Ugandan Homophobia and American Evangelicalism
Against a backdrop of intense and overt homophobia in Uganda — a bill that would impose the death penalty for sexual activity between consenting same sex adults who are “serial offenders” will be considered early next year — a judge is expected to decide tomorrow whether a tabloid can continue to out gay men and lesbians.
The publication ran a front page headline in October claiming 100 pictures of Uganda’s “top” homosexuals. Along with the photos, the publication included names and addresses. A bright yellow banner urged, “Hang Them.” Since that time gay and lesbian people believe violent attacks have intensified. And the magazine has continued targeting them.
This morning NPR reported on the American evangelical connection to Ugandan homophobia:
[I]n March 2009,…three Americans spoke to hundreds of people in Kampala about homosexuality. One of them was Scott Lively, who told the group: “The gay movement is an evil institution. The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
Lively, who declined an interview, heads Abiding Truth Ministries, a conservative evangelical group in Massachusetts that claims people can be healed from homosexuality. On that same trip, Lively met with members of Uganda’s Parliament, and a few months later, Parliament member David Bahati introduced a bill that would impose the death penalty on gays.
“I am trying to make sure there is a way to protect our children and make sure our traditional family, the culture that we believe in, is not polluted,” Bahati said in an interview.
Last week the WaPo also highlighted the American evangelical connection in a story on the growing persecution of gays in Afrtica:
In recent years, conservative American evangelical churches have had a profound influence on society in Uganda and other African nations. They send missions and help fund local churches that share their brand of Christianity. Sermons and seminars by American evangelist preachers are staples on local television and radio networks across the continent.
Some activists say the attacks in Uganda intensified last year after three American evangelical preachers visited the country. In seminars attended by thousands and broadcasted over radio, the preachers discussed how to “cure” homosexuality and accused gays of sodomizing boys and destroying African culture. A month later, a Ugandan lawmaker introduced the anti-homosexuality bill.
The African brand of “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is particularly odious. Bahati, the politician who introduced the death penalty bill for gays and lesbians is quoted in that NPR story saying, “I love people. I love gays, but we disagree on how we should approach this issue.”
Disagree indeed. His particular brand of love includes a death penalty? Oh, and jail time for friends, family — anyone! — who doesn’t turn gay people in.
To me, one of the most amazing things about that conversation is that it’s able to happen at all — that Mr. Bahati’s able to say to her, “I think the bottom line, Rachel, is to make sure that we protect the children,” and she can say to him, “I think the international community is trying to decide whether or not Uganda is going to become an international pariah, a rogue state, excluded from the community of nations because you’re singling out a minority among your population for treatment that frankly is not the direction that the rest of the world is going.” They can say those things to each other and then keep talking. It’s amazing.
Jeff Sharlet is interviewed at the end of part 3. Sharlet’ had a piece in the September Harper’s, Straight man’s burden: The American roots of Uganda’s anti-gay persecutions. Sharlet has been to Uganda and spent time with Bahati. He discussed the roots of Uganda’s anti-gay sentiment and American evangelical involvement in it on Fresh Air in August.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that USA Today reported earlier this year that the Family Research Council wants to “outlaw homosexuality, like shooting up illegal drugs, here in the USA.” Video from MSNBC, too. They’re not shy about it.