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For week ended November 14, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Groups Defend the 'Natural Family'

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Groups Defend the 'Natural Family'
Associated Press 13Nov99 N1
By Naomi Koppel: Associated Press Writer

[and additional articles listed after the summary]

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND -- The Second World Congress of Families opened yesterday with organizers expecting 1,000 delegates to attend. The four-day congress, sponsored by BYU's World Family Policy Center (formerly NGO Family Voice), the LDS Church's Relief Society and the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society of Rockford, Illinois, has received extensive support from the LDS Church. LDS Church authorities Mary Ellen Smoot (General Relief Society President), Margaret Nadauld (Young Women General President) and Elder Bruce Hafen of the First Quorum of the Seventy will address the congress.

The congress is seeking to counter standard United Nations positions favoring small families, the sponsors have identified 85 'anti-family' initiatives sponsored by the UN and are seeking support to get these initiatives changed. "In recent years the human family has been ignored and abused, particularly in certain international assemblies. We are trying to make a positive case," said the Howard Center's Allan Carlson. Specific positions the group supports include support for large families including both parents, defending marriage and fighting mass schooling, which activists claim take away parental rights to educate children as they see fit.

The conference will feature speakers representing major world-wide religions and traditions, including Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of the Catholic Church, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and Jehan Sadat, widow of former Egyptian premiere Anwar Sadat.

Critics claim that the supporters and attendees at the conference are conservatives and fundamentalists who don't agree among themselves on many of the positions they are taking. "Many of these Muslim organizations are not advocating basic, international human rights, let alone women's rights," says former BYU professor Omar Kader. "Family values in some parts of the Muslim world means plural marriage and advocacy of female genital mutilation."

The congress represents a triumph for BYU law professor Richard Wilkins, founder of the World Family Policy Center. Wilkins got the idea for the program after speaking to the 1996 United Nation's conference in Istanbul, and says he was inspired by the LDS Church's 1995 Proclamation on the Family. He persuaded BYU to fund a website, then called NGO Family Voice and provide staff for the effort. He enlisted the aid of the Vatican (Wilkins speaks Italian after serving an LDS Mission there), and has since built relationships and alliances worldwide.

But even the World Family Policy Center is not without its critics. LDS author and BYU organizational behavior professor Warner Woodworth, who supports development in the third world, claims that the center is more about politics than actually helping people, "I see no evidence that any single family in the whole world is better off because of them. The best thing you can do to strengthen these families is to help increase their capacity to find employment, to provide access to medicine and education for their children. They don't benefit from more conferences, more meetings, more discussion, and more rhetoric."

The effort also raises questions among critics, who wonder at the LDS Church's involvement in global politics. "Historically, the church has generally stayed out of politics both nationally and globally because of the dangers of being drawn into political alliances with one side or the other of a controversial issue," said BYU law professor Frederick Mark Gedicks. Gedicks notes that one exception to this was the Church's activity on the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States, "The church's organizational and fundraising efforts were decisive in defeating ratification in several states, but the church's active opposition to the ERA split the membership."

Additional source articles:

BYU Professor Makes His Case Defending Traditional Families Salt Lake Tribune 14Nov99 N1 By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

Religions Discuss 'Natural' Family Salt Lake Tribune 14Nov99 N1 By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

Letter From The Editor Salt Lake Tribune 14Nov99 N1 By James Shelledy: Salt Lake Tribune Editor

Event aims to preserve the family Deseret News 13Nov99 N1,1249,130006935,00.html By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor

Conference meets to defend the 'natural family' Boston Globe (AP) 13Nov99 N1 By Naomi Koppel: Associated Press Writer

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information