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Funding the Religious and Political Far Right: The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation

March 17, 2019

The parents of Betsy DeVos, Edgar & Elsa Prince, have had their own foundation for numerous years. While Edgar is deceased and Elsa has remarried, Elsa still uses the foundation name of her late husband to fund the religious right and politically far right groups throughout the country.

The following analysis is based upon the 990 documents for the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation from 2015 – 2017.

The Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation has contributed to numerous religious groups, too many to name. However, there are a few that have received substantial funding between 2015 and 2017.

The largest recipient of funding from the foundation started by the parents of Erik Prince and Betsy DeVos, was the Haggai Institute, receiving $600,000 each of the three years for a total of $1,800,000. The Haggai Institute trains Christian leadership to promote conservative values around the world.

Another religious organization that has received significant funding from the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation is Focus on the Family.  Based out of Colorado, Focus on the Family endorses what they believe to be a biblically-mandated patriarchy, where women are submissive to their husbands. Another major belief of Focus on the Family is that LGBTQ people are misled about their true identity. Focus on the Family promotes the harmful and discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy,’ claiming ‘just as there are many paths that may lead a person to experience same-sex attractions, there are likewise multiple ways out. From 2015 – 2017, the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation contributed $585,000 to Focus on the Family.

Another religious group that embraces patriarchal norms and anti-LGBTQ values is the Family Research Council. Founded in 1980, the Family Research Council, which had connections to the Reagan administration through Gary Bauer, has received $742,000 from the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation, according to the last three years of 990s that are available. 

Another Christian Institutions that have received major funding from the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation between 2015 – 2017, are Calvin College, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Bethany Christian Services and Potters House.

Then there are the religious institutions that act as advocacy or policy change organizations. These groups have a more overtly political agenda, even if they share similar theological views to the organizations listed above.

Of course there is the Acton Institute, since Elsa Prince has been a board member with Acton for years. Another think tank organization the Prince Foundation has funded is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. There are also organizations that are anti-abortion, such as the Pregnancy Resource Center, the Lakeshore Pregnancy Center and Michigan Right to Life, all of which received steady funding from the Edgar & Elsa Prince Foundation.

One last group that advocates policy change at the federal level are the Freedom Alliance, the Council for National Policy and the Center for Military Readiness. Each of these groups believe that the US should be led more by Christian values that democratic values. These groups, like the ones listed above, cause real world harm and promote an ideology that undermines civil society. It is no surprise then, that Betsy DeVos and Erik Prince are continuing their parent’s legacy. 

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