The wedge

Today’s Observer reports:

A rightwing Christian lobby group that wants abortion to be banned has forged ties with an adviser to the prime minister and is drawing up ­policy briefings for politicians.

The UK branch of the US-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has more than doubled its spending since 2020 and been appointed a stakeholder in a parliamentary group on religious freedoms in a role that grants it direct access to MPs.

The ADF isn’t just one of the prime movers in the global anti-abortion movement; it’s also one of the prime movers in the global anti-gender movement, of which trans people are the initial targets. As The Observer puts it, the organisation “also supports outlawing sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ+ adults and funds US fringe groups attacking gay, trans and abortion rights”. It is also believed to be a funder of fake grassroots groups pushing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ activism: many LGBTQ+ and women’s rights supporters believe that organisations such as ADF use crowdfunding to disguise their investment in such astroturf groups.

The ADF is already a regular voice in British and Scottish media, almost always without any context telling viewers, listeners or readers what the organisation does and what its goals are. It’s presented as an organisation that advocates for freedom and freedom of speech, not an organisation that works tirelessly to remove women’s reproductive rights, to remove LGBTQ+ people’s human rights, to censor education and to give religious people – but only Christian religious people – freedom from the laws that bind others.

What we’re seeing here is the wedge that began with attacks on trans people and has since moved to wider anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion moves. This is not a secret: the ADF is one of the supporters of Project 2025 by the Heritage Foundation (another evangelical group close to the UK government, and which for a short time had its own pet prime minister in the form of Liz Truss), which sets out the Christian Right’s plan for what they hope will be another Trump presidency.

Here’s Nancy Kelley on the stated goals of Project 2025.

It is almost unfathomably obsessed with ending access to reproductive healthcare, along with total state control of reproductive knowledge, health and choices. It is deeply hostile to migrants, including the most vulnerable migrants, and violently rejects any analysis of racial disparity, or engagement with the USA’s past, present or future as a multi racial democracy. It is shocking, it is scary, and it is specifically scary when it comes to LGBTQ+ people and our human rights.

And as Kelley points out, these ideas – and the groups behind them – are already gaining significant traction in the UK.

The UK anti-trans movement and aligned social conservative movements already use the same arguments as Project 2025 (social contagion, sexualisation of children, parental rights, faith and belief) to argue for the same goals here in the UK, and they are doing so with some success.

With the anti-trans part of the wedge well established, the door is now open to similar attacks on the wider LGBTQ+ community and to women’s and non-binary people’s reproductive freedom. And very conveniently, the most high profile self-identified feminists and women’s rights defenders in the UK are too busy defaming and demonising trans people to pay attention, let alone fight back; in many cases they’re standing arm in arm with the ADF and its fellow travellers.

It’s tiring to write yet again that once they’re done with us, they’re coming for you: the religious right has been openly promising that for years now. But we appear to be sleepwalking into a very dark place because of journalistic malpractice, useful idiots and British and Scottish exceptionalism: we’re too enlightened, too clever; it couldn’t happen here. But it can happen here. It’s already begun.