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Hungarian-funded NGO to host hate groups, international politicians at New York summit

The Political Network for Values (PNV), a far-right conservative international think tank that the Hungarian government funds, will host a “Transatlantic Summit” in New York City on Nov. 16, featuring a mix of anti-LGBTQ hate groups, civil society and government officials from the United States, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

The conference will feature representatives of antigovernment extremist organization Moms for Liberty, anti-LGBTQ hate groups the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), which advocates for anti-LGBTQ policies at the U.N, Family Watch International (FWI) and the Alliance Defending Freedom. Hungary has become a favorite nation of the international hard-right movement for its anti-immigration, anti-LGBTQ and conservative family policies. Bulcsú Hunyadi, head of the Radicalisation and Extremism Programme at Hungarian think tank Political Capital told Hatewatch that Hungary likely uses PNV to gain “access to international networks and present itself at the international stage as a pioneer” of “traditional family policies” to bolster Hungary’s importance internationally.

PNV’s board shows it is bridging the gap between mainstream politicians and U.S. hate groups. PNV is the only known, direct connection between a Hungarian-funded organization and U.S. organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled as hate groups.

“We have never supported hate groups and hate speech and never will, as it goes against the values we stand for,” Diego Hernández, PNV’s director of communications, told Hatewatch. “At our events and in our publications you will not find any offense to people's dignity. We believe in dialogue and constructive cultural and political action.”

The Hungarian government did not respond to a request for comment.

Extremist ties

Representatives of two hate groups are on PNV’s advisory board: FWI President Sharon Slater and Brian Brown, president of the International Organization for the Family (IOF), which runs an international umbrella organization of anti-LGBTQ organizations. Hunyadi said PNV does not often appear in Hungarian public discourse. When it does, it is always in reference to its “international organization” or “network.”

Sharon Slater, founder and President of Family Watch International in a Sept. 20, 2023 “Back to School Campaign” video (Screenshot from YouTube)

FWI engages in anti-LGBTQ activism inside the U.S., including assisting at least one political action committee in Nebraska that funded three victorious campaigns for anti-LGBTQ school board candidates. However, it promotes anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience, including conversion therapy, abroad. It particularly focuses its efforts on African nations. The IOF, too, focuses on the international arena – particularly Russia and Eastern Europe. The group lauded Russia’s 2013 anti-LGBTQ “propaganda” law, which used discredited, anti-LBGTQ tropes to ban discussion of LGBTQ issues with minors. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a pro-LGBTQ organization, said that Russian politician Yelena Mizulina was a key ally of IOF. HRC also said Mizulina was a “key supporter of anti-choice and anti-LGBT legislation in Russia.”

Hungary passed a similar law banning discussion with or presentation of LBGTQ issues to minors in schools in 2021. Media have reported the law as stopping drag shows for children in Hungary, a recent development in U.S. culture wars.

Hernández did not respond to a follow-up question regarding FWI and the IOF’s actions and rhetoric that led to the SPLC designating them as hate groups.

FWI disputed the SPLC’s designation of their organization as a hate group, and said Slater “supports the mission of the PNV … The government of Hungary has been a leader in championing family values politically and socially.”

Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies broadly draw from U.S. sources, Hunyadi said. These include right-wing or far-right figures and outlets, like Fox News or Prager University.

Hungarian funding

PNV has existed since at least 2014, according to archives of its website. PNV allowed Hungarian politicians to voice far-right conservative political views that were in line with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s political agenda.

A document Hatewatch obtained from a Hungarian database shows the Hungarian government recognized PNV as a nongovernment organization NGO in 2020. Since then, the group has put more effort into English-language events and publications. Tax records, which Hungarian law requires NGOs to file, show that PNV received 1,949,000 Hungarian forints, or about $5,383, from the Hungarian government’s central budget in 2020. In 2021, the amount grew to 43,414,000 forints, or about $119,950 at current exchange rates. In 2022, the amount ballooned to 355,415,000 forints, or roughly $982,085 at current exchange rates. Hungarian investigative outlet Atlatszo reported in 2021 that the Hungarian government gave an “unnamed” NGO a 140,000 euro grant to work with PNV in 2020.

Hernández said PNV is also registered as a nonprofit “in Spain, Hungary and the United States.” Hatewatch was unable to locate PNV’s nonprofit registration forms in the U.S., and Hernández did not respond to a request for PNV’s U.S. nonprofit registration number.

It appears PNV may have had connections to U.S. hate groups from the start. Archives show that in 2014 and 2015, “tax deductible donations” could be made to “CFAM/UN Meeting 2014.” The title suggests PNV cooperated with C-FAM.

C-FAM did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment. Hernández said C-FAM is an “allied” organization of PNV and did not respond to questions about his group’s relationship with C-FAM in 2014 and 2015.

C-FAM has commended the Hungarian government’s conservative policies. The organization signed a letter in 2014 supporting the Hungary’s fourth amendment to the Hungarian constitution, which defines marriage as being between “a man and a woman.” C-FAM was then called the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

While PNV now appears to focus on fostering an English-language international network, it still has inroads in Latin America.

PNV’s current chair is José Antonio Kast, a Chilean politician who lost Chile’s 2021 presidential election to left-wing President Gabriel Boric. Kast is a far-right populist politician. He is anti-abortion and opposes marriage equality. Kast has made conspiratorial claims about a “gay lobby.”

Politicians from Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Argentina, among others, will attend the Transatlantic Summit.

‘Pro-family,’ anti-immigrant

U.S. far-right and conservative commentators have praised Hungary’s anti-immigrant, “pro-family” policies. Katalin Novák, Hungary’s president, assumed the role of PNV’s chair in 2020 when she was also Hungary’s Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs. She stayed with PNV until May 10, 2022, when she assumed the presidency. Hungary has a parliamentary system, and the office of the presidency is largely ceremonial. However, Novák did veto a bill in April that would have allowed Hungarians to anonymously report some same-sex couples to the government.

Since assuming the presidency, Novák has repeatedly spoken abroad about Hungary’s family policies. As Hungary’s first female president, Novák has presented herself as an example of gender-equality advancement in conservative Hungary.

Brian Brown, President of World Congress of Families (WCF). Taken on the 27th of May, 2017. World Congress of Families XI. Budapest Congress Center. Hungary, Central Europe. (Photo by Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons)

But Réka Sáfrány, the chair of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby (HWL), cautioned that the results of these policies are middling, at best. When asked if Novák’s presidency has done anything for gender equality, Sáfrány said, “No.”

Sáfrány explained that women still make up a small percentage of ministers and parliament members.

Women’s representation in parliament peaked at 30 percent in 1980, when Hungary was a Socialist Republic that instituted quotas for women’s representation.

Fidesz and Orbán have instituted policies to incentivize childbirth, largely through tax incentives and stipends. First-time homebuyers also enjoy low tax rates from the government. The state offers a stipend of over $30,000 for families of three – over a year and half of the average Hungarian salary as of August 2023, according to government figures – to purchase a home.

Families can apply for an additional payout of roughly $1,200 for each child beyond three. Hungary has also waived personal income tax for mothers who have four or more children. Another policy requires the establishment of childcare facilities. The government claims it spends 6% of its gross domestic product on these plans.

The policies are meant to protect Hungary’s ethnic makeup, according to the prime minister. Orbán first came to international prominence on the hard right as a champion of anti-immigration policies following the 2015 refugee crisis. “We do not want our own color, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others,” he said in a 2018 speech. Orbán said in 2019 that the family policies are meant to encourage Hungarian childbirth instead of immigration.

The HÉTFA Research Institute, a policy-focused organization based in Budapest, concluded in a 2019 study that “cash benefits altogether have no significant effect on fertility” but “the increase of disposable income due to family tax credit, as well as the better availability of housing due to home ownership support have a positive impact on fertility.”

Sáfrány also said that as a result of Hungary’s broad crackdown on NGOs, it is difficult for civil society organizations to advance equality in schools. The HWL and pro-LGBTQ NGOs are effectively banned from schools, she concluded.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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