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The Fellowship, more commonly referred to as The Family (no, not the Don Corleone kind—though they do refer to themselves as "The Christian Mafia") is a politically connected Christian fundamentalist organization formed in 1935. Its original purpose was to oppose Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policies and spread fundy-ism. It didn't gain serious traction until the Cold War as it attracted fundies in opposition to the Reds. It's also notable for being a hotbed of racism, homophobia, and gross hypocrisy. There is a branch of The Family in the UK called the International Christian Leadership Association, which had connections with the Archbishop of Canterbury at one point. Its members are sworn to a vow of secrecy and it attempts to keep itself out of the public eye. Its only public event is the National Prayer Breakfast it holds annually, which every sitting US president from Dwight Eisenhower to Donald Trump has attended. According to their IRS tax exemption form, their mission statement is:
“”To develop and maintain an informal association of people banded together, to go out as "ambassadors of reconciliation," modeling the principles of Jesus, based on loving God and loving others. To work with the leaders of many nations, and as their hearts are touched, the poor, the oppressed, the widows, and the youth of their country will be impacted in a positive manner. Youth groups will be developed under the thoughts of Jesus, including loving others as you want to be loved.
Their mission is the exact opposite of this, if you wanted to know.
Jeff Sharlet and Doug Coe tape
In 2008, Jeff Sharlet, a former intern for The Family, wrote an expose of the organization and brought a taped lecture series made by current Family leader Doug Coe during the '80s to public attention. NBC aired an excerpt of the tape in which Coe made some controversial statements about, well, just read...
“”Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had...But they bound themselves together in an agreement... Two years before they moved into Poland, these three men had... systematically a plan drawn out...to annihilate the entire Polish population and destroy by numbers every single house... every single building in Warsaw and then to start on the rest of Poland." Coe adds that it worked; they killed six and a half million "Polish people." Though he calls Nazis "these enemies of ours," he compares their commitment to Jesus' demands: "Jesus said, ‘You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.' Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
...I’ve seen pictures of young men in the Red Guard of China... they would bring in this young man’s mother and father, lay her on the table with a basket on the end, he would take an axe and cut her head off... They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of the mother-father-brother-sister—their own life! That was a covenant. A pledge. That was what Jesus said.
This set off a round of internet crankery in the extreme moonbat conspiracy circles that The Family was the crypto-fascist movement they knew had ruled the US all along. In fact, they're just run-of-the-mill theocrats with a massive amount of political pull.
International and Domestic Involvement in Major Political Affairs
The Family has been implicated in a number of incidents involving diplomacy, Federal politics, and foreign relations:
- Being behind Jimmy Carter's international call to prayer during the Camp David Accord meetings with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.
- "Networking" with dictators such as Indonesia's General Suharto, Somalia's Siad Barre, and the generals of Brazil's military dictatorship.
- Convincing Ford to pardon Nixon for the Watergate break-in.
- Procuring the release by Allied forces and immigration to the United States of former Nazis after WWII.
- Its involvement in Uganda. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania redirected millions in foreign aid for sex education into abstinence-only programs. David Bahati, who proposed the bill in Uganda that would make being gay punishable by death, is associated with The Family.
C Street controversy
As lobbyists have K Street, fundies have C Street. The C Street complex is supposedly a "church," but is actually a residence for Congresscritters who belong to The Family, notable fundies, and visiting foreign dignitaries. While complaints had been made about its tax-exempt status before, a number of sex scandals in 2009 put it in the public eye. Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governer Mark Sanford both admitted to using the C Street residence as a place to boink their mistresses while hiding the affairs from their wives. Former Representative Chip Pickering has also been slapped with a lawsuit by his wife for having a C Street affair. (Those with excellent memories will recall Pickering from his cameo in Borat at a pro-creationist meeting.)
Due to continued complaints, the C Street residence had its tax exemption partially revoked in 2009. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington continues to accuse it of allowing below market rents for Congressmen. A number of mainstream Christian churches have also called it out for not being a real church as well as distancing themselves from The Family as too political or just nutty.
- Jim Inhofe, R-OK
- Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas
- Tom Coburn, R-OK
- Jim DeMint, formerly R-SC
- Don Nickles, formerly R-OK
- Melvin Laird, R-WI and Secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon
- Chuck Colson, deceased, former counsel to Tricky Dick and talk radio nut
- Bart Stupak, D-MI
- Strom Thurmond, deceased, Racist-SC
- Harold Hughes, deceased, former governor and senator from Iowa.
- John Thune, R-SD
- Paul N. Temple, crank billionaire, former Exxon executive, and current president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences
- Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, D-NY, and Secretary of State, and Presidential hopeful
- All in the Family, World Magazine
- The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet. Excerpt and interview at NPR and spin-off article at Harper's.
- Their IRS form
- NBC Nightly News report on Coe
- Sharlet, Jeff. 2009. The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power HarperCollins Publishers. New York, NY