Concerned Women for America
Concerned Women for America is a right-wing anti-feminist group working to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” Founded in the late 70s as a counterweight to the National Organization for Women, the group plays an active role in the religious right’s efforts to restrict a woman’s right to choose and oppose LGBT equality. It bills itself as “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization” and claims a membership of 500,000.
The group was founded by anti-feminist activist Beverly LaHaye, who is perhaps best known for successfully fighting the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment along with another prominent leader in the anti-feminist movement, Phyllis Schlafly. Beverly has called feminism “a philosophy of death” and said “politicians who do not use the Bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office.” She is married to Tim LaHaye, coauthor of Left Behind – a book series that dramatizes the rapture – and cofounder of the Moral Majority, an evangelical group formed to get Christians involved in politics, and more specifically, to win the culture war. “There are millions of us–and only a handful of them,” Tim LaHaye once claimed. The Moral Majority is widely credited with helping Ronald Reagan win the 1980 presidential election.
Concerned Women for America, or CWA, is heavily involved in anti-choice activism and politics and has falsely accused Planned Parenthood of “promot[ing] deviant behavior” and supporting gender-selective abortions. CWA has asked Congress to end federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The group opposes the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a 1994 law preventing groups from obstructing access to facilities that provide abortion. “The whole law itself needs to be done away with,” a group spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.
The group also focuses on defeating any attempts to protect the LGBT community, in part by regularly promoting anti-gay tropes commonly spread by the religious right. On a memo on its website, the group’s chief counsel rails against same-sex marriage claiming that “Homosexuals are seeking a special right” because they already have “the right to marry a person of the opposite sex.” She goes on to argue that same-sex marriage licenses are “a state-sanctioned counterfeit, a sham and a fraud” and that “Homosexual marriage is as wrong as giving a man a license to marry his mother or daughter or sister or a group.”
In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center included the group in its list of the most prominent anti-gay organizations, highlighting statements made by CWA staffers downplaying anti-gay hate crimes. For instance, Sandy Rios, CWA’s former president, claimed the idea that Matthew Sheppard’s murder was an anti-gay hate crime was “a total fraud.”
After President Obama signed an executive order preventing federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation, CWA accused the president of “punishing those who do not move along with him in his views on homosexuality and marriage.” The group also opposes passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because the law “would severely curb constitutionally guaranteed unalienable rights that Americans hold dear, including the freedoms of speech, religion, and association.”
In 2010, CWA asked its supporters to lobby Congress to preserve the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, warning that having gays serve openly in the military would put “undue sexual tension on men and women serving far from home in high-pressure jobs,” and that military recruiters would soon be forced to “seek out open homosexuals” to serve. After the policy was ultimately lifted, CWA president Penny Nance asked if the new law meant Christians would be discriminated against, or “homosexual partners receive preference over heterosexual families for military family housing?”
In 2012, the group came to the defense of extremist Senate candidate Todd Akin after the former Congressman made his now-infamous “legitimate rape” comments. Concerned Women for America held rallies for Akin as part of its She Votes 2012 project. Nance told the Christian Post that Akin’s ultimate defeat was the result of national Republicans pulling support. Janice Shaw Crouse, a senior fellow with the affiliated Beverly LaHaye Institute, told NPR that the controversy was the consequence of the “politics of personal destruction.” Crouse has previously said “feminism was taken over by lesbians, by those who wanted quotas and abortion on demand.”
CWA also opposed passage of the Violence Against Women Act, calling the law “a boondoggle for feminists groups” with Crouse claiming the law “pits husbands against wives” and Nance writing that the law “promotes the decriminalization of prostitution of minors.”
Since 2012, Freedom Partners, a dark money group run by the Koch Brothers, has given $8,410,000 to Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, CWA’s lobbying arm. Two other Koch-affiliated groups, the Center to Protect Patient Rights (now called American Encore) and the now-defunct TC4 Trust have given $1,631,073 and $1,335,000 respectively.