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In October 2019, IREHR reported that the Olympia, Washington-based Freedom Foundation had expanded its efforts to undermine union democracy to Ohio, adding to its existing Washington, Oregon and California chapters.

In late January the group announced the formation of a new Pennsylvania chapter. Publicizing the Pennsylvania expansion, Freedom Foundation National Director Aaron Withe claimed in exaggerated fashion that the move “makes us one of the biggest conservative think tanks in the country.” Withe also stressed an ongoing Freedom Foundation theme, stating, “I see what we do as more of an action tank, more of a battle tank.”[i]

The Freedom Foundation’s expansion comes amidst the group’s continuing drive to use the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v ACSME decision as a battering ram against public sector unions. The effort centers on encouraging public employees to opt out of paying union dues or agency fees – despite the fact that they would still benefit from union collective bargaining. In the end, the Freedom Foundation’s effort is little more than an assault on the ability of unions to effectively advocate for public sector workers.

On top of its anti-union agenda, the Freedom Foundation’s Pennsylvania Outreach Director, Joe Mandrusiak, is an ardent supporter of Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council (FRC). In an April 13, 2018 Facebook post, Mandrusiak, of York, Pennsylvania, referred to FRC President Perkins as “honorable” and the FRC as “the largest and most respected conservative faith and family organization in our country.”

Freedom Foundation Pennsylvania Outreach Director Joe Mandrusiak (center)

In the real world, Tony Perkins is a rabid anti-LGBTQ bigot who has declared that pedophilia “is a homosexual problem” and that the “homosexual community” is “intolerant, they’re hateful, vile, they’re spiteful,” among many other odious statements. In keeping with such views, the FRC has long been a staunch opponent of LGBTQ civil rights. Perkins has also expressed the Christian nationalist idea that the “foundation of our nation” is “the Judeo-Christian God.” Lashing out at Muslim civil rights, he has declared that “Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment.”[ii]

Such statements are the tip of the Tony Perkins/FRC bigotry iceberg. As if echoing such bigotry, in late October 2019 the Freedom Foundation played host to anti-LGBTQ bigot Mike Huckabee.

FRC President and Anti-LGBTQ Bigot Tony Perkins

The Freedom Foundation also has a history of anti-Indian activity, including opposing both tribal self-determination and state policies of adopting water quality standards that would protect the health of tribal communities reliant on treaty-reserved fisheries.

[i] Freedom Foundation. Freedom Foundation Opens Fifth State Operation with Familiar Message to Public Employees. January 28, 2020.

[ii] Perkins bigotry has been documented repeatedly over the years. See, for example, Southern Poverty Law Center. Tony Perkins.; Chiachiere, Ryan and Andrew Seifter. Perkins claimed that ‘homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men”; experts disagree. Media Matters. October 4, 2006.; Tashman, Brian. Everything You Need to Know About Tony Perkins, The Man Who Brought the Religious Right to Ted Cruz. Right Wing Watch. December 15, 2015.

Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

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