"[It] functions invisibly like the mafia... They keep their organization invisible. Everything visible is transitory. Everything invisible is permanent and lasts forever. The more you can make your organization invisible, the more influence it will have." - Doug Coe
It is unlikely that many Americans who watched Invisible Children's record-smashing viral video hit KONY 2012 were aware of IC's evangelical nature (1, 2) or of the nonprofit's early financing from foundations that back the hard Christian right, including one of the biggest funders of the 2008 push for California's anti-same sex marriage Proposition 8.
But Invisible Children, which has branded itself as welcoming cultural, religious, and sexual diversity, also enjoys extensive institutional and social ties to the global evangelical network known as The Fellowship (also known as "The Family") - which has been credited with inspiring and providing "technical support" [see footnote 1] for Uganda's internationally-denounced Anti Homosexuality Bill, also dubbed the "kill the gays" bill.
[image, right: Invisible Children leader (since 2005) Jared White, during 2009 Africa cross-country motorcycle trip with Fellowship members John Niemeyer, Eric Kreutter, and Blake Gaskill]
The Fellowship is a secretive U.S.-based brotherhood of international political and business leaders. Founded in 1935, its growing political clout was brought to widespread public notice with a 2002 Los Angeles Times report by Lisa Getter, then exposed in subsequent articles and two books by journalist Jeff Sharlet: The Family and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat To American Democracy.
As stated by Fellowship member and Watergate felon Charles Colson, the group is a "veritable underground of Christ's men all through the U.S. government." The Fellowship sponsors an annual National Prayer Breakfast in the U.S. and in countries throughout the world and sponsors training for youth including in Africa, where media materials repeatedly describe mentoring of a "new breed" of African leaders.
Since the 1970s, the preeminent leader of the Fellowship has been Doug Coe, who has stated that Christians should be as dedicated as were the followers of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao. Coe has also advocated that Christians should organize "invisibly" like the mafia - as Coe claims, Jesus advised.
Mike Timmis, a Fellowship leader and former chairman of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship and Prison Fellowship International, has heavily funded both the International Foundation of the Fellowship and its Uganda network. The first effort was a hospital built at the request of President Yoweri Museveni, who had taken control over the country in a coup in 1986.
The next project was Cornerstone Development, a network of projects initiated by Timmis' son Mike, who had been mentored by Fellowship leadership in Washington D.C., and two other young proselytes - John Riordan, who came to Uganda after being mentored at The Fellowship's Ivanwald house, and Tim Kreutter, who still leads the Cornerstone Development network.
[image, right: longtime Cornerstone Development instructor, mentor, and Fellowship member Paul Lukwiya, as featured on 2009 Invisible Children video]
The elder Timmis wrote, "The young leaders of Cornerstone Development saw that it would be much easier to form a new generation of African leaders than to persuade the present leaders to reform." Photos from the early days of the first Cornerstone school show both Yoweri Museveni and the Fellowship Doug Coe on location.
This new breed of leaders being mentored by The Fellowship is to bring peace, prosperity, and harmony to Africa and the world through obedience to their unique brand of faith, one in which those of all religions - Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu - worship Jesus together while maintaining their ethnic identity. In his writings Jeff Sharlet describes the family as embracing "biblical capitalism" or an allegiance to free enterprise as the foundation for all other freedoms.
Family teaching eschews divisive theological doctrine; Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians are urged to unite under what Sharlet describes as the twin pillars of American fundamentalism - the privatization of resources and the public regulation of morality. Sharlet describes the The Fellowship as having brought Museveni, formerly a "left-wing" dictator, to one of their Washington, D.C. houses, the Cedars, where Museveni was transformed into a believer and a "key [Family] man in Africa."
Both The Fellowship and Invisible Children have partnered closely with the government of Uganda which, under longtime president and Fellowship member Yoweri Museveni, stands accused of a wide array of human rights abuses [see footnote 2] and has helped produce evangelical propaganda demonizing, and blaming for their own suffering, Acholi victims of Joseph Kony's Lord's Reformation Army.
During the last decade, Fellowship members in the U.S. Congress helped turn Uganda's highly successful "ABC" HIV/AIDS reduction approach, which had promoted both abstinence, marital fidelity, and condom use, towards an approach that stressed fidelity and abstinence but not condoms. Uganda's HIV/AIDS rate reduction "miracle" subsequently reversed, so that the country is the only nation in East Africa with a rising HIV rate. Writing from one of Cornerstone Leadership Academy's graduates suggests that the "abstinence-only" approach is still favored by The Fellowship in Africa [see footnote 3].
[image, right: Paul Lukwiya, who sits on the Advisory Board of Restore Academy with Tim Kreutter, the Fellowship's longtime American on the ground in Uganda, is reported to have supervised the mentors in Invisible Children's educational program in Uganda]
At least two of Invisible Children's programs have involved collaboration with The Fellowship and and its members, and by 2007 -- according to accounts from both Invisible Children and Fellowship members -- Invisible Children had partially merged its developing school and mentoring programs in Uganda with The Fellowship's Ugandan educational and leadership training system, which works to raise up a cadre of elite Jesus-centered leaders who will transform their nation along "Biblical" lines - with one apparent objective being the categorical elimination of homosexuality.
Another Cornerstone/Fellowship activity in Uganda is sponsoring and organizing Uganda's yearly National Prayer Breakfast. At Uganda's 2010 National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, Ugandan MP and Fellowship member Cecilia Ogwal delivered a prayer (footage of Ogwal, from event) in which she declared,
"We are binding the evil of homosexuality. We are binding all sorts of forces of evil, where the devil has taken an upper hand... and we are raising the banner of Christ!"
Like The Fellowship's educational approach in Uganda, Invisible Children's stated philosophy for its Ugandan educational programs is, rather than enable large numbers of children to get an education, to focus its available financial resources on a small, elite group who will emerge as national leaders.
While the humanitarian nature of The Fellowship's efforts is invariably stressed, individuals associated with the Fellowship (and with Invisible Children) are founding a fast-growing array of Uganda-based for-profit businesses, such as Apolis Global, that capitalize on The Fellowship's privileged, high-level international political networks.
Among the current and past Invisible Children leaders and employees with professional and social ties to Fellowship members are Jason Russell, Laren Poole, Ben Keesey, Ben Thomson, Adam Finck, James A. Pearson, and Jared White - who in late 2009 went on a cross-Africa motorcycle trip with three young Americans who are working to develop The Fellowship's programs in Uganda, including Eric Kreutter - son of Tim Kreutter, The Fellowship's longtime American leader on the ground in Uganda.
Kreutter oversees Cornerstone Development, the principal umbrella effort of The Fellowship in Uganda. A leading Cornerstone initiative is its educational programs. Head Cornerstone Education Director Paul Lukwiya has been reported to be overseeing Invisible Children's mentoring program in Uganda.
Ties between IC founders Jason Russell and Laren Poole, and alumni of The Fellowship's National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF), predate the founding of the Invisible Children nonprofit, tracing back as early as 2004.
The US-based National Student Leadership Forum's partner institution in Africa is the African Youth Leadership Forum (AYLF), co-organized by Ugandan Fellowship member MP David Bahati [see footnote 1]. The AYLF has sent members to the United States, to give presentations at NSLF forums and attend The Fellowship's Washington National Prayer Breakfast events.
Invisible Children's connection to The Fellowship's network provides an explanation of IC's early access [see footnote 2] to internationally powerful politicians; less than a year after the nonprofit was launched in 2005, Invisible Children had already gained political backing, from U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, both important Fellowship members.
[you can read the rest of the report, with full documentation on Invisible Children's ties to The Family here]