Denver Newsroom, Aug 23, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).
U.S. President Joe Biden’s choice for ambassador to Switzerland is Scott Miller, a leading figure at the LGBT advocacy patron The Gill Foundation. The foundation has funded groups that have split Christian denominations and threatened religious freedom in the U.S. Miller’s same-sex partner is Tim Gill, a vocal LGBT activist and strategist who after the 2016 election claimed his movement was headed into conservative states to “punish the wicked.”
Miller is a former finance executive and co-chairs the board of directors of the Colorado-based Gill Foundation with Gill.
Among the critics of the foundation’s work is John Lomperis, United Methodist Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Lomperis told CNA Aug. 13 that the Gill Foundation “has gone beyond just supporting Democratic sides of traditional Democratic-Republican political divides or even pushing civil redefinition of marriage.”
“The foundation has shown an extremist hostility to basic freedom-of-conscience protections for those who do not morally approve of same-sex unions. This is fundamentally totalitarian and anti-American,” Lomperis charged. “The Gill Foundation’s opposition to religious liberty and freedom-of-conscience protections represent the extreme opposite of America’s greatest traditions and highest ideals of freedom and tolerance, no matter how many misleading slogans they may hide behind.”
“Ambassadors are supposed to represent the best of America, not hostility to the values of faith, family, and freedom that have made America great,” he said regarding Miller’s appointment.
If confirmed by the Senate, Miller would also serve as the ambassador to Liechtenstein, a German-speaking principality of about 38,000 people. The U.S. embassy to Switzerland is based in Bern, the Swiss capital, while there is a separate U.S. mission to international organizations in Geneva.
Miller is a former vice president at UBS Wealth Management in Denver, where he provided financial advice and portfolio management to “high-net-worth families and charitable foundations,” his biography at the foundation website said. The Biden administration’s Aug. 6 announcement described him as “an LGBTQ rights activist and philanthropist.”
“The Gill Foundation has been given a lot of credit for radical shifts in American politics and society in the last decade or so,” Lomperis told CNA. This includes the area of religion.
In 2014 comments to CNA, Lomperis placed the Gill Foundation in the context of a patronage network of LGBT activist groups engaged in what he described as a “hostile takeover of religion.”
The Boulder, Colo.-based Movement Advancement Project, itself launched with the help of the Gill Foundation, in 2006 convened a coalition of LGBT groups to discuss strategy within Christian dominations and in other religions. The foundation’s annual report that year said this effort conducted a study that “detailed work underway in denominations, seminaries, clergy coalitions and media to counter religious opposition.”
The report noted the project’s collaboration with billionaire heir Jon Styrker’s Arcus Foundation in “funding work involving religion and values.” Stryker’s foundation has helped back efforts to limit religious freedom and has backed Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim groups that reject the immorality of homosexual acts and relationships, its website, grant listings and tax forms show.
Lomperis voiced deep concern “about the lack of ethics and integrity in how some wealthy and apparently secular liberal donors have externally undermined American Protestant denominations, including my own United Methodist Church, by essentially paying activists to tear these churches away from their own official, historic doctrinal standards, in service of lesser gods of secular political agendas.”
“One mainline Protestant American denomination after another has been officially taken over by the non-Christian LGBTQ liberationist movement, which has shown a callous willingness to insist on getting what they want no matter how many people and valued institutions they bully and damage along the way,” he said.
As CNA previously reported, in 2012 the Gill Foundation made a $100,000 general support grant to the Catholics United Education Fund, almost the entire annual budget of the group. With its 501c4 partner Catholics United, the group had begun to lobby for same-sex marriage and criticized Catholic groups and schools that followed Catholic teaching on the subject. In 2013, the group claimed the Catholic men’s organization the Knights of Columbus was funding a “far-right political agenda” against “marriage equality.” In fact, the men’s group was following the lead of the U.S. bishops and its work to defend marriage was praised by Pope Francis in a letter to its 2013 international convention.
Ahead of the 2012 elections, Catholics United sent a letter to Florida pastors saying it was monitoring Catholic churches for reputed illegal political activity. Officials with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said the letter was inaccurate and appeared to be “an attempt to silence pastors on issues that are of concern to the Church this election season.”
In April 2012, Catholics United and its allies protested the withdrawal of a Catholic Campaign for Human Development grant to the Colorado-based immigrant aid group Companeros. The Catholic campaign, an initiative of the U.S. bishops, withdrew the grant because the group maintained membership in a coalition that supported the legal recognition of homosexual relationships. The Gill Foundation subsequently gave a $30,000 matching grant to the immigration aid group while the Catholics United Education Fund gave $7,000.
The White House’s announcement of Miller’s nomination described Miller and Gill as “the largest contributors to LGBTQ equality in history, having donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause.”
Miller had introduced Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, as a speaker at the 2015 OutGiving conference, an invitation-only gathering of major LGBT donors. Miller praised Biden, who was the first sitting vice-president to declare support for same-sex marriage, as “a true friend and ally, an agent of change for the LGBT community.”
The announcement of Miller’s nomination noted his role directing the Gill Foundation’s “national giving strategy to advance LGBTQ equality,” citing its campaigns to “end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans” and to “ban conversion therapy.” Such bans have drawn concern that legitimate counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria would be affected.
Anti-discrimination law that makes LGBT identity a protected class has ensnared Christians and others with objections to same-sex relationships, including those in the wedding industry. Similar laws and policies have forced Catholic adoption agencies to close because they cannot place children with same-sex couples.
The Gill Foundation has helped promote a narrow vision of religious freedom. With $100,000 in funding from the San Francisco-based Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation worked with the Movement Advancement Project on “research to develop messaging around gay rights and ‘religious liberty’ issues.”
Last year the Movement Advancement Project published a report on the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia Supreme Court case, claiming that religious exemptions would “harm millions of children.” It argued against even a narrow ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia, which could not in good conscience place children with same-sex couples despite the city’s new anti-discrimination rules.
The Gill Foundation is a funding partner of the Massachusetts-based Proteus Fund’s Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative, which advocates a narrow view of religious freedom. This donor group opposes “the inappropriate use of religious exemptions to curtail reproductive health, rights and justice, discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, and otherwise undermine fundamental rights and liberties essential to a healthy democracy.”
Further, the Gill Foundation was among the backers of the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a previous Proteus Fund-based effort. This funding group worked to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. The collaborative closed in 2015 after spending more than $153 million over 11 years on various U.S. groups, projects, and campaigns.
The foundation’s tax forms and grant listings show it made grants to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation to support a “religious exemptions project.”
CNA sought contact from Miller and the White House, which did not comment. The Gill Foundation told CNA it is not involved in the personal and political activities of its board members.
Gill, Miller’s same-sex partner, helped change the political landscape of Colorado. In the 2000s he was a close political collaborator with current Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, and billionaire heiress Pat Stryker, whose brother Jon founded the Arcus Foundation. Gill has implemented a political strategy to target outspoken critics of LGBT causes who run for local office in competitive races. Defeating potential political foes in entry-level races, he reasoned, prevents them from rising to greater influence and drains their talent pool.
In June 2017 the magazine Rolling Stone profiled Gill, mentioning Miller in passing. Rolling Stone described Gill’s strategy of focusing on business interests to back LGBT political causes. The Gill Foundation is a donor to and collaborator with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its local branches on LGBT issues.
Gill, speaking the wake of President Donald Trump’s election victory, drew criticism for his comments that he would double-down on an anti-discrimination campaign.
“We’re going into the hardest states in the country,” he said in Rolling Stone’s profile. “We’re going to punish the wicked.”
Critics said this meant targeting Christians and creating further religious freedom conflicts that have resulted from strict anti-discrimination laws. A commentary in The Federalist cited examples like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Gill’s home state of Colorado, which became tangled in legal disputes for declining to make cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies or gender transition celebrations. They noted threats to burn down a pizza shop in Indiana that said it would serve gay customers but not gay weddings.
Andy Kroll, the author of the Rolling Stone profile, defended Gill. He said reaction to Gill’s remark was “complete nonsense.”
“Not once does Gill so much as hint at singling out Christians or adherents of any other religion,” said Kroll, who said that these criticisms resulted in vulgar emails and voicemails to the Gill Foundation and anonymous death threats on Twitter.
At the same time, Kroll rejected religious freedom protection bills and Gill considers “the wicked” to be “anyone who stands in the way of progress on equal rights for LGBTQ people: politicians, activists, lawyers, some people of faith, and plenty more with no religious affiliation whatsoever.”
“This isn’t a Democrat-Republican thing: Some of the most brutal and effective campaigns mounted by Gill’s operation have targeted Democrats who opposed marriage equality,” Kroll said in a July 2017 essay for Rolling Stone.
Switzerland, Miller’s prospective post, is preparing for a referendum that would recognize same-sex unions as marriages. In December, the Swiss bishops criticized the proposal. The term ‘marriage’ should not be “extended to any connection between two people regardless of their gender. Such a use of the term would bring about an equality that, in (our) opinion, cannot exist,” they said.
In February 2020, 63% of Swiss voters passed an anti-discrimination measure giving sexual orientation the same discrimination protections as race and religion.
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