ZA’s anti-LGBT Watchman on the Wall I: Errol Naidoo, the Family Policy Institute and the Family Research Council Mar 30, 2015


The Film and Publication Board of South Africa has for some time had a relationship with an anti-LGBT organisation called the Family Policy Institute. The Family Policy Institute (FPI) was founded in reaction to the legalisation of same sex marriage in South Africa and is modelled on a similar organisation in the US, the Family Research Council, which has provided support to Naidoo for the last decade. The FPI also has a relationship with a global fundamentalist Christian movement, theWatchmen on the Wall, which originated a decade ago from a cross pollination of the anti-LGBT ideas and strategies of Latvia’s anti-LGBT movement and elements of the US Christian right.

This is the first of series of blog posts that profile the Family Policy Institute and its CEO and founder, Errol Naidoo. This post provides a history of the FPI’s founding, its relationship to the Family Research Council, and its advocacy in South Africa from 2008-2010.
Friend of the FPB

In 2010, the Film and Publication Board, (FPB) and the FPI organised a seminar on the dangers of pornography. This was part of advocacy around the (now shelved) Internet and Cellphone Pornography Bill that was at the time being promoted by the FPB and the Department of Home Affairs. The FPI was a partner in consultation and promotion of the bill.Eroll Naidoo claimed that he had personally requested the Justice Alliance of South Africa to draft the Bill.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos described the FPI and FPB seminar as “a propaganda exercise promoting narrow and very particular religious views” and commented that:

The fact that a state body like the Film and Publication Board, with the assistance and support of the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, teamed up with a very reactionary, homophobic, anti-abortion, religious group, is truly shocking as it sends a signal that a state institution has chosen sides against the values of openness, respect for difference, freedom of religion and opinion and human dignity enshrined in the Constitution.

Currently the FPB website lists at the footer of its website, organisations that presumably partner in some way in the work of the Board: Childline Gauteng, the Department of Communications (the FPB’s new overlords),the International Association of Internet Hotlines, and the Family Policy Institute. The FPI has been linked to on the FPB website at least since 2012 when Jacques Rousseau observed that the FPI was on the “Useful Links” on the FPB home page.

It seems that the FPB has a lasting relationship to the FPI that may currently still exist. What is the Family Policy Institute? Why was it founded? And what is its agenda?
FPI founded as a reaction to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in South Africa

In November 2006 in a landmark moment for same-sex marriage worldwide, the Civil Union Act Came into force. South Africa became the fifth country, the first country in Africa, the first country in the southern hemisphere, the first republic, and the second country outside Europe to legalise same-sex marriage. Eroll Naidoo, who with the Marriage Alliance he had been engaged in lobbying against the act, couldn’t get himself to dig this development.

He explains on his TV show, Watchmen on the Wall how his founding of the FPI was largely a response to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Naidoo felt that what he saw as the “Christian majority” or the “majority of the church” had failed to stop the legalisation of same sex-marriage. He was was concerned that:

most in the Christian church, did not know how to engage parliament or our society regarding this issue. People were phoning and asking me, can we send a petition in? Can we email Parliament? To stop this. …

And I realised then, that we are in trouble as far as the church is concerned in South Africa, or the body of Christ, because parliament was passing laws that was contrary to the convictions and values of the majority”

During this period of contemplation, Errol Naidoo claims to have received divine revelations:

So God began to speak to me about forming a ministry at parliament to be able to form, educate and equip the church, so the church could perform its biblical mandate to be the salt and light of society.

Naidoo receives training in the US from the Family Research Council

Naidoo then went to the US with his family for a training with a Christian fundamentalist anti-LGBT lobbying organisation, the Family Research Council.

My wife and I and my younger son Jared went to Washington D.C. We stayed there for six months in 2007, and trained with one of the most prominent Christian organisations in Washington, called the Family Research Council, Trained there, came back and began to lay the foundations for the Family Policy Institute.”

The Family Research Council, was perhaps a good place to learn the art of policy advocacy, but it is also listed by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as an extremist organisation:

The Family Research Council (FRC) bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but its real speciality is defaming gays and lesbians. The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

To make the case that the LGBT community is a threat to American society, the FRC employs a number of “policy experts” whose “research” has allowed the FRC to be extremely active politically in shaping public debate. Its research fellows and leaders often testify before Congress and appear in the mainstream media. It also works at the grassroots level, conducting outreach to pastors in an effort to “transform the culture…

“The FRC also strongly promotes the “ex-gay” movementas a way to combat LGBT civil rights measures, though professional organizations have repeatedly called so-called “reparative therapy” (which seeks to turn gays and lesbians into heterosexuals) into question and issued statements that don’t support it.

A decade later, the FRC’s message has not changed and the FPI endorses it. The FRC in a PDF available on the FPI website lists the following “Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality” which include:

  • People are born gay Sexual orientation can never change
  • Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation, from homosexual to heterosexual are harmful and unethical
  • Homosexual conduct is not harmful to one’s physical health
  • Children raised by homosexuals are no different, from children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm
  • Homosexuals are no more likely to molest
    children than heterosexuals.
  • Homosexuals are seriously disadvantaged by
    discrimination
  • Homosexual relationships are just the same as
    heterosexual ones, except for the gender of the
    partners.

Naidoo’s initial successes 2008-2010: RAG Magazine and Woolworth’s

Naidoo attributes his inspiration for the new organisation, and its successes not only by his stay in Washington DC with the Family Research Council, but also from above.

“We then launched in 2008, and I am glad to say that from the time we have started this ministry, God has given us several breakthroughs and begun to teach us a lot. And now in our fifth year, we see God as beginning to use us in a very significant way in South Africa.”

Naidoo is asked by Pastor Gerald Ferreira of “Friend of God” Church for some examples of how Christians can come together to “make a change” and “influence” (see video at 10:36):

“Lets speak about some of the examples that you know of, and that you have been a part of leading, that have brought great impact throughout our whole nation, when the Body of Christ has come together.”

Naidoo, says that the earliest example for him, was in 2009:

when the University of Cape Town and their sponsors, Pick and Pay, put out this RAG magazine called SAX Appeal, which is a charity magazine, to raise funds for charity, and they had a cartoon in there that was incredibly blasphemous.

Naidoo was “shocked at the crude and blasphemous nature of the cartoon”, he states that he

realised that if this was directed against Muslims for example, we would have had big trouble in South Africa. I mean UCT would have been burning down. But they directed it against the name of Jesus Christ and Christians, because I suppose they think they could get away with it.

But get away with it they could not. Naidoo explains how he scanned the cartoon and wrote about it:

I sent a newsletter out that morning, and by that evening, that newsletter made its way around the world, around this nation and around the world. UCT and Pick and Pay, their sponsors [were] getting around 20 000 emails an hour, from every part of the world. Because I said to Christians out there, look they are making fun of Jesus Christ and Christianity. They are mocking and they are blaspheming the name of Christ. And they only do it to Christians, they never do it to any other faith group.

He claims that within half-an-hour UCT and Pick and Pay took the magazine out of every store in the country. He states that the headlines were: “UCT Apologises to Christians”, and in Naidoo’s opinion, “UCT could not apologise more”.

Naidoo then notes a chilling effect of his actions:

What that did, was it turned this whole thing, there was a lot of mockery of Jesus, of the name of Jesus in the Newspapers, in the Magazines, from that day on I have never seen an example of blasphemy of the name of Jesus, in the media. [*applause*]

Naidoo’s second example of his success, was his response to when Woolworths “kicked out all [six of] the Christian Magazines” (see video below at 12:20).

Naidoo worked with a coalition that called for a boycott of Woolworths, a call broadcast by Christian newspapers, magazines, and radio and television programmes. Naidoo explains that he wrote an email to his database of Christians around the country explaining to them that “if Woolworth’s does not welcome Christian Magazines in their store, then obviously they don’t want Christians in their store.” Naidoo describes how he sent that email out at 10:30 in the morning, Woolworths started receiving thousands of emails from Christians, saying that they would not shop at Woolworths any more. That same day, at 16:30, claims Naidoo, Woolworths sent out a press statement, put every Christian Magazine back into Woolworths, and they “never ever touched it again”.

At the time Naidoo, was himself at the proprietor of two Christian magazines, JOY! Magazine and its Afrikaans language sister publication,JUIG! both of which regularly spewed anti-LGBT hate speech
2010 anti-LGBT advocacy in Cape Town

In 2010, Naidoo had expanded his advocacy against the social and political spaces of the City of Cape Town. Christina Engela, volunteer human‑rights activist and member of the Board of the South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation(SA GLAAD) described at the time, in a blog post that Naidoo was:

leading an attack on Cape Town Tourism over its support for the Mother City Queer Project, and the use of a catch-phrase advertising Cape Town as “the Gay Capital of South Africa”. Some of us wanted to inform him that he was being an ass and making human rights abusers out of himself and all those who support his call to target entities which he frequently accuses of “promoting the homosexual agenda”.

Engela quotes Naidoo as saying in the media, “when homosexual activists attempt to hijack my city to promote their lifestyle, I am compelled to oppose it.” She offers some insight on Naidoo’s discursive strategies:

In the course of this debate, Mr Naidoo played the card which has become expected of him – that is, he pretends to be nothing more than a “concerned citizen”, a “pastor” and “faithful Christian” who is nobly “standing” for “Christian biblical values” while “doing the Lord’s work”. He says he doesn’t hate gay people, in fact he says he has a good relationship with one gay man who has been his barber for 30 years, and whom he invites to family celebrations. Right.

At the same time, he has been using his own religious views to fight against the equality and civil rights of our community since the early 1990’s, and is probably the most outspoken and visceral opponent of our human and civil rights in South Africa.

Engela was writing this blog post after an email correspondence with Naidoo. She asked, “Ok, so who is Erroll Naidoo? And why all the fuss? I’m glad you asked. So glad in fact, that I am going to post my email reply to him from Friday last week to help explain to you, as I did to him, who Erroll Naidoo is, and how I see him:”

You have been actively associated with anti-gay groups since the early 1990’s, such as various affiliates of the “Christian Action Network” and “Marriage Alliance of SA” and SACLA to name but a few. You have been named in numerous Africa Christian Action newsletters as appearing for their group as a guest speaker at their events and as a so-called “expert” on homosexuality.

Your own FPI newsletters and articles in Joy! magazine have laid bare your hostility to our community. You have painted us adnauseum as a threat to Christianity, society, the so-called “traditional family” and of all things, civilization, which could be snuffed out in the blink of an eye due to other reasons entirely. You have asserted time and again that gay people are a “lifestyle” choice and not a valid identity group deserving of respect, dignity and equal treatment – but that your own identity group (fundamentalist Christians) is. You assert that gay people are sinful and dangerous simply for being who they are, and that it is not natural to be gay, but a “choice” and that gay people can somehow be made straight, regardless of the pain and suffering such fraudulent theories and those who employ them, cause.

You claim you never said you hate gay people, and yet you were quoted in an article from a Media24 newspaper (“Sondag”) in November last year, as saying (translated from Afrikaans) “I hate gays. It runs against God’s wishes”. If this is untrue then perhaps you should take this matter up with the “Sondag” staff. Be that as it may, your actions speak louder than words.

The next of this series of blog posts details how Naidoo expands his international network and establishes the South African arm of a global US and Latvian anti-LGBT movement called the Watchmen on the Wall and spins this partnership between the FPI and the Watchmen into a television show. 

READ EPISODE TWO

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