Top Democrats Unite With Christian Far Right to Bash China

Religious freedom: the new front in the New Cold War.

“As Speaker of the House it is an honor to bring greetings to the 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

“The fact that we gathered here today well, genocide is ongoing in China and other places around the world demonstrates the hard work of each of you matters.” — Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

“It's been an honor to be with you and I thank you for all you’re doing. Now let's work together on this vital cause.” — USAID Director Samantha Power

“I'm delighted to join the inaugural International Religious Freedom summit.” — Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

“We've got to, as a country, we've always got to stand with the friends of freedom and to advocate for the right of peoples to be free. When it comes to China, we have to oppose their imperial ambitions.” — Senator Josh Hawley

“I said it at the time and I'll reiterate now, if the Chinese Communist Party thinks my actions today can warrant sanctions against me, just wait.” — Senator Tom Cotton

Using a friend’s company on my application and adopting a fake persona, I attended a three-day summit on religious freedom where leading figures in the Democratic Party including Nancy Pelosi, USAID Director Samantha Power and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken joined up with anti-gay Evangelicals, a slew of shady NGOs and multiple bonafide cults to ratchet up pressure against China.

Attendees and speakers were at ease throughout the week; a member of a prominent Evangelical organization and a representative of the Central Tibetan Government made shocking admissions to me about their aims in China.

Inside the three-day inaugural International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit, which organizers and attendees pronounced like “smurf,” there was a wide diversity of peoples but far less variance in talking points. The wickedness of the Chinese Communist Party was constantly discussed. While lip service was paid to Yezidis and Rohingyas, the so-called “religious freedom summit” was little more than a CCP hate-fest and China’s alleged crimes against “religious believers” took center stage. 

Hosted at the opulent four-star Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC (the first conference hosted there since the start of the coronavirus pandemic), the hottest topic at the summit — dubbed the “Davos of religious freedom” by co-chair Sam Bronback — was regime change and Balkanization in China. The affair laid bare the true aims of the human rights industrial complex and featured the majority of the network working to bring down Beijing. Russia and China were frequently invoked as evildoers against religious believers, and terms like “genocide” and “never again” were tossed around casually.

Interpolated between tirades from high-level US government officials attacking China were a plethora of “survivor testimonies” — the closest thing to any actual evidence of China’s crimes presented at the summit. 

Entering the IRF Summit, I was reminded of the biblical story of Babel due to the wide array of backgrounds of attendees all speaking the same language; that of “religious freedom.” Equally diverse was the attire, which included garb from every major religion, garb representing a multitude of ethnic groups, military uniforms, suits, dresses and pantsuits. Religious leaders, conservative evangelicals and liberal NGO activists alike were dressed for business.

An enormous number of US government representatives — as well as foreign government representatives — were involved in the event including Nadine Maenza, Commissioner at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Senators James Lankford, Chris Coons, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Director of the Office of International Religious Freedom Dan Nadel, Representatives Henry Cuellar, Chris Smith, Ro Khanna, Jim McGovern, Jennifer Wexton, Michael McCaul, former Congressman Frank Wolf, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, David Saperstein, Former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, US Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioners Nury Turkel and Anurima Bhargava, USAID Director Samantha Power, Rita Stephan, USAID Regional Coordinator for Religious & Ethnic Minorities, Adam Phillips, Director for Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships USAID, Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Pam Pryor, former Senior Bureau Official for International Organization Affairs at the State Department, former Secretary of States Mike Pompeo, current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and potentially more.

How could such prominent Democrats agree to speak at a conference sponsored mainly by individuals and organizations they are supposed to be the antithesis of? How could the leading champion of humanitarian interventionism in the Obama Administration, Samantha Power, or Anthony Blinken for that matter, feel comfortable participating in a conference alongside anti-gay and alleged insurrectionist legislators, the kind of characters that they may have otherwise used to justify US intervention had they belonged to another country's legislative body? It was a question that I kept asking myself throughout the affair, but I quickly learned that the beat of the war drums against China was loud and that it drowned out all other issues.

The event was a rare, unvarnished glimpse into the moral hypocrisy of Democratic Party leaders, showcasing their willingness to ally with those they claim to otherwise oppose ostensibly in the name of protecting "religious freedom," a concept which these ruling class factions can't even agree on a common definition of — even if ultimately it was all just cover for advancing an imperial agenda against a rising superpower.

One would think that a conference on religious freedom would mention issues like Israelis’ frequent attacks on the third-holiest site in Islam, the al-Aqsa mosque, but it was quickly clear that it wouldn’t be that kind of conference. Apart from Representative Ro Khanna briefly mentioning Saudi Arabia’s persecution of Shia Muslims, an Armenian archbishop noting how Russia was protecting his people in Nagorno-Karabakh, and a panel which discussed Turkey’s arming of “jihadist militias,” the talking points deployed by speakers at the Summit seemed to conform perfectly with the State Department’s agenda.

This was hardly surprising. The IRF Summit co-chair Sam Brownback was appointed by Donald Trump to be the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a position within the State Department. Brownback has a long history of fighting against equal rights for the gay community, introduced an amendment to keep gay marriage illegal, and called it a “grave threat to our central social institution.”

“Whether you're the Saudi man who has seen Jesus and wants to follow him, or the Rohingya Muslim woman who gets persecuted and raped simply for being a Muslim in Burma, or maybe you’re the Tibetan Buddhist who self-immolates because your monastery in China has been destroyed, we stand for you,” Brownback said in a promotional advertisement for the conference.

Drawing Back The Curtain

The other co-chair was Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice, named after her father Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress.

Prominently placed at the top of the first four pages of the program I was given at the conference, it notes that “The IRF Summit is a collaborative effort of our dedicated and generous partners.”

Partners were broken down by category and presumably by tier, including Title Partner, Premier Partners, Presenting Partners, Supporting Partners, Convening Partners, and Exhibitor Partners. 

The sole Title Partner is an NGO called the International Religious Freedom Secretariat, also known as the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. On their website, they bill themselves as “the premier space in Washington, DC for practical policy discussions and coordination between civil society, government, and multilateral organizations.”

“It has attracted representatives of 250 organizations and launched more than 100 multi-faith initiatives. These initiatives have been deployed by and for people from across the theological and political spectrum,” the International Religious Freedom Roundtable website states.

Five premier partners were listed. First was ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) International, a Christian Legal Aid nonprofit devoted to international lawfare and promoting so-called Christian values in court systems; its main target being the so-called “homosexual agenda.” 

“ADF International provides funding for cases with high potential to set major international legal precedents. Since our launch, we've provided more than €40m [$47 million USD] in grant funding for hundreds of cases and legal projects,” the NGO’s website states. 

“On a national level, we work with local partners to provide training, funding, and legal advocacy,” the website states. ADF International successfully backed Masterpiece Cakeshop in its Supreme Court case after the owner refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding in Colorado. Internationally, they are “accredited” by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council, the Organization of American States, the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as other international bodies.

ADF International hosts a Christian legal training boot camp called the Blackstone Legal Fellowship. Blackstone has worked with former members of Congress, the Department of Defense, and Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who taught constitutional law through the fellowship program. 

In 2013, now-Senator Josh Hawley, who spoke at a luncheon during the IRF Summit, was a paid faculty member for Blackstone, reportedly rewarded “$2,500, given a flight and extra money for expenses, and put up in the Ritz-Carlton” to speak for one hour. Blackstone blacklisted a number of words from being used during the event. The term “sexual education” was to be replaced with “sexual indoctrination,” and “gay” with “homosexual behavior.”

“Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries. This is catholic, universal orthodoxy and it is desperately crucial for cultural renewal,” the Blackstone Legal Fellowship website stated in 2014 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which considers ADF International a hate group. The New York Times noted that same year that ADF had an annual budget of $40 million.

Justice Barrett was paid to speak at the summer fellowship program five times starting in 2011, according to the Washington Post. In 2015, ADF International filed an intervention with the European Convention on Human Rights that sought to uphold laws in Europe that require transgender people seeking to have government recognition of their gender sterilized. 

Alan Sears, author of a book entitled The Homosexual Agenda, led ADF International as its president, CEO and general council for more than 20 years up until 2017. He has called homosexuality and pedophilia “often intrinsically linked.”

The next premier partner listed on the IRF Summit program is Barnabas Aid (a part of Barnabas Fund), a Christian aid organization based out of the United Kingdom. On the website’s financial review page, they claim that “in the last year we made 447 payments to 344 projects in 57 countries.” Barnabas was founded by Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican clergyman and Islamophobe.

Sookhdeo is described by the Australian daily newspaper as an “international authority on jihadist ideology” and “a lecturer to British and NATO military officers on radical Islam.”

The Guardian has noted that his book Global Jihad is on the recommended reading list for the UK Defense Academy’s higher command and staff course of 2011 and that Sookhdeo “has been used by the [Ministry of Defense] to give ‘higher level training’ to British military commanders preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.” Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik cited Sookhdeo four times in his manifesto before he murdered 77 people.

"I think the West has made a strategic mistake in seeking to distinguish al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden from the rest of Islam, by arguing they are extremists, and therefore cannot be authentic Muslims," he has said. "This is highly questionable.”

In 2015, Sookhdeo was criminally convicted of sexually assaulting a female staff member of the charity organization and intimidating witnesses. Announcing his resignation a few months prior, Barnabas wrote that “it is with great sorrow that the board of trustees of Barnabas Aid International Announce the resignation of Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo as a trustee of Barnabas Aid International and from his positions as International Director and CEO of Barnabas Aid.”

“Dr. Sookhdeo founded Barnabas Aid and has led it with zeal, vision and integrity for 22 years. We are immensely grieved that current circumstances oblige him to step down,” the press release continued.

In 2017, Dr. Sookhdeo appears to have wrestled back control over much of the organization as Barnabas Aid entered into a “memorandum of understanding” with a US-based charity called Christian Relief International, “which took over responsibilities for its overseas operations,” The Times reported last year. “The British charity gave its US counterpart £12.7 million of £14 million [$17.6 to $19.4 million USD] income raised by the Barnabas Fund last year.”

It just so happens that the Director of Christian Relief International is none other than Dr. Sookhdeo.

The third premier partner listed in the IRF Summit program is the Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian fundamentalist lobbying group that fights against anti-discrimination laws covering LGBTQ individuals, the rights of gay couples to adopt, and gay marriage. Leaders of the organization have called for “homosexual behavior” to be made a criminal offense. On the outfit’s website, at the URL frc.org/homosexuality, the organization states that “Family Research Council does not believe that ‘sexual orientation’ should be included as a protected category in non-discrimination laws or policies,” and that “homosexual conduct” is “harmful to society at large.”

The tax-exempt Family Research Council has an average annual revenue of more than $14 million in the years 2011 to 2019 according to documents made available by ProPublica. Through its affiliated Super PAC, FRC doled out $640,339 in the 2020 election cycle.

In 2020, FRC President and CEO Anthony Perkins was compensated $227,427. Ten years prior, the FRC quoted Perkins on their website as saying “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two.”

Days before Perkins spoke at the IRF Summit, a panel of judges in New Jersey’s Appellate Division court ruled that a Jewish conversion therapy organization called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (later rebranded to the “Jewish Institute for Global Awareness” reportedly to skirt the law) had to pay up $3.5 million to former patients’ lawyers, and ordered them to desist from practicing conversion therapy. The Family Research Council had unsuccessfully thrown their weight behind the company’s representatives.

The next on the list of premier partners is a media company called One Korea Network, which judging by its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages was launched in Spring 2020, however an interview with the organization’s president a few months prior sees him discussing purchasing video equipment for the outfit. It is not clear who funds the project.

“Our mission is to awaken and inform the powerful cohorts of American politicians and also thought leaders worldwide of the little known demise of South Korea,” the company’s website states. “We intend to make Senators, Congressmen, Government Executives, leaders of non-government organizations and grassroots activists aware that South Korea has changed. The nation has taken a major turn away from the hardwon constitutional rights created in partnership with the USA over 70 years ago.”

One Korea Network promotes far right views on Korea and appears to be modelled after the similarly-named One America News. It is likely this is no coincidence.

Despite being a relatively new operation, One Korea Network has been on a steady path to success by two important metrics. First, it appears to be influential. One study notes that a handful of far right YouTube channels “produced five of the 50 most-watched video clips on YouTube Korea. New-right media and civic organizations (e.g., Truth Forum, One Korea Network) criticized the leftist Moon administration for favoring North Korea and China, and for attacking Japan.”

The other metric by which One Korea Network appears to be a highly successful operation is its carrying out of its mission statement to lobby US politicians. Its YouTube page features recent interviews with a number of members of Congress. However, One Korea Network appears to be more than a simple media operation. In testimony this April to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan congressional caucus, North Korean defector Park Jung Oh thanked One Korea Network “for all their help in making my participation in this hearing possible.”

Inside the IRF Summit program it notes that One Korea Network “advocates for and promotes the improvement of the human rights situation in North Korea by working with and supporting the North Korean defector community in South Korea and in the US.”

One Korea Network also appears to be linked with discredited “China expert” Gordon Chang, who has been predicting the imminent collapse of the Chinese Communist Party for decades. Chang has recently floated that China will invade “India, Taiwan, Japan, whatever,” following the 2022 Beijing Olympics and that South Korea’s left-leaning president Moon Jae In may soon try to overthrow South Korea’s “democracy.”

One Korea Network’s president is Andrew Crilly, a former executive at the BBC who appears to be heavily networked with the South Korean far right through KCPAC, the Korean offshoot of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). KCPAC has been hosted by New Institute Hawaii and the American Conservative Union. Far right news websites in Korean cite Crilly as the President of New Institute Hawaii.

The final premier partner listed is Open Doors USA, a Christian mission with a presence in more than 60 countries. The organization was founded by Andrew van der Bijl, also called Brother Andrew and “God’s Smuggler,” a nickname he was given as he is credited with smuggling “millions” of copies of the bible past the Iron Curtain into Soviet republics during the Cold War.

The program goes on to list nine “presenting partners,” 10 “supporting partners,” 28 “convening partners,” and 21 “exhibitor partners.” 

Among the presenting partners is the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, China Aid, and Knights of Columbus, a catholic fraternal order that has included President John F. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jeb Bush, and former Speaker of the House John Boehner among its ranks.

Supporting partners include the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the World Uyghur Congress.

Convening partners include Falun Dafa Associations of Washington DC, the Hudson Institute, the Office of Tibet, DC, the Heritage Foundation, and the Uyghur American Association.

The Hudson Institute is a powerful conservative think tank funded by governments hostile to China, including the Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese governments as well as the Kingdom of Denmark. It is also funded by NATO, large defense contractors, conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and Facebook. 

For its part, Heritage Foundation is “widely considered the most influential conservative think tank in the country (if not the world)” and was credited as having the best use of the internet and social media in the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index from the University of Pennsylvania. The New York Times reported in 2018 that the Heritage Foundation was “stocking” Trump’s cabinet, and several former members of the Trump administration have since joined Heritage including former Vice President Mike Pence.

Among the exhibitor partners is the Campaign for Uyghurs and the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office.

The Church of Scientology has in the past formed a strategic alliance with the Christian far right under the belief that the ostensible fight for religious freedom could ultimately benefit their operations; the IRF Summit being the latest example. In country-specific reports from the US State Department, alleged discrimination against Scientologists is frequently cited. As Scientology is banned in countries like Russia and China, it has found common cause with its one-time enemy, the United States government.

Scientology was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and teaches to longtime adherents who have paid $3,000 for access to “esoteric” knowledge that humans are bonded to alien spirits called “Thetans” which were originally sent to Earth by an alien dictator named Xenu in order to deal with an overpopulation crisis. He then gathered them around volcanoes and killed them with hydrogen bombs. These “Thetans” are said to be the cause of human suffering and Scientologists are encouraged to “remember” the experiences of their Thetans during interrogations. 

The book The Road to Xenu by a former adherent of the cult quotes L. Ron Hubbard’s handwritten notes: “The head of the Galactic Federation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here) (founded 95,000,000 years ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet, 178 billion on average) by mass implanting. He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H-bomb on the principal volcanos (Incident II).”

Share

To gain access to these writings, even longtime cult members are forced to undergo interrogation in an “ethics clearance” which employs the infamous electronic “E-meters” that measure electrodermal activity and are used for “spiritual purposes” by Scientologists. During the ethics clearance, those seeking access to the supposedly esoteric teachings of L. Ron Hubbard are asked questions ranging from “Have you ever had anything to do with Communism or been a Communist?’” to whether they have ever enslaved a population or committed genocide.

Former members of this cult have accused it of everything from forced abortion, brainwashing, human trafficking, child sexual abuse, mysterious deaths and disappearances and physical abuse.

In an attempt to give Scientologists free reign in defense of the cult, L. Ron Hubbard implemented the “fair game” policy, allowing enemies to be “deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist.”

Journalist and author of the book “The Bare Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard,” Russell Miller, was trailed by Scientologists while writing his book, had his home placed under surveillance, his phone tapped and his mail intercepted.

Aided by Freedom of Information Act Requests and leaked documents from former cult members, Miller unveiled an unflattering portrait of the organization’s founder. 

In an effort to evade authorities and set up a safe haven for his cult, L. Ron Hubbard unsuccessfully attempted to flee to Rhodesia, apartheid era Zimbabwe. He also believed he was British imperialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes (from whom Rhodesia took its name) in a previous life. But Rhodesian authorities refused to renew Hubbard’s visa. Eventually, Hubbard purchased a fleet of ships and took to the seas, where his inner circle consisted of “messengers.”

These messengers were “little nymphets in hot pants and halter tops who ran errands for him and competed with each other to find ways of pleasing him. Eventually they helped him dress and undress, performed little domestic tasks like washing his hair and smearing rejuvenating cream on his fleshy features, and even followed him around with an ashtray to catch the falling ash from his cigarettes,” according to Miller’s biography. Those who got on Hubbard’s wrong side were confined in darkness in the chain locker and delivered food in a bucket. Hubbard ordered one man who dropped a bow-line to be thrown overboard. 

At the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office booth inside the Ambassador’s Ballroom at the IRF Summit, I picked up a large amount of literature, most of which was branded under Youth for Human Rights, a front for the Church of Scientology. Another human rights front for the cult is called United For Human Rights, which owns the HumanRights.com domain name.

One booklet I obtained branded under Youth for Human Rights claims that the organization is “active in 197 countries & territories” and that 50,000 schools, institutions and groups use their education program. In a DVD I obtained from the booth it claims “at the UN’s Human Rights headquarters in Geneva the voices of tomorrow’s leaders are given a form at the International Youth for Human Rights Summit. Young delegates from 42 nations speak out for human rights.”

The DVD shows footage of the United Nations with a United for Human Rights banner prominently displayed overhead. The narrator claims that “Linking with every like-minded humanitarian organization plus every minority organization, Youth for Human Rights became an official voice of the Danish Human Rights Council.”

”Then there is Guatemala,” the narrator continues, “where the United for Human Rights curriculum rolled out to some 22,000 Guatemalan soldiers from the National Naval Academy to the Security Army Brigade and the Ministry of Defense and Guatemalan Army Command, all culminating in a permanent partnership to implement United for Human Rights on behalf of more than 1.5 million people.”

The DVD then shows footage of Youth for Human Rights’ public service announcements playing “on Argentinian trains, at Cape Town International Airport, an Athens soccer coach convention, St. Petersburg shopping center.”

This is the first part of an investigation into the IRF Summit. In the next article I will reveal more cults sponsoring the IRF Summit which given de-facto endorsement by high level leaders of the Democratic Party. The following piece will also discuss the various “breakout session” attacking China and expose the shady characters hosting them.

Did you enjoy reading this article? I value the free exchange of information, so I don’t put anything behind a paywall. Consider kicking me a few bucks on PayPal to support my independent reporting or becoming a patron.

A note to media outletsYou are free to re-publish my writing in-full with the following text at the bottom:

Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here, and if you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal here or sustain his reporting through Patreon here.