We haven’t heard much about the fundamentalist lobby group Caleb Foundation in recent times. The late Liam Clarke wrote in the Belfast Telegraph of their web of influence in Stormont in 2012, but by 2015, their press officer David McConaghie left after it emerged he had installed a camera in a constituency toilet, and was later convicted of voyeurism. By 2016, new DUP leader Arlene Foster was distancing herself from creationism. Of the last Executive, they still had several present or former members and sympathisers in ministerial positions; Mervyn Storey, Jonathan Bell (named by Liam Clarke) and Simon Hamilton, but their influence has clearly waned. Their website hasn’t been updated since 29th April 2015.
This week, Atheist NI were passed photos of a questionnaire by the Caleb Foundation, intended for Assembly candidates. We have included them below.
The questions were as follows:
- Will you oppose any further extension of Sunday trading?
- Will you oppose any liberalisation of gambling laws?
- Will you oppose any attempt to re-define marriage?
- Will you oppose any liberalisation of the law on abortion?
- Will you oppose any plans to liberalise divorce laws?
The first two questions are consistent with fundamentalist Christian desires to restrict trade and gambling to biblically approved forms – unable to ban either entirely, they settle for restricting further expansion.
The next two deal with their attempts to impose supposed biblical morality on how LGBT couples live and how women access reproductive healthcare. Again unable to outright ban homosexuality, which was legalised despite the infamous “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign led by Rev. Ian Paisley, they pettily encourage resistance to civil marriage between LGBT couples on the basis of religious beliefs. Equal marriage has now seen five votes in Stormont, the last of which was defeated by a DUP-led petition of concern veto. The make-up of the next Assembly will be crucial to the next vote on the issue.
Religious opposition to abortion has been in the news recently due to the prosecution of a young woman for inducing an abortion using pills, and we’ve called on MLAs to liberalise these harsh laws. Evangelical opposition to abortion is actually a recent trend, dating back to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority movement in the late 1970s. As is usual for Abrahamic religion, the aim is to keep women pregnant and in their place – the extent of fundamentalist hatred (or self-hatred in the following case) toward women can be seen in the utterances of fundamentalist Susan-Anne White, herself a candidate in this election in West Tyrone. Her manifesto makes for eye-opening reading. Caleb Foundation’s principles are not very different.
I’m not sure what the issue is with divorce laws – there are no legal restrictions on divorcees, only that churches can legally discriminate against divorcees by refusing to remarry them.
In summary, the questionnaire reveals the Caleb Foundation’s waning ambitions in the face of inexorable societal progress, as they fight losing battles to impose biblical values on our present laws.