openDemocracy, a UK-based independent global investigative journalism platform, has uncovered evidence that a coalition of Christians of various denominations, from Orthodox to Catholics to Evangelicals, is pumping large amounts of money to far-right European political parties from Spain to Hungary and beyond.
Driving the news
In the European elections in late May, parties often situated on the extreme right of the political spectrum made significant gains in Italy, Hungary, and France, winning the popular vote in those countries.
But what do the Lega of Matteo Salvini in Italy, the Fidesz of Viktor Orbán in Hungary and the National Rally of Marine Le Pen in France have in common ideologically?
The big picture
“This political vision is explicit about seeking to shift power away from women and LGBTQI people. It aims to promote the “life” of the unborn (while disregarding the risks of unsafe abortions and pregnancies to women’s lives); the “family,” by which it means a return to traditional gender roles, without any space for LGBTQI people, and putting women back in the home, seen as their “natural” place; and the “freedom” of markets and religious institutions, specifically Christian ones, above all other claims of rights or liberties.”
One level deeper
More importantly though, where does the money funding these ultra-conservative movements come from?
“This triad of “life, family, and freedom” was enshrined in the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto written more than twenty years ago by American activists of the religious right. Signatories including Orthodox, Evangelical, and Catholic leaders pledged to act in unison and determined that “no power on Earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.””
So it is that organisations linked to the Manhattan Declaration have spent at least $50 million on political campaigning and advocacy in Europe in the past decade, says openDemocracy, warning that church tax exemptions and other freedom of information restrictions mean the figure could be much higher.
Why it matters
openDemocracy points the finger specifically, among other offenders, at the Acton Institute, run by Catholic priest Robert Sirico out of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Institute – which pushes economic liberalism and a conservative Christian agenda – has spent over $1.7 million in Europe since 2008, according to openDemocracy.
The Acton Institute has also been working with ex-Trump staffer Steve Bannon and his Dignitatis Humanae Institute to destabilise the pontificate of Pope Francis.