From Black Helicopters to Trojan Horses
The U.S. Christian Right in the United Nations

by Nikhil Aziz

Throughout the Cold War, the Christian Right, and the larger political Right in the United States, saw the United Nations as the “beachhead of godless communism” about to overwhelm America. From sightings of “black helicopters carrying UN troops” to biblical end times visions of “one world government under the antichrist,” the refrain was “Get US out of the UN!” In 2002 that is no longer the war cry, at least not for the Christian Right.

Today, Christian Right leaders are carrying the “culture wars” right into the UN. With a supportive president in the White House, as Jennifer Butler contends in The Public Eye, the Christian Right has essentially taken over the U.S. delegation to the UN, and is shaping the U.S. agenda in a host of areas including children’s rights, women’s rights, and international AIDS policies. Leaders of groups including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and the National Law Center for Children and Families were on the official U.S. delegation to the UN Special Session on Children in May 2002; along with Wade Horn, formerly of the National Fatherhood Movement, and now assistant secretary for family support in the Department of Health and Human Services.

In previous years, the Christian Right sought to disrupt UN conferences and meetings such as the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and the Beijing+5 review in 2000, in New York. Those earlier efforts involved building strategic coalitions across Christian denominations, and with non-Christian faith traditions including conservative Jewish groups and Muslim governments—with the idea of consolidating a “pro-family” voting bloc. And one would think “strange bedfellows” was the Right’s polite way of describing gay people!

In 2002, backed by the financial and veto power of the United States, the Christian Right is no longer an outsider but a prime mover in the halls of the UN. The previous coalition of Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon groups still holds. And despite the increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States after 9/11, especially among Christian Right leaders, strategic coalition building at the UN level has continued to include conservative Muslim regimes. However, now with the weight of the U.S. Administration behind it, the Christian Right is in a far better position to impose its views. Butler notes that some European government delegations “bowed to U.S. intransigence in an apparent effort to prevent a U.S. walk out” from the Special Session on the Rights of the Child. As a result, the Outcome Document of the Special Session, which determines the agenda for the next decade, de-emphasizes the UN Convention on the Rights of Children—a treaty that has been ratified by the entire world, save the United States!

With all their talk about “family values” one would think the Christian Right would be a vociferous supporter of children’s rights. Why then, attack the Children’s Convention? Many in the Christian Right see “children’s rights” as a liberal attempt to challenge the nuclear family, and the authority of parents, particularly the father; and to allow the government and international bodies to make decisions for children that parents should rightfully make. For the Bush Administration, however, the issue is much more significant. Butler points out that the Children’s Convention, unlike many others, integrates economic and social rights with civil and political rights. The United States has typically refused to acknowledge the validity of economic and social rights, which it saw, during the Cold War, as a communist conspiracy to spread socialism.

Since the vast majority of Americans would support adequate healthcare, education, food, clothing, shelter, and other economic and social rights for children, it is far easier to raise the red herrings of xenophobic national sovereignty and “family values” to oppose children’s rights, than to reject them outright.

Opinions by Nikhil Aziz

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