As reported earlier, the world is watching the Ugandan Parliament Wednesday to see whether they will pass the horrific Anti-Homosexuality bill, despite international condemnation and pressure from the US State Department. There are now confusing stories about whether the bill has been dropped at the last minute or whether it’s still on the Parliament’s agenda. (UPDATE: JIM BURROWAY JUST REPORTED THE BILL HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL FRIDAY.)
Additionally, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports below, the C-Street Family-backers of the effort have argued that Ugandan President Museveni would veto the bill after supposedly having his mind changed – but there were also promises that the bill would not make it this far.
What does seem clear is that the antigay sentiment, if not the bill itself, is sanctioned by the Ugandan government – as illustrated in the photo of how protesters were treated by police. The photo is reminiscent of the police water-hosing of civil rights protesters demanding an end to wanton lynching and Jim Crow laws in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Not as visible at the time was the clash of Christianity, with protesters inspired by Christian values espoused by young leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. standing up to the murderous Ku Klux Klan driven by their mission to create a “White Christian America.” In a European context, one might think of the Ethnic Cleansing that lead to genocide in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s. It is interesting to note that as late as Nov. 2009, murderer Radovan Karadzic was apparently “sorry for not exterminating all Muslims in Srebrenica.”
It may be useful for the State Department to start considering this extreme hatred for LGBT people to be akin to the religious-based hatred that inspired violent racism in the US and the impulse to ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world. And they might also want to start by looking at some of their own friends – such as Pastor Rick Warren, who delivered the Invocation at President Obama’s Inauguration.
Late Tuesday, the State Department issued a statement noting that they are closely monitoring the situation in Uganda. Hilary Fuller Renner, Press and Public Affairs Officer from the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the Bureau of African Affairs, said in the statement (see full statement below):
“The White House, the Department of State, and our Embassy in Kampala have been very active in speaking up, both privately and publicly, against the bill and promoting the protection of human rights for LGBT individuals in Uganda…..
We continue to monitor the situation closely and are reviewing how we would respond to the passage of this legislation. If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.”
The State Department, however, is caught in a precarious position since too much public pressure might give Museveni an opportunity to pushback to show that he will not be strong-armed by the bullying United States.
Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank is not so similarly constrained, saying Tuesday:
“If the bill before the Ugandan parliament becomes law, it must be the policy of the United States government to oppose any aid to Uganda from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other international financial institution of which we are a member.”
Frank may find a friend in European Union parliament President Jerzy Buzek who said in Brussels on Monday that the EU will recognize an anti-homophobia day on May 17 and will “live up to its responsibility” to protect minorities in line with the EU treaty. “The EU is against discrimination of all kinds, inside Europe and outside. Homophobia is not an exception. Unfortunately, people around the world are still persecuted, tortured and even killed,” Buzek said, according to the website For a Secular Europe.
But the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill is only the surface of a larger, deeper and wider problem that may prove thornier than the State Department might expect. As Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, Warren Throckmorton, Jeremy Hooper at Good As You and Bruce Wilson at Talk 2 Action have written about – there is a Christian evangelical invasion of Africa. Wednesday, for instance, Wilson re-posted a piece reporting on how Atlanta-based Pastor Fred Hartley of the Lilburn Alliance Church has been fund-raising for the ministry of Julius Oyet, one of the professed co-authors of the “Kill the Gays” bill. Additionally, on April 24, 2010, Wilson posted a piece about Republican preacher TheCall’s Lou Engle “helping incite near-genocidal antigay hatred in Uganda:”
“In 1999 Uganda’s President Yowerie Museveni declared that Uganda’s homosexuals should be rounded up and imprisoned. Homosexuality has long been punishable by a lifetime prison sentence in Uganda, but lately the situation has deteriorated…
Last December I broke the story that Engle was probably taking TheCall to Uganda. Since then, plans for the event have firmed up and gay rights groups are scrambling to gather opposition to TheCall Founder Lou Engle’s plan to to stage, on May 2nd, one of his antigay, sexual purity obsessed mass prayer rallies at the Makerere University Sports Field in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, which will call upon God to save the nation from ”witchcraft,” human sacrifice, and homosexuality.”
Right Wing Watch has a whole category devoted to Engle including this video of Engle praying over expected Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: (Also see Right Wing Watch’s Top 10 posts about Gingrich):
But perhaps more vexing and difficult to deal with is the involvement of Obama’s friend Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In a Nov. 13, 2009 conversation with reporters organized by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Warren was upfront about his mission to bring his version of Christianity to the whole world – including Africa:
“The last 50 years has seen the greatest redistribution of a religion ever in the history of the world.
There is nothing even to compare to it. For instance, at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1900, 71 percent of all, quote, “Christians” lived in Europe – 71 percent. By 2000 that percentage had declined to 28 percent. Only 28 percent claimed to be Christian, and I’m sure it’s far smaller than that who actually even go to a church.
On the other hand, Christianity was exploding in Africa, Asia and Latin America. If you want to know the future of evangelicalism, it is in those continents. To give you an example, in 1900 there were only 10 million Christians in all of Africa – 10 percent of the population. Today there are 360 million Christians in Africa, over half the population. That is a complete turnaround on a continent that’s never, ever been seen or done in history.
You may be surprised to know that there are more Christians in China than there are in America, by far – by far. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than there are in Scotland, where they came out of with John Knox. There are more Baptists in Nagaland, a state in India, than there are in the South here in America. There are more Anglicans in either Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria – any of these – than in England. There are 2 million Anglicans in England. There are 17 million Anglicans in Nigeria.
The Church of England is a misnomer. It is now the Church of Africa. I have been involved in the ordination of many of those Anglican leaders. They have spread all over. Last Sunday there were more Christians who went to church in China than all of Europe combined. That is a fundamental shift. If you want to know the future of Christianity, it is the developing world. It’s Africa, it’s Latin America, and it’s Asia……
In the last five years, I’ve sent out over 9,000 of my members to – let’s see, I wrote it down here. I want to get it right – 146 countries.
We have 49 countries left. We’ll easily meet that goal by the end of this next year. We will be the first church in 2000 years of Christianity to literally go to every nation. And what are we doing? Promoting reconciliation, equipping ethical leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, educating the next generation. That’s our fourth signature issue.”
While that might sound like the good intentions of an old fashioned Christian ministry, Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican prist from Zambia, who is project director for a site called Political Research Associates, says Warren’s mission is not exactly passive. Kaoma, who wrote an October 2009 report entitled Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia, wrote:
“Warren is especially influential on the continent, enjoying close ties to African religious and political leaders. They quote him to justify discrimination against LGBT people, and to support their challenge to U.S. mainline Protestants liberalizing their policies around gay ordination. “Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right,” Warren said during a March-April 2008 visit with African religious and political leaders in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya.
That quote has reverberated ever since.
Warren’s bestselling book, A Purpose Driven Life is studied across sub-Saharan Africa and his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California has close ties with leaders across Africa, including, until recently, Martin Ssempa of Uganda’s Makerere Community Church. Ssempa is one of the key architects of the antigay bill and persecution of LGBT people in Uganda. He made global news when he published the names of LGBT people in the local press and destroyed condoms to promote abstinence-only programs in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Ssempa was a regular visitor to Saddleback until Warren distanced himself from him in 2008.
Within Africa, Warren seems to be progressive when it comes to fighting poverty, illiteracy and HIV/AIDS. These efforts have painted him as a real partner in development. However, his antipoverty and education strategies also promote conservative institutional power and ideologies in Africa, including homophobia.
As Warren’s “purpose-driven” projects in Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda have grown, so too have levels of active homophobia and proposed laws against LGBT people. And Warren’s allies � particularly Anglican Archbishops Henry Orombi of Uganda, Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya � are in the forefront of advocating for stiffer laws against LGBT persons in their countries.
Archbishop Orombi argues that U.S. homosexuals should be kept out of Uganda because they are “taking advantage of the abject poverty in Africa to lure people into their club [homosexuality].” In neighboring Nigeria, Archbishop Akinola wrote, “We are especially concerned about those who are using large sums of money to lure our youth to see homosexuality and lesbianism as normative. We must consistently and faithfully teach about God’s commands on this ungodly practice and help those with such orientation to seek deliverance and pastoral counsel.”“
Let’s note forget that the anti-LGBT violence is not restricted to Uganda. AP reported Tuesday about the rape and murder of lesbians in South Africa:
“They found Noxolo Nogwaza’s body in a drainage ditch choked with trash and high reeds. The lesbian activist had been repeatedly stabbed with broken glass, and beaten so severely with chunks of concrete that her teeth had been knocked out.
The neighborhood where the 24-year-old mother of two was slain once was known as a haven for black gays and lesbians, but activists say her death here late last month highlights an alarming rise in homophobic violence in some of the country’s most impoverished areas.”
International human rights organizations are also expressing deep concern. Tuesday, Neil Grungras, Executive Director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration, said in a statement: “If the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ passes, LGBTI Ugandans will face ongoing violence, abuse and torture with no mechanism for redress.”
Sounds like an LGBT version of Ethnic Cleansing to me.
Here’s the full statement from State Department spokesperson Hilary Fuller Renner:
- The Department of State opposes the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which we view as manifestly inconsistent with international human rights obligations. We continue to monitor activity surrounding the proposed legislation, including the public debate.
- President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, and U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier have all spoken out in opposition to the bill. These public statements underscore the U.S. government’s strong support of the rights of the LGBT community in Uganda and throughout the world.
- We are not alone in our calls to stop this bill. Many from the international community have also expressed shared concern about the draft bill. And Uganda’s own Human Rights Commission issued a report in October 2010 calling the bill unconstitutional and inconsistent with international law. Many civil society groups in Uganda have advocated against this legislation, and we continue to support those efforts.
- We urge Ugandan lawmakers to reject this bill and, instead, to safeguard the human rights of all Ugandans and ensure that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity provides a legal basis for discrimination or persecution.
- The White House, the Department of State, and our Embassy in Kampala have been very active in speaking up, both privately and publicly, against the bill and promoting the protection of human rights for LGBT individuals in Uganda.
- Public statements by President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson have urged Uganda to safeguard the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation.
- We meet regularly with human rights advocates and representatives of LGBT groups to solicit their advice on how we can best support the protection of human rights in Uganda.
- We continue to monitor the situation closely and are reviewing how we would respond to the passage of this legislation.
- Stating our views about the draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not amount to meddling in Uganda’s parliamentary affairs. Our statements are grounded in international human rights law and the obligations that it entails for all states, including Uganda and the United States.
- If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. Respect for human rights is key to Uganda’s long-term political stability and democratic development, as well as its public health and economic prosperity.
- Human rights are also a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The White House, the Department of State, and our embassies and consulates overseas will continue to advocate for greater respect for the human rights of LGBT individuals, and we will continue to speak up when we are concerned about abuses, such as those that would be encouraged by or follow from the legislation proposed in Uganda.