in-depth knowledge of human reproduction. It also helps in the free-market economy to have a class of low-educated people that can be exploited by rich entrepreneurs. That same class, especially when white, is at the same time a source for unwanted pregnancies. After all poverty not only breeds poverty, but it also breeds a lot of unwanted babies.
The push for free market economy has not only kept America's poverty level remarkably high for such a rich country, it has also helped to prevent the emergence of a middle class in many third world countries. Over the years the World Bank has pushed for deregulation in all of the countries they "helped" and as a result the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.
The Religious Right has been hugely involved in both the shaping of foreign policy as well as in relief organizations in third world countries. The foreign policy influence has been hugely anti-communist, which in reality meant suppressing peoples movements in favor of military dictatorships and supporting deregulation of the economies of third world countries. At the same time they preyed upon the poor with their missionary work to gather more souls for their cause. In other words: one hand giveth and the the other taketh.
Again in this highly cynical approach to foreign politics, where wars are just another source of income, organizations like Bethany Christian Services benefit. The more poverty, the more orphans, the more children are available for adoption and the more money can be gathered through fund-raising.
In all their activities, organizations like Bethany Christian Services, stand to win from the agenda of the Religious Right, they are being backed by the Religious Right and they are part of the Religious Right. It's time for the main stream media to pick up upon that and not only focus on the wedge issues the Religious Right wants to be talking about.