Facing South

Art Pope's money key to NC anti-gay marriage push

North Carolina multimillionaire Art Pope and his groups are often called "libertarian" in their political outlook. But Pope has veered from the views of most libertarians on at least one key issue: gay marriage.

Pope's family foundation has steered nearly $1 million into leading anti-gay marriage organizations, including $860,000 into a North Carolina group leading the push to amend the state's constitution to prohibit gay marriage.

In mid-September, the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature quickly passed bills to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot during the state's May 2012 primary election.

This weekend, the American Independent reported that three groups have been leading the push for the North Carolina amendment: the Christian Action League, Return America and the North Carolina Family Policy Council.

According to tax records, the John William Pope Foundation -- the small family foundation run by Republican donor Art Pope -- has given $860,000 in grants to the N.C. Family Policy Council since 1997. Gifts to the Council grew after John William Pope, Sr. died in 2006 and Art Pope took over the foundation.

N.C. Family Policy Council is known for its extremist rhetoric on gay issues. In 2003, the group claimed that laws banning discrimination in housing and hiring would lead to an outbreak of bestiality. The group's newsletter last month lamented the Supreme Court's 2003 decision to strike down sodomy laws, and in 2007 leader Bill Brooks angrily observed that gays on TV are wrongfully depicted as "kind, friendly, sympathetic, and understanding."


The Pope Foundation has given grants to at least two other conservative Christian groups active in the gay marriage debate: Christian Leadership Ministries, an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Family Research Council.

The Pope Foundation's tax filings show $70,000 in support for the Family Research Council, which the Southern Povery Law Center has defined as a "hate group" for its extreme anti-gay positions. As recently as 2010, FRC president Tony Perkins claimed that pedophilia is a "homosexual problem." Perkins has also drawn widespread condemnation for his associations with ex-Klan leader David Duke in Louisiana and the Council of Conservative Citizens, a descendent of the Jim Crow-era White Citizens Council.

The Pope Foundation has also given $12,500 to Christian Leadership Ministries, an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ. CLM is now known as by the innocuous name Faculty Commons, with an aim of supporting Christians in academia. The Crusade has long identified homosexuality as a "sin;" group founder Bill Bright was a co-founder of Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right coalition which vows to expose the "homosexual agenda."


The Pope Foundation's support of anti-gay groups is in addition to the money Art Pope and his family have contributed to Republicans, who were only able to pass an anti-gay marriage bill this year -- after years of trying -- due to their historic capture of the North Carolina legislature in 2010.

As the Institute for Southern Studies has detailed, Pope's family -- through personal contributions and via Variety Wholesalers, the family business -- pumped at least $758,500 into the state's 2010 legislative contests. Because the money was targeted on some two-dozen races, Pope's contributions were instrumental in fueling GOP victories last year.

The 2010 victories finally gave North Carolina Republicans the edge they needed to push the gay marriage issue in a state that had, unlike its Southern neighbors, long resisted it.

Pope's leadership in making the anti-gay marriage amendment possible is surprising given that his political views are often described as "libertarian." Indeed, as Jane Mayer detailed in her recent New Yorker profile of Pope, he helped found the North Carolina Libertarian Party in 1976. In 1988, he launched a PAC called the Republican Liberty Caucus that eventually grew into a national group [pdf] aimed at pushing the GOP in a more libertarian direction.

Today, the Libertarian Party nationally is unequivocal in its opposition to government intrusion in deciding who can marry -- indeed, they feel gay marriage doesn't go far enough. As the party declared in a June 30, 2011 press release:

"Permitting couples to marry when they are of the same gender is a step in the direction of equality before the law, but a truly free society would not have government in the business of defining relationships at all," said LP Chair Mark Hinkle. "Frankly, the idea that someone's legal rights should depend on whether they've entered a government-approved relationship ought to be repugnant to all of us."

The Libertarian Party platform is equally strong in opposing anti-gay marriage laws:

"1.3 Personal Relationships
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships."

The platform further states that "We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual's rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation."

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This is not just about marriage

It's extremely important to note that this anti-gay marriage amendment wouldn't just ban same-sex marriage; it would ban legal recognition of ANY AND ALL same-sex unions, including civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Full Civil and Marriage Equality Now.

Who? Get a life dude! It's the 21st century.
Cheers, Joe Mustich, CT USA
Marriage Officant, Justice of the Peace, & Minister

Stop acting like the marriage police dude...

Pope and NC anti-gay marriage push


Thank you for clarifying the Republican Liberty Caucus' position on government intrusion in marriage, as well as your relationship to Art Pope.

I don't understand, however, how my piece "substantially misrepresents" Pope's involvement in North Carolina's gay marriage debate. The piece says that Pope's foundation has given nearly $1 million to anti-gay marriage groups, most of that to the NC Family Policy Council, which is a leader of the anti-gay marriage amendment initiative in NC.

Indeed, the NC Family Policy Council has been leading the push against gay marriage -- and any rights for gay persons in general -- in NC at least since 1999, when they published their first policy paper: saying GLBT people deserve no "special rights," by which they mean any rights against discrimination. In 2003, they issued another policy paper forcefully condemning gay marriage.

The Pope Foundation began giving money to NCFPC in 1997, and has significantly increased its grants to the group since 2006 -- the same year NCFPC issued one of its strongest calls yet for an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in NC.

So there are two options: Either Art Pope doesn't know what NCFPC is doing with the Pope foundation's money -- which seems both unlikely and a case of gross negligence -- or he knows exactly what they're doing and is funding them accordingly.

Chris Kromm

Dave is right...

I am the guy who founded the Republican Liberty Caucus nationally in 1990. Yes, Art Pope was involved in the very early days. And yes, he was an early supporter of the Libertarian Party. But he dropped out of libertarian politics pretty much around the early 1990s.

That said, it is incorrect to frame this as a pro-gay marriage, anti-gay marriage issue. We libertarians just don't want the government involved period, neither endorsing gay marriage, nor opposing it.

If two gay guys want to get married, let 'em get a lawyer a rabbi or priest and go to a public park and have a ceremony. Matzeltoff.

Problem is most leftist gay activists only want GOVERNMENT gay marriage so they can mooch off of taxpayer benefits.

Art Pope business

Not shopping here ever again
Roses Store
Maxway Store
Super 10 Store
Super Dollar Store
Bargain Town Store
Treasure Mart Store
Bills Dollar Store
Super Saver Store
Value Mart Store
Pope Store

The first three are the most common in NC. The store locator at the Variety Wholesalers website is not very accurate. For example there are two stores in Raleigh, a Super Dollar and a Maxway, that are not located correctly


This man's money should be feeding starving children....not feeding his fellow fat cat bigots......disgusting!!!!

Further information

Information I've received recently suggests that this posting rather substantially misrepresents Art Pope's involvement in this ballot initiative campaign. I apologize for being taken in by claims which appear to be largely unsubstantiated "guilt by association."

I don't know what your agenda is here, but as a student of propaganda I admire your very clever wording of this article to suggest actions by Pope and his foundation without actually providing any direct proof that he supported the anti gay marriage initiative in any way.

As for your efforts to drag in the Republican Liberty Caucus, it should also be noted that the current nationwide organization of that name is not directly related to the group Pope founded back in the 1980s though we share many of the same principles and belief in Liberty.

Dave Nalle
National Chairman
Republicn Liberty Caucus

Republican Liberty Caucus

Your research on Art Pope is very informative, but I do want to clarify one aspect. Although Pope was involved in the early formation of the Republican Liberty Caucus, his position on the gay marriage issue seems to have evolved in a very different direction from that taken by the RLC.

As a pro-liberty Republican organization we do not believe that the government should play any role in marriage beyond the registering of civil contracts of union. Government should not tell people who to marry or who not to marry. For reasons of individual liberty, privacy, free association and separation of church and state we do not believe it is appropriate for government to play a role in defining or restricting marriage in any way. It should be left to individuals and to churches to define these relationships.

For more information please see the section on the Bill of Rights in our Statement of Principles (http://www.rlc.org/about/statement-of-principles/).

We are sorry to see Mr. Pope using his money in a way which is so anti-liberty while claiming to be a libertarian. The heart of liberty is reason and reason demands consistency of principle. A belief that some should be free while others are not is not really a belief in liberty.

Dave Nalle
National Chairman
Republican Liberty Caucus

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