Lobbying disguised as research: The first step to greater influence
Since it worked in the States, it should work here. At least, that’s what the religious right hopes as it continues subtly organizing to reclaim political space.
On February 16 in Ottawa, the Institute of Family and Marriage Canada (IMFC) held an event to herald the opening of its new office in the nation’s capital.
The IMFC is the latest weapon deployed by Focus on the Family Canada to retaliate against what they see as the erosion of their religious values and narrow social views.
Setting up shop in Ottawa will allow more effective lobbying of federal MPs. Only, they’re not calling it “lobbying”. The IMFC says it only intends to provide “social policy research that affects marriage and family”, thus pointing out the “impact public policy has on family life.”
In the IMFC’s new glossy magazine, the “IMFC Review”, a trio of articles on marriage and family underline the Institute’s agenda.
In one of them, American academic Jennifer Roback Morse declares, “Although gay marriage is the current hot-button topic, it is a parenthetical issue.”
Equal marriage is indeed a parenthetical issue. It’s not just about allowing same-sex couples to marry, just like their heterosexual counterparts.
This is about the equality of ALL Canadian citizens, as promised in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If some of us are not free, then all of us risk being constrained – including churches that WANT the freedom to celebrate same-sex marriages.
Roback Morse, along with many others in the religious right, deplores the fact that the State is no longer exclusively supporting the “traditional” family with a mother, a father and their offspring.
In her article, she writes about the “ordinary, run of the mill, married couples” and how “a free society needs a culture that supports and sustains marriage as the normative institution for the begetting, bearing and rearing of children.”
The IMFC preaches about families and marriage because they are a product of Focus on the Family. This extreme-right group, led by James Dobson, is based in the United States but has spread into Canada over recent years.
Focus on the Family advocates that homosexual people can be converted through therapy, abstinence is the solution to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, abortion is “the baby holocaust” and equal marriage is part of a culture war.
The new Ottawa-based IMFC is more moderate in tone but it echoes the philosophical foundations of its creator. The Institute wants to end equal marriage of same-sex couples. It will also provide ammunition for the new Stephen Harper government to reverse other rights and social programs that don’t reflect their social conservative agenda.
We have seen this pattern before, in the U.S. First, the Social Conservative movement established or took over think tanks. Then, they infiltrated political parties. The American Republican Party is beholden to them, much in the same way that Canada’s Conservative Party could be.
For this reason, the IMFC’s research should be monitored and challenged, its underpinnings exposed to scrutiny.