HUMANISTS UK has raised concerns over the growing influence of ‘dark money’ and other funding from American sources in UK politics, particularly influencing debates on abortion, LGBT rights, assisted dying, and faith schools.

Following the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States, Humanists UK says the shift of American money into campaigning in the United Kingdom is intended to import the highly divisive and polarising political tactics of the American religious right into UK political discourse.

Due to the US laws governing not-for-profit organisations, American donors can send millions anonymously to organisations which can then spend this money internationally in their own names. Due to this lack of transparency, Humanists UK says it is difficult or impossible to challenge their influence or hold political actors accountable.

In 2020, openDemocracy reported that a variety of American evangelical groups had spent over $280 million on European advocacy. Their total spending is understood to have increased considerably since then.

More recent investigations have highlighted the activities of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a US-based Christian advocacy group, which has doubled its spending in the UK to focus more on abortion rights. In November, Humanists UK reported what it perceived to be an unprecedented ‘triple assault’ on abortion rights in Parliament, with Bills titled ‘Foetal Sentience’, ‘Gestational Time Limit Reduction’, and ‘Early Medical Home Abortion (Review)’.

In a Lords debate on one of these Bills, Baroness Kennedy linked the rise in anti-abortion activism in the UK to the influence of foreign dark money. She said: “We are seeing, I am afraid, an effort to weaponise the issue of abortion and women’s freedom in order to create divisions in our society.”

On 7 April, the Observer reported that Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and the UK prime minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, had some of her expenses covered by the ADF. She also spoke at an ADF event in March which focused on ‘religious freedom’. This is a phrase which Humnaists UK point out is different from the standard human rights wording of ‘freedom of religion or belief’, and which they say is being increasingly used in political discourse to undermine the human rights of children, women, (especially in relation to their reproductive freedom), and LGBT people.

Commenting in the Observer, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
“The Christian nationalist movement is increasingly investing in the UK on a number of fronts, and all supporters of freedom and choice should take seriously the threat to human rights that this represents.”

* More information on the activities of US Christian right wing groups in Europe here.

* Source: Humanists UK