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Could Austin Ruse's Violent Rhetoric Endanger C-FAM's Status with the UN?

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), an anti-LGBT hate group that lobbies at the United Nations, has had a bad week.

Austin Ruse at the UN

First, Ruse garnered outrage last Wednesday when he stated on the air that the “hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities…should all be taken out and shot.” He was speaking about a female student at Duke University who works as an actress in the pornography industry. Ruse blamed Duke’s women’s studies department, claiming that the student “learned this” there.

In the wake of his remarks, Ruse doubled down and engaged in Twitter flame wars with detractors and lambasted the blog Right Wing Watch (RWW), which had posted audio and a transcript from the show. Ruse railed against RWW, saying that “The pajama boys over at Right Wing Watch have their panties all in a twist about what I said.” He also called liberals “dumb,” “stupid” and “idiotic” and claimed that his remarks about shooting leftists shouldn’t be taken seriously.

On Thursday, Ruse deactivated his Twitter account, grousing that it was overrun by a “leftist swarm” and on Friday, he was removed from American Family Radio (AFR), which is run by the extreme anti-LGBT group American Family Association (AFA), which allows all manner of bigotry on its airwaves, particularly from Bryan Fischer. Apparently, calling for the shooting of university officials was a little too extreme even for them.

In a Facebook statement, AFR announced that “The fill-in host on AFR who made those comments is no longer on the air with us and will not be filling in on AFR in the future” and that the views were “un-Christian.” AFR also scrubbed Ruse’s shows from their archives (the Facebook announcement appears to have been removed, as well). Ruse finally apologized, sort of, on Friday, telling Talking Points Memo that he regretted using the expression “taken out and shot” and that it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Yesterday, the fallout continued. One of the four board members of C-FAM (Ruse is one) resigned. On Monday, the group Faithful America started a petition asking the board member, Monsignor Anthony Frontiero, a prominent Catholic priest of St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester, New Hampshire, to resign. Yesterday, Frontiero informed Faithful America via email that he had.

Frontiero served on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican and from 1999-2002, and he served as diplomatic attaché of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. He represented the Vatican on issues such as women’s rights and sustainable and social development. During that time, he was also director of special projects at the Path to Peace Foundation and officially represented the Holy See at human rights, democracy and criminal justice meetings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the UN. He was appointed to rector of St. Joseph’s in 2011.

This isn’t the first time Ruse has made statements about potential violence. Catholics for Choice released a report in 2001 (PDF; may not load in some browsers) documenting Ruse’s and C-FAM’s efforts at the United Nations to undermine efforts to stop discrimination against women.

In 2000, the report notes, Ruse addressed the conspiracist, anti-communist and anti-Obama Cardinal Mindzenty Foundation whose current president is Eleanor Schlafly, a sister-in law of Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly. When Ruse addressed the Foundation, he reportedly told a story about talking to a Catholic priest about killing Hillary Clinton. “Hillary [Clinton] is the ‘conquering queen’ at the United Nations,” Ruse said. “I was standing on the floor of the UN a couple of months ago, when she was thinking about running, and I was talking to a priest from the Holy See delegation and — I shouldn’t tell you this but he offered me guaranteed absolution if I just took her out — and not on a date.”

Ruse and C-FAM have been lobbying against sexual and reproductive rights, abortion, and LGBT people at the UN and abroad for years. In 2012, Ruse and C-FAM even helped block a UN treaty protecting the rights of people with disabilities because, the groups claimed, it was “pro-abortion.” The wording of the document stated that people with disabilities should have access to healthcare, including “in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.”

C-FAM is an offshoot of the hardline anti-abortion group Human Life International (HLI, founded in 1981), whose ties to violent anti-abortionists and extreme tactics made it too controversial for the UN. Its founder, Paul Marx, a DC-based Catholic priest, also had a history of claiming that the pro-choice movement was full of Jews, who in his words, were perpetrating another Holocaust. HLI was denied consultative status in 1993, so it set up C-FAM in 1997 as its UN lobbying arm, and the organization shifted its rhetoric to include vague terminology like “traditional values” and “respect for sovereignty” (useful for countries that employ repressive policies and wish to avoid scrutiny for human rights violations).

This year C-FAM was approved for consultative status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is concerned with the world’s social, economic, and environmental issues. ECOSOC will review the organizations in July and in most cases, will approve consultative status. Non-governmental organizations that are granted this status then have access to ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies and the various human rights mechanisms of the UN and various special events organized by the President of the General Assembly.

If C-FAM is approved, expect even more international outreach and anti-LGBT propagandizing from Ruse. Over the years, he has railed against abortion and voiced support for laws criminalizing homosexuality. Last year, he voiced support for Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law (which criminalizes free speech with regard to homosexuality). Ruse called the law a noble quest for “human rights” and signed a joint statement (along with other anti-LGBT groups) in support of it.

On C-FAM blog’s, Turtle Bay and Beyond, blogger Stefano Gennarini called the law nothing more than a “tax on homosexual PDA” (public displays of affection) and argued that discouraging homosexuality among children “simply codifies that Russia truly is interested in protecting its children.” Following the passage of that law, violence against Russian LGBT people has dramatically increased.

It’s clear that Ruse’s definition of “human rights” does not include LGBT people. He has opposed making sexual orientation and gender identity new categories for non-discrimination in international law and called homosexuality “harmful to public health and morals.” When talking about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), he wondered why gay people put up with transgender people and allow them to “lead” on ENDA. “Most Americans,” Ruse said, “are rightly put off by such displays of psychological disturbances.”

We’ll find out in July whether the UN’s ECOSOC will be “put off” by Ruse’s calls for violence and inflammatory rhetoric.

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