By FOIA Research
on February 2, 2022 - Last updated: May 15, 2022

Brian S. Brown

Brian Stephen Brown (born ca. 1974) is an American Catholic Right activist, whose career in the scene started in 2001 as executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut,1 a state affiliate of the Christian fundamentalist Focus on the Family.2

Brown is a co-founder (2007) of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and has served as its president since 2010. Brown is also the founder (2011) and Chairman of ActRight.com, which raises money and hosts petitions promoting Christian Right causes and candidates.3 Since its inception in 2013, Brown is involved in CitizenGo, an internationally operating Christian Right online platform, and subsequently became a board member.

Brown joined the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society's board of trustees in 2014, one year before the founder's death,4 the organization behind the creation of the World Congress of Families (WCF) - a supergroup of Christian Right activists created by the Howard Center in 1997.

Brown is the president of the International Organization for the Family (IOF) since its inception in 2016, which incorporated the previously existing Howard Center around 2019, and today operates as the organizer of the WCF.

As of 2017, Brown was on the Council for National Policy Board of Governors, and a CNP Gold Circle member.56 He does not appear on later CNP member listings that were leaked [2017 through 2020].7

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Timeline

Brown was raised in Whittier, California. He has a bachelor's degree from Whittier College, where he was student body president, and, "where he threw himself into the history of conservative political thought and read theorists like Edmund Burke and Friedrich Hayek," as reported by The New York Times.8 Brown obtained a master's degree in modern history from Oxford University. He returned to the United States to marry a woman he had met through his childhood pastor.8 He started to pursue his doctorate at the University of California, however ditched academia for a job at the Family Institute of Connecticut.

At age 25 he converted from Quakerism to Roman Catholicism.19 According to the New York Times8:

In the summer of 1996, just after graduation, Mr. Brown arrived in the Michigan village of Mecosta for research on the conservative thinker Russell Kirk. Over fireside talks in a scholarly center housed in Kirk’s ancestral home, he immersed himself in Kirk’s notion that “permanent things” — family and church — form the foundation of a healthy society. When a roommate introduced him to Catholic teachings, Mr. Brown plunged in and eventually converted.

Today, Brown seems to be attached to the Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Philadelphia,10 since he is posting pictures from events by that church on his Twitter account, and invites people to join the mass there.11

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2001

Family Institute of Connecticut

In 2001, Brown became the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut,1 a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1989 which has been a vocal opponent of euthanasia, abortion, and same-sex marriage in Connecticut. Its stated goal is to encourage and strengthen the family as the foundation of society and to promote Judeo-Christian ethical and moral values in the culture and government of Connecticut. The organization is a Family Policy Council member, meaning that it is a state affiliate of the Christian fundamentalist organization Focus on the Family.2

According to a biography of Brown on the WCF website, "During the five years he was with the Family Institute, he developed it into one of the largest statewide pro-family organizations in the Northeast."12

At the Family Institute he made an impression on Maggie Gallagher, and the two worked together towards an organization focusing on marriage.8

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2007

National Organization for Marriage (NOM)

The National Organization for Marriage is a non-profit political organization working against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. It was founded in 2007, "With the help of Robert P. George, a conservative scholar at Princeton ... with Ms. [Maggie] Gallagher as president and Mr. Brown as executive director," according to the New York Times.8 After four years as executive director, Brown became president of the NOM, succeeding Maggie Gallagher.

NOM led the initiative to pass California's Proposition 8 in 2008, which intended to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage in the state. According to the New York Times, "The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, donated about $2 million to help get the National Organization for Marriage started. Mormons contributed heavily to the Proposition 8 campaign, and Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, now archbishop of San Francisco, raised money to put the initiative on the ballot."8

In 2012, Brown announced that NOM would launch a global "Dump Starbucks" campaign in response to that company's support for same-sex marriage.13

In October 2013, Brown announced that NOM filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Internal Revenue Service for releasing confidential tax documents;14 the lawsuit was settled for $50,000.15 In late 2019, NOM filed a brief related to the cases about LGBTIQ rights—Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC; and Altitude Express v. Zarda—pending before the Supreme Court.

The chart below shows the changes in the leadership of the NOM. As of 2020, the following people are on NOM's board of directors besides Brown: Bishop George McKinney, Luis Tellez, John Eastman, and Robert George.16 With Brown becoming president of the International Organization for the Family (IOF) in 2016-2017, the NOM moved to Rockford, Illinois, where the IOF is located.

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2011

ActRight

In 2011, Brown's project ActRight.com went online, subtitled "The Online Clearinghouse for Conservative Action," an online platform which raises money for Christian Right causes and candidates and also hosts online petitions.17

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2012

World Congress of Families

In 2012, Brown appeared for the first time as speaker on the World Congress of Families VI in Madrid, that year co-organized by HazteOir, a Spanish anti-abortion and anti-LGBTIQ network co-founded in 2001 by the Spanish Catholic Right activist Ignacio Arsuaga.12 The WCF had been sponsored by the Family Institute of Connecticut's parent organization, Focus on the Family, for years already.18 And in 2012 FoF appeared as a "co-convener" of the WCF congress in Madrid, equaling to a contribution of $20,000.19

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2013

CitizenGo

In the following year, Brown appeared as a "patron" of the CitizenGo foundation, which grew out of HazteOir in 2013.20 With the help of an online platform CitizenGo launches petitions worldwide that are, for a large part, opposing same-sex marriage, abortion, and euthanasia, with a clear anti-feminist and anti-LGBTIQ bias. It may be presumed that Brown was instrumental in setting up CitizenGo, as his website, ActRight had already the technology in place for online petitions and other forms of user engagement to support right-wing causes. In a previous version of CitizenGo’s website the banner included the slogan “member of the ActRight family.21 According to openDemocracy22:

Arsuaga told our reporter that he met Brown at a WCF meeting in Madrid in 2012 and that CitizenGo gets advice “every couple of months or so” from a “senior expert” in fundraising and technology who is “paid by Brian Brown.” This expert is Darian Rafie, Brown’s partner at an American organisation called ActRight, which describes itself online as a “clearinghouse for conservative action.”

OpenDemocracy reported that ActRight had also paid for a CitizenGo staff member in 2013.22 From 2013 onward, also HazteOir hosted petitions on its website,23 however, is now integrated into the CitizenGo website.24

As of September 2014, Brown was a member of CitizenGo's board25:

CitizenGO’s Board of Trustees is composed of Ignacio Arsuaga, Walter Hintz, Blanca Escobar, Luca Volonte, and Brian Brown.

The CEO is Álvaro Zulueta. The campaigns team: Luis Losada (Global Editor and Spanish Campaigns Director), Gregory Mertz (English Campaigns Director), Guilherme Ferreira (Portuguese Campaigns Director), Sebastien Rivallant (French Campaigns Manager, Matteo Cattaneo (Italian Campaign Manager), Magdalena Korzekwa (Polish Campaigns Manager), and Jakob Herburger (German Campaigns Manager). The information and technology team: Aurora Llavona (Chief Technology Officer).

In June 2013, Brown joined a delegation of French far-right activists to the Duma, to show their support for a series of anti-LGBTIQ laws in Russia, passed a few days prior. They had been invited by the Duma’s committee on foreign affairs and its committee on family, women and children, "whose chair, Yelena Mizulina, authored the ban on gay “propaganda” and the adoption bill," according to RightWingWatch26:

On June 13, 2013, just days after the Russian Duma passed laws banning on gay “propaganda” and actions that “offend religious feelings,” a delegation of five French Catholic anti-gay activists –at least one with ties to the far-right Front National party — traveled to Moscow at the invitation of the Duma committee on family, women and children to discuss, among other issues, Russia’s plans to tighten its ban on adoption by same-sex couples abroad. Joining them was one of the most well-known figures in the American anti-gay movement, National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown. ...

The French activists joining Brown were far-right thinker Aymeric Chauprade; activist Odile Téqui; François Legrier, president of the Mouvement Catholique des Familles; and Hugues Revel, president of Cahtoliques en Campagne.

The French delegation was led by Fabrice Sorlin, head of the far-right nationalist group Dies Irae, which is named after a liturgical poem about the Day of Judgment and has been accused of racist and anti-Semitic behavior and, according to Box Turtle Bulletin, “had been working to create autonomous militias in France under the inspiration of American white nationalist Luther Pierce’s conspiracy-laden novel The Turner Diaries.” (The group has denied the charges.) Sorlin is also a former candidate for the far-right Front National party, and chair of a group called Alliance France-Europe Russia, which is dedicated to forging a “strong connection between Europe and Russia” and uniting “the Anglo-Saxon world” against the emerging economies of China and India based, in part, on shared “Christian values.” The project of building a stronger alliance with Russia is a project held dear by the French far-right.

Besides the one at the Duma, the Russian press reported that Brown was also attending another meeting, hosted by the St. Basil the Great Foundation, headed by the Russian oligarch and clerical fascist pundit Konstantin Malofeev. According to RightWingWatch26:

The other event was a roundtable discussion on “Traditional Values: The Future of the European Peoples,” hosted by the St. Basil the Great Foundation – a Russian Orthodox group run by Konstantin Malofeev, the head of a private equity group and spirited anti-gay activist – and also sponsored by the Duma’s family committee, the right-wing Center for Social-Conservative Policy, and a new multi-party group of Russian MPs formed, with approval of the Russian Orthodox Church, to “protect traditional Christian values” and fight “aggressive liberalism” in reaction to Pussy Riot’s protests. Among the measures pushed by the group was the new law imposing jail time for “insulting religious feelings.”

The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the State Duma and Head of the Center for Social and Conservative Policy, Yu. E. Shuvalov. Besides Brown and Malofeev, the event was attended by aforementioned French delegation; Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, head of the Patriarchate's Family Committee; L.A. Ryabichenko, Chairman of the Interregional Public Movement "Family, Love, Fatherland"; HE. Chetverikova, Candidate of History, Associate Professor at MGIMO; D.V. Pezhemsky, Senior Research Associate Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology. "The round table was also attended by Dmitry Volodikhin, Doctor of Historical Sciences and a member of the Union of Writers of Russia, the deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Elena Mizulina, Sergey Gavrilov, Alexander Iltyakov, Denis Kravchenko, the vice-governor of the Pskov region and others," according to the website Russkaya Narodnaya Liniya.27

On October 15-16, 2013, Brown was also part of the international planning committee organizing the 8th iteration of the World Congress of Families summit in Moscow, scheduled for September 10 to 12, 2014.28 According to a mailing list announcement28:

Members of the International Planning Committee for WCF VIII that attended the Moscow meeting included: Ignacio Arsuaga (HazteOir, Spain), Brian Brown (National Organization for Marriage, U.S.), Benjamin Bull (Alliance Defending Freedom, U.S.), Allan Carlson, Lawrence Jacobs and Don Feder (The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and World Congress of Families, U.S.), Silvio Dalla Valle (Association for the Defense of Christian Values, Italy), Shelly Locke (Power of Mothers, U.S.), Bob McKoskrie (Family First, New Zealand), Tom Minnery (Focus on The Family, U.S.) Justin Murff (Christian Broadcasting Network, U.S.), Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, U.S.), Steven Smoot (Family First Foundation, U.S.), Christopher Carmouche (GrassTopsUSA), Christine Vollmer (Latin American Alliance for the Family, Venezuela), Peter Westmore (Australian Family Association), Srdjan Nogo (Dveri, Serbia), Vincente Segu (Incluyendo Mexico), Fabrice Sorlin (France) and Jack Hanick (formerly with FOX News, U.S.).

Because of the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea, the American organizers officially "suspended" the planning of the event.29 However, a congress with a very similar lineup and program was held in Moscow after all. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center30:

For fear of American sanctions, the WCF’s American leadership publicly dropped its affiliation to the congress. Despite WCF officially pulling out, behind closed doors, a nearly identical conference was held the same day with a similar program, similar attendees, and — initially — the WCF listed as organizers. It was even attended by WCF communications director Don Feder and late managing director Larry Jacobs. Though Komov mentioned the WCF were organizers in the media, Jacobs maintained it was not.

As a new look at a trove of emails released in 2014 by the Russian hacker collective Shaltai Boltai (Humpty Dumpty) reveals, the 2014 Moscow Congress was just the tip of the iceberg. WCF’s involvement in Russian geopolitics runs deep and led to a collaboration that gave Russian Orthodox oligarchs apparent access to the powerful American Christian evangelical political machine.

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2014

Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society
Image

Logo of the World Congress of Families, organized by the Howard Center.

From 2014 to 2015,4 Brown was on the board of trustees of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, an anti-abortion advocacy group behind the creation of the Christian Right World Congress of Families (WCF) network.22 After the founder, John A. Howard, died in 2015, from 2016 until 2019, Brown became President of the Howard Center.

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2016

International Organization for the Family (IOF)

In 2016, Brown announced the foundation of the International Organization for the Family (IOF), so that NOM could "focus on efforts in America"31 and, as of 2022, is still listed in that position.32 Starting in 2018, tax filings state that the Howard Center was now doing business as the International Organization for the Family, indicating a merger of the two initiatives in favor of the latter. As of 2022, there only exists an IOF website, and it has absorbed the projects that the Howard Center had formerly overseen. According to the IOF website33:

IOF accomplishes our mission through these four main projects:

- The World Congress of Families (WCF) convenes major international public events to unite and equip leaders, organizations, and families to affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.

- The Natural Family: An International Journal of Research and Policy (TNF) is a quarterly academic publication that informs and inspires leaders to promote the natural family as the fundamental group unit of society and to protect the sanctity and dignity of all human life.

- The Article 16 Initiative (A16) empowers leaders in worldwide institutions to protect freedom, faith, and family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society consistent with Article 16 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

- The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) equips and empowers young professionals, scholars, and activists to promote marriage, and the natural family as the fundamental group unit of society.

As of 2019, members of IOF's board of trustees were Ignacio Arsuaga, the Russian Aleksey Komov, the Mexican Vicente Segu Marcos, and the Italian Luca Volontè, with Brown as president.34

The first project of the IOF was the so-called “Cape Town Declaration,” aiming to reaffirm “the dignity of marriage as the conjugal bond of man and woman” across the globe. To that end, Volontè and Brown traveled to South Africa in December 2016. The occasion also served  as a kickoff event for the IOF, according to RightWingWatch.

Volontè is an Italian Catholic Right activist and politician, who was formerly an Italian MP (1996 to 2013), and President of the European People's Party at the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) (2010-2013). Until 2019 he was chairman of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), a "Catholic-fundamentalist think tank"35 associated with Steve Bannon. He was a co-founder and later CEO of the Novae Terrae Foundation.36 Volontè has also been serving as trustee of the board of the Christian Right foundation and petition platform CitizenGo as well as of the Howard Center before joining the IOF. In January 2021, he was sentenced to four years in prison for taking bribes from Azerbaijani politicians.37

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2017

In February 2017, Brown posted pictures on Twitter showing him together with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, including Father Feodor Lukyanov from Patriarch Kirill's press office who gave Brown a tour of Christ the Savior Cathedral.38

In August 2017, Brown posted a pictures showing him with a group of "Orthodox friends" on Mount Athos at Vatopedi monastery. On the very right is Aleksey Komov.39

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2018

The 12th iteration of the World Congress of Families took place in Chisinau, Moldova, in September 2018. Brown can be seen on a picture with Moldovan President Igor Dodon, Allan Carlson, Metropolitan Vladimir, and Levan Vasadze.

In October 2018, Brown appeared at the second iteration of the Budapest Demographic Summit, alongside Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, and Allan Carlson.

In October 2018, ahead of the World Congress of Families 2019 in Verona, Brown posted a picture on Twitter with Matteo Salvini of the Lega party, then still Deputy Prime Minister of Italy. In the Tweet, Brown said "Proud to be in Rome with Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, to discuss World Congress of Families, Verona, March 29-31."40

In December 2018, Brown posted a picture on Twitter with Fratelli d'Italia leader Giorgia Meloni. Both appeared as speakers at the World Congress of Families in Verona that took place from March 29 to 31, 2019.41

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2019

In October 2019, Brown accompanied the Germans Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under Pope Benedict XVI, as well as Princess Gloria of Thurn and Taxis, a German socialite and Catholic Right activist, "at a number of important meetings in Washington."42 It may be presumed that Brown and Thurn und Taxis had met at the Verona WCF, since she had also appeared as a speaker there.41

On October 25, 2019, the International Organization for the Family (IOF) cosponsored an event with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller held at the Willard International hotel.43

On pictures from the event, one can see two Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito, who posed for a photograph with Brown inside the Court, alongside Cardinal Müller and Gloria of Thurn and Taxis.

Meeting with Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh (third from left) and Samuel Alito (left), alongside Gloria of Thurn and Taxis, Cardinal Gerhard Müller (second from left) and Brian Brown (right) in October 2019.

According to a press release on the IOF website:

Cardinal Müller participated in an interview session with Fr. Gerald Murray of EWTN Television, and afterwards greeted guests and signed copies of his recent book. ... We were also honored to have Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis join us at this special event ....

I originally met Cardinal Müller back in 2014 when he played a principal role in organizing the Humanum Conference at the Vatican, an international gathering of religious and cultural leaders from around the world, hosted by Pope Francis, that celebrated the complementarity of men and women. It was my privilege to play a behind-the-scenes role in supporting conference organizers plan the event, and my wife and I both attended the conference.

This past week, I had the distinct honor of accompanying Cardinal Müller and Princess Gloria at a number of important meetings in Washington. Certainly a major highlight of our meetings was the opportunity to spend time with Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh.

We also had several meetings with high-level officials in the White House, and met with a number of influential members of Congress, including Senator Steve Daines (R-Mon.), and Representative Greg Pence, (R- Ind.).

In late 2019, Brown was touring Eastern Europe to present the anti-abortion movie Unplanned, written and directed by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. He traveled i.a. to Serbia and Russia. A picture shows him together with Solomon, Konzelman and "the godfather of the Russian pro-life movement Father Maxim Obukhov," at the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin, Moscow.44

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