This is an archived article that was published on in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Gov. Gary Herbert wants us all to believe that his welcoming remarks to the World Congress of Families will be no big deal.

That's too bad. Because, if Herbert would seize the opportunity to give the controversial assemblage of "natural family" advocates a little friendly advice, he might be bold enough to explain to them how and why their message is being widely interpreted as not innocently pro-family, but as belligerent, homophobic and supportive of anti-gay legislation and violence around the world.

And, though it should go without saying, he could say why that's bad.

The WCF itself is a small outfit that convenes large meetings in different spots around the world to talk about what it sees as the "only sustainable unit of a free society," the heterosexual marriage with children. While the published agenda for its four-day meeting that begins Tuesday at the Grand America in Salt Lake City suggests that the anti-gay agenda will be soft pedaled in the various speeches and discussions, other activist organizations and individuals that make up the WCF have a troublesome track records of spreading anti-gay vitriol and propaganda in the United States and, having mostly lost the battle in the Western World, in developing nations.

The welcoming remarks from Herbert and his wife, Jeanette, will come near the end of the convention's first day. It is a day that will include remarks from Mark Regnerus, a widely discredited scholar whose attempts to prove that same-sex marriage would damage American society were laughed out of federal court, and the presentation of the organization's Woman of the Year Award to Theresa Okafor, a Nigerian activist whose anti-gay diatribes include the accusation that homosexual rights organizations are in an anti-Christian alliance with the Islamist Boko Haram terrorist group.

The governor explained last week that he doesn't see why people should be so worked up over either the WCF or his decision to address them. Governors, after all, welcome lots of folks who have honored the state with their presence (and their money), whether they agree with them or not.

Maybe. But Herbert jumped at the chance to use thoroughly debunked propaganda against Planned Parenthood as a flimsy excuse to defund that organization in Utah. Yet he pays not a whit of attention to the major human rights organizations that have designated WCF a hate group and have impressively documented how many of those who sponsor and populate WCF meetings are behind efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior, even free speech, in Russia and Africa.

The organization's repeated defense, that it is not responsible for whatever excesses may have been advocated by some of those who attend its meetings, is hollow. As the lawyers say: How many times can you claim you didn't know the gun was loaded?

Herbert would do everyone a favor if he would use his moment before the WCF to patiently explain how Utah, largely a religious state, has come to terms with the fact that same-sex marriage is the law of the land in the United States and has seen its political and religious leaders come together on anti-discrimination laws that respect the role of religious faith without giving it the power to make laws for other people.

Also Tuesday, the keynote address for the WCF will be given by M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His remarks will come exactly a week after one of his Quorum colleagues, and an honorary member of the WCF board of directors, Dallin H. Oaks, said that public officials, such as the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, are wrong to put their religious beliefs ahead of their public duties.

Of course Herbert should be gracious and welcoming to the many participants in the WCF. But he would do well to seize the opportunity to nudge his audience toward a peaceful and respectful continuation of the discussion about families, religion and civil rights, and away from some of the hateful propaganda espoused by some of those who may be listening.

If our governor isn't willing to do that, it would be as well that he stayed at home.