Tom Littleton threw something of a molotov cocktail into the Southern Baptist Convention with a recent post on his site. He seems to have uncovered persuasive evidence of collusion between Paul Singer, a wealthy capitalist often called a “vulture capitalist” (see this invaluable post by Scott Long at Paper Bird), and leaders of the neo-Calvinist, more progressive wing of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For those of you who are not familiar with Paul Singer, he represents the worst of both worlds. His fame rests upon his involvement with Republican politics, including his support for Mitt Romney in 2012 and for opponents of Donald J. Trump in 2016, particularly Marco Rubio. He has a gay son. Exploitative practices at home and abroad–including the vile manipulation of Third World debt–have enriched him beyond most people’s wildest imaginations. As a result, he has money to shower on conservative organizations, often with the main pretext of wanting them to advance pro-free-market and anti-socialist policies that benefit him as a member of the financier class.
I work with many devout Jews like Brian Camenker and Brittany Klein, so I hesitate to make an issue of Singer’s Jewishness. Many Christians support Israel. Many Jews I know fight valiantly for family values. But we cannot count Singer among that class. He donates to causes related to Israel but funds many efforts to force homosexuality onto conservative causes. His hand is in many right-wing pots, such as Heterodox Academy. Heterodox Academy was supposed to be a forum for intellectual diversity where conservative scholars and liberal scholars could come together in the common cause of academic freedom. Joel Winton sits on the board of directors. Winton is also the director of American values at the Paul E. Singer Foundation. Singer was a major backer of Marco Rubio in the 2016 primaries. At the time, CNBC reported on Singer’s ties to Rubio:
But Singer’s backing — while a huge positive for Rubio in the money race — does not come without some risks for the Florida senator. Singer is distrusted in the conservative base of the GOP both for his support of same-sex marriage and his support of Rubio’s immigration reform efforts in the Senate. According to a person close to Singer, the hedge fund billionaire gave $100,000 to support immigration reform, which the right widely regards as “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.
Singer has been famous for using his money to force conservative organizations–whether they are classed as Christian or Republican–to adopt a faux pro-gay right-wing position. The role of Paul Singer’s gay son cannot be discounted as a major motivating factor in Singer’s endless quest to flip every conservative constituency to a pro-gay position. There seems also to be a deeper ideological tendency, however. As “SourceWatch” notes, Singer has ties to many wealthy families that have every reason to promote low-tax, low-regulation, free-market policies and jurisprudence that gives all bargaining power to owners rather than to workers. Note these ties:
The Paul Singer Family Foundation contributed $$75,000 to DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2009 and 2011 (see links to the foundation’s IRS forms 990 below).
A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group’s largest known contributors, having donated nearly $9 million from 2005 to 2012. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.
Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets. According to the organization’s tax documents, in 2011, DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to conservative organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion. In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPNitself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.
From 2009 to 2011, the Paul Singer Family Foundation donated $1,495,000 of $14,798,097 in total contributions to members of the State Policy Network, including:
- American Enterprise Institute received $500,000.
- Atlas Economic Research Foundation received $25,000.
- Ethics and Public Policy Center received $220,000.
- Claremont Institute received $50,000.
- Manhattan Institute for Policy Research received $600,000.
- Philanthropy Roundtable received $25,000.
- DonorsTrust received $75,000.
Other Contributions and Grants
In addition to the foundation’s $1,495,000 in grants to right-wing organizations and think tanks associated with SPN, the foundation also contributes to organizations focused on American-Israeli relations such as the Israel Project and Birthright Israel, in addition to medical centers, universities, and community organizations. The remaining $13,303,097.79 in contributions from 2009 to 2011 include but are not limited to :
- Witherspoon Institute received $75,000.
- B’Nai B’Rith Youth Organization received $200,000.
- Project Hope received $400,000.
- Birthright Israel received $500,000.
- Aish HaTorah NY received $400,000.
- American Israel Education Foundation received $500,000.
- Friends of the European Foundation received $500,000
- Grace After Fire received $250,000.
- Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women received $250,000.
- Institute for Study of War received $250,000.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center received $500,000.
- Military Families United received $500,000.
- Success Charter Network received $150,000.
- The Israel Project received $500,000.
- Vital Voices received $502,298.79.
- Gordon and Jenny Singer Foundation received $2,389,666.
- Harvard Medical School received $1,000,000.
The above in italics all came from the Source Watch site. In addition, Paul Singer gave major funds to the Human Rights Campaign in 2013 for its “Global Equality Fund” project to fight “homophobia and transphobia” internationally. That project hit home painfully. The Human Rights Campaign used its millions of donated dollars to undertake a facile project of naming and shaming twelve “exporters of hate.” These consisted of American Christians who had traveled and spoken abroad in any capacity; a 2014 publication called the Export of Hate seems the only fruit borne of the expensive global rights project Singer funded. In 2013, Singer trumpeted the importance of his donation, saying, “Every day around the world, LGBT individuals face arrest, imprisonment, torture and even execution just for being who they are.”
Singer’s words in 2013 conjured images of countries such as Saudi Arabia or Iran where we hear common reports of religious groups attacking and even killing homosexuals. But the report that emerged from the project he funded did not even feign concern for Islamic fundamentalism, choosing rather to undertake “global human rights” by blaming American Christians for traveling overseas to speak with other nations about Biblical sexual values.
When the Singer-funded Export of Hate report came out in 2014, the list of twelve top offenders puzzled anyone who followed international news. Scott Lively, a modestly funded and somewhat isolated pastor in Massachusetts, topped the list because he traveled to Uganda, where he had actually convinced legislators not to pass the “kill-the-gays” bill that made Uganda so famous. The Export of Hate report paired offenders together in descending order of severity. So imagine my surprise when I was paired with Scott Lively and implicitly tagged as the #2 exporter of anti-gay hate in the world.
With the millions of people around the globe militantly hostile to homosexuality, how on earth was I the second most dangerous person on this global equality list? And why would Paul Singer want his money to be spent on such a misguided and strange hit job? I can only speculate, as I did speculate in this podcast. Many strange details hovered around the Export of Hate report and Singer’s involvement. Quite intriguing was who wasn’t on the list of the top twelve “exporters of hate.” Not only did the massive swath of Islamic anti-gay militants manage to be absent on the report; so too were key people I had worked with, who had been far more ubiquitous in opposing gay marriage than I had been. Why was Robert George not on the list? Why was Ryan Anderson not on the list? Was this because of Singer’s interesting donation of $75,000 to the Witherspoon Institute, to which both George and Anderson had ties? Why was I the only Southern Baptist who seemed to be on the list? Where were Albert Mohler and Russell Moore?
Singer’s contributions to the Manhattan Institute, Claremont Institute, and American Enterprise could explain why these outlets had seemed to steer clear of discussing the importance of traditional sexuality, and why they had been unresponsive to my outreach when I was trying to get exposure for my first academic book, Colorful Conservative: American Conversations with the Ancients from Wheatley to Whitman. It could explain, as well, why Robert George and Ryan Anderson had been somewhat unstable allies after I first came forward with my testimony in 2012. George, Anderson, and a host of people allied to them had applauded my coming forward at first and helped me secure funding for various pro-family projects, then had inexplicably pulled the rug out from under me when I became more systematic and inquisitive in critiquing conservative organizations that compromised on traditional sexuality.
But at the time, in September 2014, the noticeable absence of Baptist leaders Mohler and Moore on Human Rights Campaign’s list made me rather curious. At the time, as well, I recall distinctly that some of my allies were trying to put calls in to Moore and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to help me with my academic freedom battle in Los Angeles. Those who had tried to reach out to Moore were met with silence and avoidance, from what I heard.
Much is explained by what happened in October 2014, when Russell Moore’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission organized its massive conference on homosexuality, At that conference, Moore had a long and secret meeting with leaders of the Singer-funded Human Rights Campaign. Moore and Mohler suddenly came out with statements against reparative therapy and in favor of viewing homosexuality as an orientation. J.D. Greear, a future president of the SBC, delivered a controversial speech that suggested that Baptists should be eager to defend LGBT political demands. The lasting damage inflicted by Moore, Mohler, and Greear in these actions plays out in the events detailed in this essay I wrote with Tom Littleton.
But even more ominous connections arose in October 2014, for at this conference Sam Allberry, Rosaria Butterfield, and Karen Swallow Prior all enjoyed hearty promotion by Southern Baptist leaders. There three names would live in infamy by the end of the decade for reasons we can review in future essays. They presented, it seems, a softer gentler view on homosexuality that amounted to claiming that the church should not work as a body to help people get out of homosexuality; instead the only Christian thing to do is to accept that God has given them a “cross” of homosexuality and they should bear it stoically without acting on the desires. Despite Butterfield’s protestations, these were the incipient building blocks for what would become Revoice by 2018.
Tom Littleton’s recent article reminds us that coincidences in the Southern Baptist world are often collusions that have yet to come to light. Paul Singer glues together many fragments that, pulled together, show a picture of horrible corruption in the SBC. The HRC, funded by Singer, met with the Southern Baptist leaders who refused to help me in 2014. These same leaders all became NeverTrumpers, all pulled back on fighting the LGBT lobby, rejected sexual orientation change efforts, supported Marco Rubio, and found common cause with the people who removed Paige Patterson and fired me.
Paul Singer is not Christian. His financial practices are roundly condemned even by progressive gays who hate being tied to vulture fund capitalism. He has distorted and sullied conservatism in virtually all imaginable quarters. And now, as Littleton shows, he is wound up in SBC politics. Do we want that?