[Why does it matter, if Invisible Children was funded by controversial donors? Two reasons – one, we can assume those donors thought IC aligned with their agenda – which is antagonistic to LGBT rights. Two, it fits an emerging pattern in which Invisible Children appears selectively concerned about crimes committed by Joseph Kony but indifferent to crimes, perhaps on a bigger scale, committed by their provisional partner, the government of Uganda – whose president shot his way into power using child soldiers, before Joseph Kony began using child soldiers. Like Kony, the government of Uganda was also indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005, for human rights abuses and looting in the DRC Congo (PDF file of ICC ruling against Uganda). Like Kony, the Ugandan army preys upon civilians and is currently accused, by Western human rights groups, with raping and looting in the DRC Congo, where it is hunting for Kony. In the late 1990s, Uganda helped spark a conflict in DRC Congo that, by the middle of the next decade it is estimated, had killed up to 5.4 million civilians, more than any conflict since World War Two. See appended “Resource” section for more information. For a very different perspective on IC, Kony, and Northern Uganda, see this editorial by Milton Allimadi, of the NYC-based Blackstar news service]
What does Invisible Children share in common with the Discovery Institute, the leading organization promoting “Intelligent Design”, a pseudo-scientific theory created to insinuate creationist ideas into public schools — or with The Call, whose leader Lou Engle claims homosexuals are possessed by demons, calls God an “avenger of blood” and a “terrorist”, and in May 2010 staged a rally in Kampala, Uganda, at which Engle warned of a gay menace to society and shared a stage with one of the authors of Uganda’s notorious Anti Homosexuality Bill?
990 IRS tax forms and yearly reports from Invisible Children, and 990s from its major donors, tell a story that’s jarringly at odds with the secular, airbrushed, feelgood image the nonprofit has cultivated.
Among the tens of millions of people who have watched Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 viral video, including Oprah Winfrey – a dedicated supporter of LGBT rights who also has given $2 million dollars to Invisible Children, how many were aware of IC’s extensive financial ties to far-right fundamentalism, including major funders of the mounting global war on gay rights? IC doesn’t go out of its way to advertise these things.
But Invisible Children’s first yearly report, from 2006, gives “special thanks” to the “Caster Family Foundation” and IC’s 2007 report is more specific, thanking Terry and Barbara Caster. In the lead up to the 2008 election, the California-based Caster family was identified as one of the biggest financial backers of the push for California’s anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.
Capping the pro-Prop 8 push was a November 1, 2008 San Diego stadium rally held by The Call, whose leader Lou Engle warned that same sex marriage could unleash a “sexual insanity” that would be “more demonic than Islam” and suggested believers should carry out acts of martyrdom to stop gay marriage and legal abortion, which Engle predicts will lead to a second American civil war.
One of The Call’s major donors in 2008 also gave, that same year, over 400,000 dollars to Invisible Children. These links weren’t anomalies. They were part of a pattern.
What does Invisible Children share in common with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council (pegged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group”), or the Fellowship Foundation — one of the nonprofit entities of the Washington-based evangelical organization also known as “The Family” (covered in two books by journalist Jeff Sharlet) whose leader Doug Coe has been captured on video celebrating the dedication inspired by Hitler, Lenin, and Mao?
What does IC have in common with the ministry of California evangelist Ed Silvoso, who works directly with leading Ugandan author and promoter of the Anti Homosexuality Bill (also called the “kill the gays bill”) Julius Oyet — who claims that “even animals are wiser than homosexuals”?
The answer? — all of these ministries – the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children – received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation:
2008 grants from National Christian Foundation, and subsidiaries
Focus on The Family: $4,268,000
Family Research Council: $2,387,000
The Fellowship Foundation (AKA “The Family” or the “International Foundation”): $515,000
Lou Engle’s The Call: $166,000
Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism: $817,000
The Discovery Institute: $702,000*
Invisible Children: $414,000*
*NCF’s 2008 990 lists $139,000 to IC; NCF subsidiary ProVision Foundation’s 2008 990 lists a $150,000 grant to IC; NCF subsidiary ProVision Trust’s 2008 990 lists a $125,000 grant to IC.
*Answers in Genesis, which directly promotes “Young Earth” creationism,received over $35,000 from the NCF in 2008.
Since it came into existence in 1982, cooked up by canny tax lawyers, the National Christian Foundation–covered in a story by journalist Michael Reynolds published in the December 2005 issue of Mother Jones (extended version of story available here)– has swollen into a financial behemoth that disperses over 1/2 a billion dollars a year to Christian charities. But not just any Christian charities.
The NCF, which counts billionaire, controversial Rick Santorum-backer Foster Friess among its donors, funds nonprofits that advance its agenda which, as stated on the NCF website, is to “enable followers of Christ to give wisely to advance His Kingdom”.
(Joining with Foster Friess, as one of the top 2 donors to Rick Santorum’s Red, White, and Blue Fund Super-PAC, was Templeton Foundation head Dr. John Templeton, Jr. – who donated $35,000 to Invisible Children in 2007 according to the group’s 2007 990.)
The National Christian Foundation’s statement of belief is solidly fundamentalist: “We believe that the entire Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God; the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Also stated on NCF’s website:
“Our board members know they are charged with a great responsibility. Their goal is to make certain every dollar that comes to us is ultimately distributed according to our Christian mission”
2008 wasn’t the first year Invisible Children benefited from National Christian Foundation largesse – IC’s 2007 990 tax form lists three grants, totaling $350,000, from NCF subsidiary the ProVision Foundation (which is also specifically thanked in IC’s 2007 and 2008 annual reports).
Invisible Children’s first filed 990 tax form, for the calender year running from mid 2005 to mid 2006, listed a $30,000 cash donation, IC’s biggest cash gift that year, from another fundamentalist granting organization, based in Colorado Springs, called the Christian Community Foundation, Inc. (also known as “Waterstone”)
In 2009, CCF assets surpassed $138,000,000 and the foundation made over $20,000,000 in grants, including $365,000 to the Family Research Council and $297,000 to Focus on The Family, as well as small grants to Answers in Genesis and the Fellowship Foundation.
The membership of the Christian Community Foundation, Inc.’s board of directors overlaps with board membership of National Christian Foundation subsidiaries; what this suggests is that, from its first calendar year, Invisible Children had appeared on the radar screen of some of the world’s largest Christian fundamentalist grant-making organizations–which apparently deemed Invisible Children to be a worthy investment that would help advance particular visions for establishing God’s kingdom on Earth.
IC was also on the radar screen, judging by his $5,218 donation listed on the Invisible Children 2006 990 tax form, of Philip Anschutz – the reclusive, Colorado-based devout Christian billionaire, dubbed the “stealth media mogul”, who was in 2007 worth an estimated $6.7 billion dollars.
According to journalist Bill Berkowitz, Anschutz has helped fund the Discovery Institute and supported Colorado’s 1992 anti-gay marriage Amendment 2. In 2005 Anschutz co-produced, in conjunction with Walt Disney Pictures, the Christian-themed fantasy film “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.”
Along with the pro-Proposition 8 Caster Family, another backer specifically thanked in Invisible Children’s first yearly report was the Circle Family Foundation, also known as “Malachi 3″, a small foundation which funds a stable of ministries including Campus Crusade For Christ, whose founder the late Bill Bright patterned his ministry along the lines of revolutionary communist cell groups.
Bright, who once declared himself to be “involved in a conspiracy with thousands of others to ‘overthrow the world’ “, also helped birth the dominionist “Seven Mountains” mandate, which instructs believers to take control of significant sectors of society and culture including: media, arts and entertainment, government, business and finance, the family, religion, and education.
[note: this story explores almost wholly overlooked ties between the Invisible Children nonprofit and the politicized fundamentalist right. It is not intended as a dedicated critique of Invisible Children's effort to publicize Joseph Kony and the LRA, or the nonprofit's conduct generally. Subsequent installments will address those issues. For a very different profile of American evangelical involvement in Uganda, see my 20-minute documentary video Transforming Uganda, cited in 2010 testimony before Congress.]