Maryland Neo-Confederate Candidates Back Plan to Defy Judge’s “No Sectarian Prayer” Order

whitney

Pastor David Whitney. image via YouTube

The turn to mainstream party politics by two veteran Neo-Confederate leaders in Maryland took the political community by surprise. As we reported here at Eyes Right, the 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate Michael Peroutka and his pastor, David Whitney (a one-time Constitution Party candidate for the state assembly) are running for seats on the Anne Arundel County Council—Peroutka as a Republican and Whitney as a Democrat. They are also running in the June 24th primary for seats on the respective county Party central committees. They have clearly not changed their positions on anything and have been sketchy about their reasons for running for these offices.

However, their views on a classic government prayer battle in Maryland’s Carroll County Board of Commissioners may illuminate how they might very well seek to turn the Anne Arundel County Council into a theater for theocratic grandstanding. The theocrats in both counties and their mentor, Judge Roy Moore, also help illuminate a certain approach to contemporary debates about religious freedom.

Background

Some time ago, the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of several county residents to require the Carroll County Board to halt the practice of opening their meetings with sectarian Christian prayers. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr., in Baltimore recently issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting sectarian prayers at Board meetings. Nevertheless, Commissioner Robin Frazier, willfully violated the order two days later. “I am willing to go to jail,” Frazier said. “If we cease to believe our rights came from God, we cease to be America. And we’ve been told to `be careful,’ but we’re going to be careful all the way to communism, and I say no to this ruling.” And then she did it again at the next meeting. The AHA has asked Judge Quarles to issue a contempt finding. But Frazier is unlikely to get even a frisson of martyrdom out of Judge Quarles who, if anything, is more likely to fine than jail her.

But the defiant rhetoric notwithstanding, the Board of (all Republican) Commissioners voted 3-2 to hold off on defying Judge Quarles’s order until the Supreme Court rules in the similar case of Town of Greece (NY) v. Galloway, which was heard in November 2013, and will be decided by the end of the court’s term in June. All this has been big news in the region, covered in detail by among others, The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.

But unreported in the media has been the support from Michael Peroutka and Pastor David Whitney—who praised Frazier’s “principled stand” against Judge Quarles’ “ungodly and unconstitutional ruling” in a  sermon on April 2nd. Whitney even said he called her office to commend her, and hoped her county sheriff would prevent her from being hauled off to jail.

Whitney concluded that telling “an elected official that they cannot acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ, the one to whom all authority belongs, is to deny that the so-called civil government has any authority at all.” This is an extraordinary statement which suggests that because a Federal Judge issues a preliminary injunction against sectarian prayer in a county commission meeting, that therefore the entire federal government has no authority at all. “What is apparent,” Whitney declared, “is that our Federal Government, of whom Judge Quarles is but one example, is opposed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

“When a civil government denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” Whitney concluded, “it asserts that it, the civil government itself, is greater than Him—that it is above Him and that its own so-called laws, not His Law, are the laws that must be obeyed. So the Federal Government has made itself into a wretched beastly idol in our day.” He claims that requiring people to conform to the law of the land when it is out of sync with his personal notions of “the Law of the One True God” is “the very essence of tyranny.”

Solidarity Forever

Whitney’s solidarity is unsurprising since his relationship with [deletion. we have already noted the composition of the board] Carroll County Board goes back to at least to 2012, when they paid Whitney—the lead instructor at the theocratic Institute on the Constitution (IOTC)—$800.00 in county money to teach 50 county employees about his controversial views on the U.S. Constitution.

Whitney’s solidarity is also unsurprising in light of the history of Maryland theocrats, who see the situation in Carroll County that ofJudge Roy Moore—the once and current Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who became a hero to the Christian Right when he placed a two and a half ton monument to the Ten Commandments in the State courthouse. (He then became a martyr when he was removed from the bench when he defied the order of a Federal judge to remove what became known as “Roy’s Rock.”)

“Was it not the acknowledgment of His name,” Whitney rhetorically asked his congregation, “that caused our friend Chief Justice Roy Moore to be removed from office? And now in Carroll County His holy name is forbidden from prayers to open local government meetings. What is going on here?”

Judge Moore, who was reelected in 2012 to the office from which he was unseated in 2003, has been a close friend and ally of Peroutka and the IOTC. Moore made numerous public appearances with Peroutka during the failed 2004 presidential campaign, and has been the headliner at IOTC events over the years, most recently on March 15th, and Peroutka displays a replica of “Roy’s Rock” on his Maryland farm.

So it came as no surprise when the unrepentant Moore’s Montgomery, Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law recently issued a statement in support of Robin Frazier’s defiance of Judge Quarles’s order. The statement, issued by Foundation president Kayla Moore (Mrs. Roy Moore), read in part, “no federal judge has the authority to dictate to the people of Alabama how they may decorate their judicial building, and likewise no federal judge has the authority to tell the people of Carroll County, Maryland how their elected commissioners should begin their meetings.”

This national network of theocratic dominionists are unambiguous in their disdain for the rights of people other than their approved brands of Christianity and the necessity of government to act as the uncompromised guarantor of the rights of all. They are not shy about declaring that government must be an enforcer of their particular notions of Biblical Law, or it that government, and its various agencies are at the very least, to be openly defied.

Frazier Glenn Miller & The Ongoing Trend of Former-Military Neo-Nazi Murders

Military Veterans and the White Separatist Underground’s Cult of Violence

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

image via Mike Fox and NBC News

The recent murders at two Jewish institutions in Kansas City—apparently committed by former Nazi and Klansman Frazier Glenn Miller—unfortunately come as little surprise, as it was at least the third such incident in the United States in the last five years alone. In 2012, Nazi skinhead Michael Wade Page murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and in 2009 Holocaust denier James Von Brunn murdered a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

All three perpetrators fit a very specific pattern: military veterans; involved in White nationalist politics for years; felt (apparently) their lives were at an end; decided to go out and murder unsuspecting civilians at the very public institutions which their politics had always targeted.

Miller is 73 and has emphysema. Von Brunn was 88 and died soon after the shooting. Wade was only 40, but committed suicide rather than surrender at the murder scene.

Unfortunately, this trend looks like it will continue into the future. Each of these men were products of a political environment that praised violence and glorified death. And so it seems safe to assume that as long as the violence-driven White separatist and White supremacist political underground remains, at least some of their activists can be expected to end their lives in such a manner in the future.

Frazier Glenn Miller

The ideology of White supremacy that Miller embraced has historically been intertwined with the use of institutional violence, from the genocide of Native Americans and American slavery to the lynchings of African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, often aided by local police, resisted the Civil Rights Movement with intimidation and murder. But even after the battle to defend segregation was lost and most Southern police agencies distanced themselves from the Klan, White separatist and supremacist groups have continued the open use of violence—only now without institutional backing—against religious, racial, and sexual minorities.

In recent decades, White nationalists moved from being pro-government, patriotic Americans—in the 1940s, one could support Jim Crow segregation at home and still fight the Nazis abroad—to being anti-system, right-wing revolutionaries. Bolstered by the Nazi skinhead subculture that exploded in the 1980s, this change from pro- to anti-system helped foster an ongoing culture of extreme violence. For such a small political movement, its members commit a fantastic number of violent criminal acts, which have included political assassinations, murders in public and domestic settings, and bombings which seek to inflict mass casualties. All of this is a microcosm of the violence praised by the historic fascist movement and its philosophical valorization of the “act”—as well as its practice of “total war” and racial genocide.

Miller played a central role in this shift towards revolutionary Far Right militancy. Originally a member of the White nationalist National States Rights Party, he later joined the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of America, with whom he took part in the Greensboro Massacre of five left-wing, anti-racist protestors. He then formed the Carolina Ku Klux Klan, which morphed into the White Patriot Party (WPP), described by Leonard Zeskind as a “hybrid organization [which] grafted uniformed paramilitarism and Naziesque ideology onto its roots as a white-robed Klan group.”* This was part of what is called the “Nazification of the Klan,” when Nazi and Klan groups overcame historical divisions and grew closer in ideology and collaboration.

Miller has described himself as “ultra Right plus a million miles.” His party’s platform was “Southern independence. The creation of an all-White nation within the one million square miles of mother Dixie. We have no hope for Jew York City or San Fran-cissy-co and other areas that are dominated by Jews, perverts, and communists and non-White-minorities and rectum-loving queens.” The group’s prerecorded phone messages included “the simulated voice of a black man being lynched.” This approach proved quite popular: by 1985, Miller claimed the WPP had 2,500 members, and they held public marches with hundreds of members dressed in camouflage uniforms and black berets. In 1984, Miller ran for North Carolina governor and received 5,000 votes.**

A member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, Miller retired from the military in 1979, but used his military background to recruit soldiers and accumulate an arsenal that included anti-tank rockets. He received $200,000 from the underground White nationalist terror group The Order (Brüder Schweigen), and was involved in a plot to kill Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Meanwhile, former members of the WPP were arrested in a triple murder in a gay bookstore in 1987.)

That same year, Miller was arrested, fled underground, and issued a “Declaration of War” against the federal government. Caught shortly thereafter with a cache of weapons, he flipped, testifying against his fellow White nationalists in the Fort Smith sedition trial. Released after serving three years in prison, he kept a relatively low profile until recently, as he had been shunned by his former colleagues as a snitch. But apparently his political views had not changed. After his arrest in Kansas City, Miller yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a television crew from the back of a police car. Although we don’t know his motives yet, he seems to have surrendered peacefully and knows he’ll probably serve the rest of his life in prison.

James Von Brunn

A Navy veteran, Von Brunn had links to antisemitic groups going back to the 1970s, and was connected to various figures in the White nationalist movement. In 1981, he brought a shotgun into a Federal Reserve meeting, hoping to kidnap board members and read a televised speech; he served eight years in jail for the crime, though he blamed the “negro jury” and “Jew judge” for the sentence. Telling his ex-wife he was planning to go out “with his boots on,” in June of 2009 Von Brunn went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and murdered a guard. Wounded at the scene, Von Brunn died of natural causes six months later.

Michael Wade Page

Page served in the Army in the 1990s before being discharged for “patterns of misconduct” (alcoholism). He was somewhat unusual in that he apparently became involved in Nazi skinhead activities not as a teenager, but rather when he was almost 30. A “patched-in” member of the Hammerskins—an international racist skinhead organization whose reputation for violence is notable even among skinheads—he played in racist bands before life turned sour as the 40 year old as he lost his job, his girlfriend left him, and his house was foreclosed on.

In 2012, he opened fire at a Sikh temple and murdered six unarmed worshippers before he was killed by a police officer during a gun battle.

And there are many others who fit the profile a little less precisely. For example, former Marine J.T. Ready was an anti-immigrant activist who formed two armed vigilante border patrol groups in Arizona. A recent member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, in 2012 he murdered four people in what was apparently a domestic dispute and then killed himself.

The military background of each of these men is unsettling, as it provides weapons training and sometimes combat experience. Veterans are known to suffer from high rates of domestic violence, suicide, and mental health problems. But veterans come in all political stripes, and it’s the simmering violence in the White separatist and supremacist milieu that’s clearly the spark.

Action Over Thought – More To Come

The Nazi and Klan political environments cultivate a cult of the warrior, often draped in Viking imagery which praises soldiers who go to Valhalla. It promotes action over thought, and a deeply patriarchal mindset that attacks Jews and non-Europeans and accuses them of weakness, disease, and of diluting a strong White identity.

Having spent years immersed in these narratives, and facing the end of their lives, some longtime militant Far Right activists are choosing violent ends—even if their supposed warrior deaths turn out to be cowardly assassinations. They seek soft targets and murder unsuspecting—and usually unarmed—civilians.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of Millers, Von Brunns, and Pages. In recent years, the White separatist violence of past decades has simmered down. Klan groups are declining, as the less-explicitly-bigoted Patriot movement is in ascendance. The skinhead culture has lost its youthful cache, and most of the prominent Nazi skinhead groups have collapsed. But the ultra-violent culture these men thrived in during their prime still retains its mental hold on thousands of aging, troubled men. We should brace ourselves for more of them to take the same path out when they decide their lives are at an end.

However, one thing that could be done to lessen these scenarios would be to support the work of “transitioning out” programs, which help neo-Nazi and similar activists escape the political scene they often are trapped in. Those wishing to exit are often threatened by their colleagues, and need help removing White supremacist tattoos, finding jobs, moving themselves and their families to safe locations, and establishing new social networks. The lack of availability of these programs often leads disenchanted militant Far Rightists back into their established social and political networks, which—in the cases looked at here—can have tragic results for both themselves, their families, and their victims. Groups like One People’s Project (onepeoplesproject.com) and Life After Hate (lifeafterhate.org) are open to help those wishing to exit these politics and start new lives.

* Leonard Zeskind, Blood and Politics (New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009), 131.
** Cited in James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face, second edition (NY: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995), 118–19.

Related:

SPLC has published several phone calls between the head of their Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, and Frazier Glenn Miller. You can see all of them here.

Saddleback’s Approach to Mental Health Issues Misses the Mark For LGBTQ People

photo credit: fbs.org

photo credit: fbs.org

Last month, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church—which, with more than 22,000 members, is one of the ten largest megachurches in the country—hosted a daylong event to “encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.” The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church brought together over 3,000 participants and featured a line-up of religious leaders, scholars, counselors, and psychologists hosting panels and leading prayers addressing the stigma of mental illness and suicide in the church.

The impetus for the conference traces back to the tragic death of Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, who committed suicide in April, 2013 after years of struggling with mental illness. Matthew’s death was one in a series of high-profile mental health-related tragedies in the evangelical community over the last year, motivating Warren and several other evangelical leaders to begin paying closer attention to the issue. The imperative to address mental health and mental illness was also emphasized by a September, 2013 survey by Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research, which found that nearly half of all evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome mental illness. What this essentially means is that a lot of Christians see mental illness as a character flaw that can be addressed by prayer, conviction, and willpower rather than a medical condition that requires professional help.

As Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, stated, “Christians will go to the doctor if they break their leg … But some may try to pray away serious mental illness.”

Warren’s conference was arguably intended to address these attitudes and misperceptions surrounding the need for comprehensive, professional medical and therapeutic approaches to healing and wellness. Aaron Kheriaty, an associate professor of psychiatry at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, co-author of The Catholic Guide to Depression, and one of the featured speakers at Saddleback last week, explains, “It’s just not the case that faith or religious belief will inoculate or immunize a person against mental illness. We want to convince Christians that psychiatrists, religious leaders and mental health advocates, all of us can work hand in hand.”

The catch, though, is that what Warren considers to be “professional approaches to mental health and healing” includes certain approaches that perpetuate hurt and harm rather than work to combat it, and that rely on homophobic “science” and a conservative Christian worldview. The most worrisome example is Saddleback’s Celebrate Recovery program, offering support to people struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as a wide range of other issues, including codependency, depression, eating disorders, gambling, and sexual abuse. Yet some churches’ volunteer leaders also offer “support” for people who have “same-sex attraction”—the solution to which, ultimately, is to “face the root causes of our same-sex attraction,” and “acknowledge God’s design and desire for our sexuality.”

Last week’s conference included presentations by John Baker, founder of the Celebrate Recovery program, which is now used in over 22,000 churches. Warren, who helped develop the program, boasts that Celebrate Recovery’s approach is “based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory.” The program is a faith-based 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, and aimed at addressing the participants’ “habits, hurts, and hang-ups” … including, apparently, the “hang-up” of same-sex attraction.

During the post-Prop. 8 backlash, during which Warren was highly criticized for his endorsement and support of the anti-marriage equality campaign, Saddleback attempted to clean up its anti-LGBTQ reputation. Within a month of the election, Saddleback’s position on homosexuality—which read “Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one’s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at a member at Saddleback Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.”—was redacted from its website.

But even in the absence of blatantly exclusionary policies, Saddleback’s anti-LGBTQ ideology remains.

In addition to Celebrate Recovery’s ascription to harmful and highly dangerous “reparative therapy” models, ample evidence demonstrates Saddleback’s pervasive condemnation of LGBTQ people. Available for purchase and download through the church’s online store is a resource titled, “What to say to a gay friend,” by Tom Holladay, one of Saddleback’s associate pastors and Rick Warren’s brother-in-law. In the document, Holladay outlines the message that faithful believers should offer to LGBTQ people:

  1. God loves you.
  2. Homosexuality is sin.
  3. You have a choice.
  4. There is a difference between moral conviction and prejudice.
  5. You can change.

He concludes by advising those “struggling with the sin of homosexuality” to seek out professional help, pointing to a 25-30% “cure” rate claimed by the National Association for Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH) as evidence to the potential for salvation.

The idea that homosexuality can be changed or cured through professional help or therapy has lost any shred of professional credibility. The American Psychological Association unequivocally concluded in a 2009 report that this type of therapy has been correlated to greater depression, anxiety, shame, isolation, and suicidality of its participants. Along those same lines, the American Psychiatric Association, which declassified sexual orientation as a mental disorder in 1973, joined with a team of 12 other national health and mental health professional organizations in 2008 to make a statement in opposition to reparative or conversion therapy approaches, indicating a lack of ethics, reliability, and validity, as well as the potential harm caused by such methods.

Speaking specifically to religiously affiliated approaches to reparative therapy, the coalition stated, “Because ex-gay and transformational ministries usually characterize homosexuality as sinful or evil, promotion . . . of such ministries or of therapies associated with such ministries would likely exacerbate the risk of marginalization, harassment, harm, and fear.”

So while it’s encouraging to hear that evangelical leaders like Rick Warren are at least superficially supportive of responses to mental health and healing that move beyond the prayer-only, “character flaw” myth, the type of professional support being encouraged (at least when it comes to the mental health of LGBTQ people) is deeply concerning. That the conference was co-sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a professional organization that joins the American Psychiatric Association and others in affirming that homosexuality is not a mental illness, is curious to say the least.

Of additional concern is the international reach of these efforts. Celebrate Recovery is currently active in more than 50 countries, and its resources have been translated into 25 different languages. On top of that, Saddleback Church is in the process of launching The Peace Plan, a 12-city initiative to evangelize to all “unreached people groups” by 2020. The designated “Gateway Cities” include Johannesburg, Moscow, Accra, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Amman, and Bangalore.

Health care—including care for mental illness—is a human right. So, too, is the right to live freely and fully regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. But until Rick Warren affirms both of these human rights, my own “faith” in Saddleback’s efforts to address mental health remains limited at best.

Sex, Love, and Aid

rainbow money pig

Guest Post by Kerry Williams

Uganda’s policies regarding LGBTQ people—and the implications for the future of foreign aid to the country—have become a controversial transnational political issue. The passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalizes not only gays and lesbians but also anyone who doesn’t report them, prompted Obama and Kerry to announce a review of U.S. assistance programs to Uganda.  Similarly, President Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank postponed a $90 million loan to Uganda and said the Bank needed to review the law for adverse effects on its development objectives.  Uganda seemed unmoved and retorted by saying it would not be blackmailed by Western powers.

The drama of love, sex, and the complicated nature of international aid and involvement is playing out not only on the cross-continental political stage but also in two recent film and theatre productions.  In fact, God Loves Uganda (2013) and Witness Uganda (2014), arguably reveal much more about the potential hazards of aid—and withdrawing it—than current statements made by the U.S. administration and the World Bank.  And whereas much of the recent discussion has centered on state-based foreign aid, God Loves Uganda and Witness Uganda raise up critical issues about the flow of money from individuals, religious networks, and NGOs.

God Loves Uganda (soon to be released on DVD) exposes how American money is being funneled to certain Ugandan churches, which vociferously preach the so-called evils of homosexuality. It is directed by Roger Ross Williams, was nominated for an Academy Award and has been screening across America since late last year. His incredibly brave film shows how certain U.S. evangelicals move both their money and dogma from the U.S. to Uganda: He shows footage of Scott Lively lecturing Ugandan Parliamentarians on how to counter the so-called “Homosexual Agenda.” (Lively, well known for suggesting gays were responsible for the Holocaust, is currently running for governor of Massachusetts while also facing a lawsuit for crimes against humanity due to his involvement in the persecution of LGBTQ people in Africa.)  Williams documents naïve, white, 20-year-old American men instructing wizened, black, 80-year-old Ugandan grandmothers how to live their lives in accordance with the Lord’s word.  He follows the flow of money from the International House of Prayer in Missouri to churches in Kampala, where Ugandan pastors mimic the words of U.S. evangelicals condemning homosexuality in God’s name.  Tragically these Uganda pastors are also building on U.S. evangelical discourse to incite their congregations to perpetrate and justify violence.  A Ugandan pastor stands on a stage in a field before a congregation and as part of the sermon condemning the sexual perversion of homosexuals shouts through a loudhailer, “Those who are ready to kill those who are homosexual, hands up!” Everyone’s hand shoots up to volunteer.

Williams argues through the film that Americans, particularly those involved in religious organizations and charitable giving abroad, need to think about the unintended consequences of their words and their aid.  Reverend Kapya Kaoma, the film’s protagonist and a senior researcher at PRA, explains: “Usually when people are putting their money in the collection plate at church, they don’t know where this money is going.  They see this poor face of an African child—the same money which a person would have given in good faith to help is used to destroy people’s lives in various parts of Africa”. Williams rightly draws an analogy with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, where the white man journeys to Africa filled with the imagined darkness and evils of black Africa only to find the real darkness and evils are within himself.  Or in Williams’s case, as he puts it: “I, a black man, made that journey to Africa and found—America”.

Witness Uganda adopts a somewhat different angle, portraying the existential angst of a young gay African-American who haphazardly takes himself, and eventually his charity, to Uganda.  A colorful musical created by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews—partners in life and work—the play tells Griffin’s semi-autobiographical story of going to Uganda in his 20s only to find nothing as he expected.  There are few surprises, and the musical ends with everyone living happily-ever-after.  Gould and Matthews now fund the education of orphans on a more permanent basis. Whereas Williams critiques the flow of money and influence from America to Uganda, Gould and Matthews suggest, more mildly, that “giving is complicated”.

I attended question-and-answer sessions for both productions; as a South African lawyer working on sexuality, law, and governance in Africa, I was interested in the audiences’ responses. In both sessions, attendees reflected critically on issues of American involvement in Africa.  After God Loves Uganda, for example, a middle-aged white American woman asked how she could help. Rev. Kaoma, one of the panelists, deftly answered the question, suggesting that the woman turn her attentions home and to do whatever she could to hold U.S.-based religious leaders and organizations accountable for their actions abroad.  His response suggested that in many cases, it is more effective for Americans to work at a local level rather than abroad.

At the Q&A for Witness Uganda, a Ugandan man asked Gould and Matthews if they had thought about the “unintended consequences” of their giving. While most questions affirmed that the show reflected a common experience of traveling to Africa to work and volunteer, this question seemed to suggest that Griffin’s haphazard attempts to help may harm.  The show had suggested that nothing but good comes from giving, so why else ask about unintended consequences? Gould and Matthews, unfortunately, could not provide the Ugandan with an answer.

Having lived and worked in South and Southern Africa my whole life, I know that aid can, at the very least, be disruptive. Although Witness Uganda is entertaining, it never really moves past “giving is complicated.”  In contrast, God Loves Uganda thoughtfully takes audiences on a global political journey, highlighting the real risks associated with international giving and aid work.  It sends a message that giving and getting involved in African politics and society—whether through individual or institutional channels—needs to be done carefully, and sometimes, maybe not done at all.

Certainly, not giving is also complicated. If national governments, churches, religious organizations, NGOs, or individuals choose to withdraw aid, they must do so strategically and responsibly.  When the U.S. and the World Bank say they are reviewing their assistance programs because of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, they need to be sure they can justify withdrawing specific types of aid and that they are not merely perpetuating patterns of Western neo-colonialism and oppression.  Perhaps it does make sense, for example, to withdraw money that might otherwise be used to deny gays and lesbians access to health care services or funneled to organizations that vocally support the Anti-Homosexuality Act.  The Dutch government has adopted this approach, withdrawing its aid to the Ugandan justice sector rather than be considered complicit with Uganda’s jailing of gays and lesbians. Over the next weeks and months, we will see whether Obama and Kim follow this example.  The U.S. and the World Bank have an opportunity to send a clear, value-driven message that those who are complicit with the Ugandan government in its needless persecution of LGBTQ people will not benefit from American aid.

Kerry Williams is currently a candidate for a Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is both an Edward S. Mason Fellow and a Harvard South African Fellow. The views expressed in this article are hers alone and not necessarily endorsed by Political Research Associates. The full text of her article can be read on the Citizen website. 

Profiles On The Right: Americans United For Life

Americans United For Life

For more than 40 years, Americans United for Life (AUL) has chipped away at women’s reproductive rights—both within the U.S. and abroad. AUL’s president, Charmaine Yoest, has described the organization as the “legal architect of the pro-life movement,” pursuing “a military strategy,” “under the radar screen,” and “leapfrogging” over Roe by pushing state-by-state abortion rights restrictions.

AUL was founded by a group of conservative Catholics, most prominently L. Brent Bozell. Bozell had recently been arrested for organizing an anti-choice march on (and demonstration at) a university hospital, where one speaker referred to “sterilized murder factories.” Bozell’s increasingly militant anti-abortion ideology and tactics earned the criticism of former close colleague and brother-in-law William F. Buckley—but in the face of Roe, Americans United for Life quickly turned to the less controversial legal strategy it pursues today (with AUL Action providing a political advocacy arm since 2008).

In 1979, AUL took credit for its “pivotal role” in amending Ireland’s constitution to ban abortion. The next year, the organization helped cut off low-income American women’s access to abortion by successfully defending the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding (such as Medicaid) from being used toward abortion coverage. Americans United for Life is also active in Latin America, where abortion rights are already severely restricted.

In 2011 alone, AUL tallied up credit for the passage of 92 anti-abortion laws, through its active promotion or drafting of “model bills” for state legislators. This is the same low-visibility tactic used effectively by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). After Trayvon Martin’s murder, ALEC came under scrutiny for its promotion of “Stand Your Ground” model bills, and the ALEC Exposed project continues to monitor the actions of the corporate-funded right-wing think tank. Yet, despite exposés of AUL by Mother Jones, The Progressive, Alternet, and Raw Story in mid-2012, the anti-abortion organization has slipped back out of the spotlight.

AUL stretches its four million dollar budget by operating largely behind the scenes and by trying to distance itself from anti-abortion “fringe” organizations like Personhood USA. The strategy is proving effective: The Christian Science Monitor hailed AUL as the “new voice” of abortion opponents, writing that “a less confrontational, more pragmatic force is behind a record number of anti-abortion laws and pro-choice’s ‘bad year.’” Yoest, who worked in the Reagan administration and for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, is lauded as the movement’s “kinder, gentler face …winning not just the legal war but the spin game at the moment.”

This PR strategy extends to AUL’s involvement in advancing state-level anti-abortion legislation. Legislation proposed by AUL often boasts innocuous names like the “Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act,” “Women’s Health Defense Act,” and “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which play up the right-wing frame that abortion causes harm to women. Translated, those bills would require unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, an invasive procedure constituting a serious violation of women’s bodies; a ban on abortion after 20 weeks; and a slew of absurd restrictions on clinics that even mandated room temperatures in Kansas. Fortunately, some of AUL’s bills have been modified and/or or held up in court for constitutional violations.

And when you take a look at the substance of AUL’s proposed legislation, the terms “kinder,” “gentler,” and “moderate” are far from accurate. In 2011, AUL got caught pushing legislation that would “expand justifiable homicide statutes to cover killings committed in the defense of an unborn child”—in other words, legalizing the murder of a doctor who performs abortions. In a less than convincing response, AUL attempted to deny that was the bill’s purpose.

The idea of presenting a “kinder, gentler” Christian Right movement is reminiscent of the promotion of ex-gay therapy as a “compassionate” approach toward LGBTQ people. But as Exodus International, the most prominent ex-gay organization in the United States, expressed upon announcing its closure in 2013, that pretense of kindness has been deployed effectively to do serious harm to individuals and their human rights.

In 2012, Notre Dame law professor, and then-board member of AUL, Gerard Bradley admitted that he supports criminal penalties for pregnant women. Bradley also equated domestic violence perpetrators with women seeking to obtain an abortion (a departure from AUL’s propaganda portraying reproductive health care restrictions as benefiting women).Two of AUL’s current board members are affiliated with the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), which, in 1996, helped bring together 45 anti-abortion and Christian Right leaders to adopt a manifesto opposing abortion. More recently, the EPPC’s American Religious Freedom Program has been organizing “religious freedom caucuses” in state legislatures in conjunction with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the same organization leading the Hobby Lobby lawsuit to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

The connections between “religious liberty” advocates and anti-abortion activists are unsurprising, and have been described in detail in the 2013 PRA report, Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights, by Jay Michelson. These connections and collaborations are ongoing. In 2014, AUL filed an amicus brief supporting the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, which Yoest claims is not about employees’ rights to health care, but rather “about freedom of conscience, it’s about fundamental American liberties.”

As of April, 2014, the homepage of AUL’s website prominently features a clip of Yoest defending the importance of Hobby Lobby on Fox News, as well as a video created by AUL about “the con”: the Obama administration’s “contraception con,” which the video says mandates coverage of abortion-causing drugs and violates First Amendment rights (complete with a quote from Thomas Jefferson).

Meanwhile, the organization continues its anti-choice activities on the state level, Next Profile arrowlaunching an updated packet of model bills misnamed the “Women’s Protection Project” at the end of 2013, and touting initiatives and victories in Mississippi, Indiana, West Virginia, and Nebraska in the first few months of 2014.

A Baptist Sexuality Summit for the Ethically Challenged

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission ERLC

When Russell Moore ascended to the presidency of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), he claimed that he wanted to pull the public policy arm of the SBC back from the culture warring ways of his predecessor, Richard Land. The 42-year-old Moore said he believed that younger generations of evangelicals were put off by inflammatory rhetoric and political aggression on issues like marriage equality. But that public stance didn’t last long.

Moore soon faced sharp criticism from Christian Right figures such as American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who said, “Since one man’s ‘pullback’ is another’s ‘full-scale retreat,’ social conservatives have a right to raise questions about the new course Moore is setting for the SBC.” Fox News contributor Sandy Rios added, “Whether Russell Moore wants it to be a war or not, it is a war. .. Southern Baptists are going to suffer.”

Fischer and Rios weren’t alone in their outrage, and if the ERLC’s upcoming (April 21-23) Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality” is any indication, the difference between Moore and Land may be more a matter of style than substance. Indeed, Moore has selected two controversial figures, sociologist Mark Regnerus and Rev. Greg Belser (the Senior Pastor at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi) to headline the summit.

Mark Regnerus 

Regnerus gained conservative celebrity status this past year, thanks to his 2012 study published in the Social Science Research journal, which claims that children of same-sex couples face severe disadvantages growing up. As Slate’s Nathaniel Frank explained, “The study catapulted him into conservative stardom, making him a credentialed mouthpiece for the claim that LGBTQ equality harms kids and can be blocked not because of anti-gay bias but out of noble concern for children and families.”

“Regnerus’ article made waves,” Frank continued, “because it appeared to buck the trend of three decades of research showing kids with gay parents fare just as well as others. There’s one problem: Regnerus’ research doesn’t show what he says it does. Not remotely. No research ever has.”

Numerous scholars and professional societies agreed, including the American Sociological Association, and the study has been completely and thoroughly debunked. But, as Cole Parke has reported here at Eyes Right, that hasn’t stopped the Religious Right both in the U.S. and abroad from using the patina of academic respectability and authority Regnerus brings to thwart the advance of LGTBQ civil and human rights.

As reported by the LA Times, “When he struck down Proposition 8, the California amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court in San Francisco said he had heard ‘no reliable evidence that allowing same-sex couples to marry will have any negative effects on society.’” This left the opponents of marriage equality in a quandary, and in desperate need for new evidence to bolster their failing legal arguments against marriage equality and adoption by same-sex couples.

In the wake of the Prop. 8 decision, opponents of marriage equality held a series of strategy meetings at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., in 2010. According to the New York Times, they “discussed the urgent need to generate new studies on family structures and children … One result was the marshaling of $785,000 for a large-scale study by Mark Regnerus, a meeting participant… .”

Among the meeting’s participants was Luis E. Tellez, president of the Witherspoon Institute, a neo-conservative think tank based in New Jersey – and whose co-founders include Christian Right strategist and Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, Robert P. George. After the Heritage Institute meetings, Witherspoon subsequently provided $695,000 to underwrite what became the Regnerus study, while the neo-conservative Bradley Foundation, where Robert P. George sits on the board of directors, also kicked-in $90,000.

But in addition to the debunking and criticism of the methodology and conclusions Regnerus’ study has faced among his peers and both the academic and scientific communities, it has also fallen on its face in court.

After hearing Regnerus testify and be cross-examined on the witness stand, Federal Judge Bernard A. Friedman struck down Michigan’s anti-marriage equality law in March, and called Regnerus’ study “entirely unbelievable,” and “not worthy of serious consideration.”  Judge Friedman further condemned the manufactured research and its right-wing sponsors, saying “[t]he funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.”

Rev. Greg Belser

Conferees will also be treated to the expertise of Rev. Greg Belser, who is not only a panelist at the sex summit, but is also a member of the ERLC’s Leadership Council.

The Southern Baptist Convention, which currently claims 15.9 million members in 46,000 churches in the U.S., has acknowledged the problem of child sex abuse within member churches. Still, too many Baptist leaders—like their Catholic counterparts—have responded to the problem with denials, inattention, and cover-ups. Eyes Right recently reported that Belser is the personification of how poorly the Southern Baptist Convention has addressed issues of child sex abuse by clergy.

Jeff Langworthy, a minister at Belser’s church, was accused of molesting children at two Mississippi Baptist churches before he transferred to serve at the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas – where additional allegations of child molestation apparently led Prestonwood leaders to quietly let Langworthy go without reporting the allegations to police (as was required by state law). Langworthy subsequently worked at Morrison Heights for 20 years, with no one the wiser about his past.

Persistent efforts by Amy Smith, an advocate with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), led Morrison Heights to conduct an internal investigation in 2011. Belser initially decided to keep Langworthy on staff, but later allowed him to resign and to make a highly limited confession to the congregation about his “sexual indiscretions with younger males” in Texas.

After Langworthy’s confession surfaced online, police launched an investigation.  As the Associated Baptist Press reported, “Six men came forward claiming they were sexually abused by Langworthy as children in the early 1980s.”  But Morrison Heights (and Rev. Belser) refused to turn over the findings of their internal investigation to police or prosecutors, apparently following the legal advice of Phillip Gunn, a Morrison Heights elder and a state representative.

But even with Belser’s and Morrison Heights’ protection, Langworthy eventually pleaded guilty to five felonies committed against children at the two Mississippi Baptist churches.

Marching Ever Forward

With the checkered and highly questionable pasts of both Regnerus and Belser, ERLC’s “Leadership Summit” on sexuality probably portends that the SBC–and its political action arm–will continue their investment in a corrupt past.

 

ITN News’ Channel 4 and PRA’s Kapya Kaoma Take Down Scott Lively

Channel 4

PRA’s senior researcher Kapya Kaoma joined ITN News’ Channel 4 (England) in a spotlight feature about Scott Lively’s involvement in the creation of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The piece includes PRA’s exclusive video of Lively’s presentation at a Uganda anti-gay conference in 2009.

Watch the embedded video below, or on Channel 4′s website.

Phelps May Be Dead, But Fundamentalism Lives On

photo credit: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2014/03/21/3-23-toons-2_custom-3e295f34f0f2182acf10f1e0811ec0329de846b9-s6-c30.jpg

photo credit: http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2014/03/21/3-23-toons-2_custom-3e295f34f0f2182acf10f1e0811ec0329de846b9-s6-c30.jpg

Whether I’m speaking with organizers, progressive faith leaders, or journalists, I’m often asked what, exactly, I do.  When I explain that my work involves tracking right-wing evangelical Christians in the U.S. and the harm they cause to LGBTQ people around the world, the vast majority have a fairly limited frame of reference for what that actually means. Seeking clarification, most will don a puzzled look of amusement and ask, “Oh, like that Westboro Baptist Church guy?”

Even in the most secular of spaces, Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America”) are notorious. They have been a source of endless vitriol against a wide variety of people and groups, from soldiers killed in combat to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings to even Fred “Mister” Rogers. LGBTQ people, though, have consistently been at the top of Phelps’ target list, and Westboro has certainly done significant damage in its tireless effort to assert that “God Hates Fags.”

Consequently, the recent death of Fred Phelps has mostly been met by an overwhelming sense of relief (evidenced by how quickly the Twitter hashtag, #GoodRiddanceFredPhelps, caught on).

“[W]e take this time to mourn a lost opportunity for reconciliation, and to recognize our own complicity in continuing oppressions of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, religious bigotry, and class-based injustice.” -Rev. Mel White

A few, however, have offered more thoughtful and compassionate responses. Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, an advocacy organization committed to nonviolently resisting the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people, reflected, “[W]e take this time to mourn a lost opportunity for reconciliation, and to recognize our own complicity in continuing oppressions of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, religious bigotry, and class-based injustice. … Phelps’ death is a time to remember all who have been hurt by hate; to redouble our efforts to resist hate nonviolently; and to hold out hope for reconciliation.”

Right-wing Christians have also weighed in on Phelps’s death, taking a far different approach. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a right-wing Christian group, once again took the opportunity to distance himself from any degree of culpability in the persecution of LGBTQ people. In an article published in The American Spectator, Tooley wrote, “He was however unconsciously a best friend to homosexual and liberal sexual advocacy. Angry, southern (from Mississippi), white-skinned and white-haired, irrational, proudly hateful, hectoring, supposedly Christian and Baptist, Phelps was the living embodiment of what enlightened social liberals imagined hardcore social conservatives were really like.”

Further resisting any amount of responsibility for the damage done in the name of Christianity, Tooley he went on to affirm the same anti-LGBTQ ideology that continues to perpetuate so much harm: “Christian teachings and Christian social witness must now even more deeply, thoughtfully and boldly proclaim a Christian and natural law based anthropology that explains God’s gifts of marriage, family, the two genders, and each person as God’s image bearer. There are many political, cultural and spiritual battles ahead. Fighting them may be a little easier in the absence of Fred Phelps.”

This pattern of evading liability whilst quietly advancing the same harmful agenda is a familiar one.

Confronted with public outrage after his role in the development of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was revealed, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, released a video in 2009. Addressing Ugandan pastors, Warren states, “While we can never deny or water down what God’s Word clearly teaches about sexuality, at the same time the church must stand to protect the dignity of all individuals – as Jesus did and commanded all of us to do.”

“Jesus reaffirmed what Moses wrote that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman committed to each other for life,” says Warren, and then adds, “Jesus also taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” line of reasoning is a popular one among conservative Christians attempting to find a more politically (and publicly) palatable way of condemning LGBTQ people, but this rhetorical sleight of hand fails to hide the true agenda of these culture warriors. Indeed, no matter how much distance Warren, Tooley, and others have tried to put between themselves and more overt demonstrations of anti-LGBTQ activism (e.g. the malicious protests of Westboro, violent attacks, and criminalization), and until they proactively take steps to reverse the destructive course they themselves have helped initiate, they, too, remain culpable for its deadly effects.

In his statement, Warren goes on to explain, “The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God.  Since God gives us that freedom, we must protect it for all, even when we disagree with their choices.”

Here, the distancing he endorses is not between himself and the version of anti-LGBTQ attacks that he has deemed distasteful, but rather between himself and LGBTQ people. Through the dichotomy of “us vs. them, Warren effortlessly denounces the “immoral choices” of a community he’d prefer to eliminate, righteously washing his hands of the violence and hatred that LGBTQ communities continue to experience.

Responding to the question, “Is Christian fundamentalism dead in America?” Matthew Paul Turner, a progressive evangelical writer, observes, “Among this country’s wide and varied Christianities, fundamentalism is very much alive; it’s just harder to recognize. Rather than being fanatical, loud, and obnoxious, today’s fundamentalism masquerades under wide smiles, hipster garb, flowery poetic language, and synth-pop beats. Unlike the former champions of fundamentalism—people like Falwell, Phelps, Oral Roberts, and Pat Robertson, all of whom seemed to love being fundamentalists—today’s self-appointed gatekeepers of heaven are far less inclined to own the moniker.”

But the moniker rings true. Even if Fred Phelps is dead, his fundamentalist beliefs live on.

Only Fools Believe? Pastor Rick Warren and Global Homophobia

Pastor Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren

The recent passage of highly punitive anti-LGBTQ legislation in Nigeria, Uganda, and Russia has brought renewed media scrutiny to certain conservative American evangelicals known for campaigning against homosexuality abroad. Pastors Scott Lively and Rick Warren – in particular – have been called out for creating the conditions that led to Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act. That law imposes long jail sentences (up to life in prison) for being LGBTQ and criminalizes anyone who dares to speak out in defense of the human rights of sexual minorities. Thanks to Lively, Warren, and a number of other American culture warriors, there is a wave of politicized homophobia burning its way through villages, cities, and parliaments in Africa. Were I in Uganda today, I could be arrested just for writing this.

Although documentation of the involvement of right-wing American campaigners (including by this writer) is ample, the current media scrutiny has brought forth predictable denials of responsibility. We’ve seen this movie before. When things get hot, as they did when Uganda’s Parliament considered a death penalty provision for its Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the likes of Lively and Warren attempted to deflate the public’s anger at their involvement by issuing statements distancing themselves from the very events they set in motion. Now again, there appears to be a dedicated PR campaign to whitewash the history of right-wing evangelical involvement in exporting their U.S.-style anti-LGBTQ and reproductive freedom campaigns abroad.

In Lively’s case, a U.S. federal judge has determined that there is sufficient evidence of his direct involvement in committing crimes against humanity that the Springfield, Mass., pastor now awaits a civil trial here at home for persecuting Uganda’s sexual minority community. Key evidence for the case comes from Lively himself, who has a habit of boasting about his influence in Uganda and Russia, among other places. When asked about the original death penalty provision of the Uganda bill, Lively said it was not his preferred methodology, but pushed for the bill’s passage anyway, saying, “I think the lesser of two evils is for the bill to go through.” It seems Lively is such an unrepentant believer in the evil of homosexuality that he can’t help but remain outspoken – even when it brings him public condemnation.

But what of Baptist megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren? Yes, he campaigns against same-sex marriage and promotes creationism, but Warren also cultivates a much more moderate image than the fire-and-brimstone Lively. Warren delivered the invocation at President Obama’s first inauguration and aspires to a prominent role in American public life. (Lively presumably gave up any hopes of mainstream acceptance when he co-authored a book blaming the Nazi Party and Holocaust on homosexuals.)

On March 2 of this year, Warren responded to the renewed public criticism of his promotion of homophobia abroad in with a post on his Facebook page under the heading, “Only fools believe everything they hear!” Warren says that he “publicly opposed [Uganda’s bill] nearly 5 years ago,” and argues that he’s been wrongly associated with the measure ever since MSNBC host Rachel Maddow “falsely accused” him of supporting it back in 2009.

It is true that Warren publicly criticized the bill in December 2009, calling it unjust “and un-Christian.” But his denouncement came only after intense and sustained pushback when Americans learned of his public statements in Africa condemning homosexuality, and about his close relationships with the Ugandan politicians and pastors who had taken up their American colleagues’ call to “defend” their children, families, and nation from homosexuality. When Pastor Warren visited Uganda in 2008, he supported and encouraged Anglican Archbishop Bishop Henry Orombi’s boycott of the Lambeth Conference (the worldwide gathering of Anglican Bishops every 10 years) where tolerance of sexual diversity was encouraged. Warren told the African press that “homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. We shall not tolerate this aspect at all.” Pastor Warren left Uganda, but his powerful condemnation remained, recirculated in the Uganda media for years.

Pastor Warren’s words and actions helped pave the way for the bill in the first place. But he has never acknowledged any of this, and has instead depicted himself as an innocent bystander to the whole affair who nonetheless had the courage to speak out against the measure. Warren fails to acknowledge his statement denying the human rights of LGBTQ people. Further, before he tried to distance himself from the “Kill the Gays Bill,” he responded to early criticism of his involvement by saying, “[I]t is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

My 2009 report, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches & Homophobia, was widely cited by Warren’s critics. The study examines the interference of various right-wing U.S. groups and individuals in African political and church affairs, and it addresses Pastor Warren’s influence in Africa and his 2008 denouncement of homosexuality in Uganda.

Eventually the pressure grew too strong for Warren to avoid public comment. But his much-cited denunciation of the bill also provoked a reaction from his previous allies in Uganda. Martin Ssempa – a Ugandan pastor trained by conservative American evangelicals and one of the most ardent champions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – responded with an open letter to Warren, accusing the Saddleback pastor of failing to stand up for his own words and values. Ssempa’s criticism of Warren was not merely for standing in opposition to himself and the Uganda legislation, but for saying one thing in Africa, and another in the United States. Ssempa reminded Pastor Warren that when he went “to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, he condemned homosexuality.” Ssempa also wrote of how Pastor Warren taught Ugandans that “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.” The underlying theme of the Ssempa letter is a charge of betrayal.

As part of his denial of association with the campaign to persecute sexual minorities, Warren says he wrote to then-Anglican Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi voicing his opposition to the death penalty provision of the bill. (He says Orombi wrote back saying that “he, too, was opposed to the death penalty for homosexuals.”) Pastor Warren’s letter to Archbishop Orombi is not in the public record, but until he stepped down as Archbishop in 2012, Orombi was consistently one of the most influential leaders supporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Like Ssempa, Orombi advocated replacing the death penalty with severe prison sentences, as happened with the final version signed into law by President Museveni.

Pastor Warren laments that “lies and errors are never removed from the internet. False information on the internet is global, searchable, and permanent.” While that is true, truth and history also remain online. The Internet is where I found Warren’s on-camera endorsement of California’s anti-LGBTQ Proposition 8, and his claims that same-sex marriage was consistent with incest, pedophilia, and polygamy (all statements he later claimed he never made).

So when Pastor Warren laments the outcry over his involvement in the persecution of African sexual minorities, one has to consider the source. And when one reads Warren’s 2009 statement about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, one has to consider the context. We are still waiting for Warren to publicly acknowledge his role in fostering anti-LGBTQ hysteria in Uganda. Meanwhile, Warren’s global outreach continues to grow. While his public relations machine in the United States promotes his “Daniel Plan” diet book, he is pursuing an ambitious plan to open Saddleback Churches in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Manila, Ghana, and Moscow. Will that prove to be the next stepping stool for attacks on freedom and human rights? What do you believe?

Profiles on the Right: Mike Bickle, Founder of the International House of Prayer

Mike Bickle

Mike Bickle is the founder and director of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and one of the pioneers of the apostolic and prophetic movement (also known as the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR).  IHOP, based in Kansas City, Missouri, is a model for youth-oriented prayer ministries around the world and shares board members and tax affiliation with Lou Engle’s TheCall.

Bickle and the Prophets 

Bickle is a Charismatic evangelist who led the Kansas City Fellowship in the 1980s and 1990s and was at the center of a group often referred to as the “Kansas City Prophets.”  The group, including Bob Jones (not affiliated with Bob Jones University), Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane, and others, claimed to be the part of God’s plan for the reemergence of the role of apostles and prophets. Bickle and the church were the subject of controversy in the early 1990s following the distribution of a report by another Charismatic pastor titled “Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teaching of the Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries).”  The controversy died down after the leader of the Vineyard Movement of churches, John Wimber, agreed to take the church into his network.

The IHOP Vision 

Bickle and Bob Jones claim they had received visions and prophecies that Bickle would lead an international movement— a “young adult prayer movement led by prophetic singers and musicians”—and in 1999 founded the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  Bickle teaches that today’s youth are the “eschatological generation” who will experience the End Times, and that they must prepare for the coming “Antichrist.”  Like Engle, Bickle teaches his youth followers that they must prepare to be martyrs.  Bickle stated in 2009, “It will be your greatest honor if the Lord chooses you to be a martyr.”

Bickle’s IHOP has spawned an international movement of “houses of prayer” that feature ongoing prayer around the clock.  The organization provides training materials from its Kansas City headquarters and is live streamed to 24/7 houses of prayer around the world. There are approximately 500 similar houses of prayer based on this model in the U.S. and more worldwide.  IHOP also trains students at its Kansas City campus in media, music and in preparation for missionary work, like that seen in the movie God Loves Uganda.  Bickle and his fellow apostles and prophets are fixated on the role of Jews in the End Times, and lead a project titled the “Israel Mandate” to support Messianic communities and the conversion of Jews around the world in order to advance the return of Jesus.  Bickle claims biblical prophecy indicates there will be another era of concentration camps for Jews before Jesus returns.

Mike Bickle and Lou Engle lead TheCall Jerusalem, held simultaneously in 2008 with the Global Day of Prayer.

Pioneer of the Apostolic and Prophetic (NAR)

Bickle was one of the co-authors of a 2000 book on integrating the new role of “prophets” into churches and ministries, edited and published by C. Peter Wagner, titled Pastors & Prophets: Protocol for Healthy Churches. He was also one of the speakers for the Wagner-initiated “National School of the Prophets” in 1999 which was advertised as “Prophets help[ing] to prepare the way for the apostles to establish the Lord’s church,” and included leading NAR apostles Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, Rick Joyner and Barbara Wentroble.

Bickle was also one of the initial members of the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders formed by Wagner as he developed a model for New Apostolic networks and ministries designed to replace the traditional denominational structure.

Politics and Religion

Bickle’s IHOP has the stated mission of influencing “the seven spheres of society -family, education, government, economy, arts, media, and religion.” IHOP prayer leaders and musicians led Gov. Rick Perry’s all-day prayer event in Houston in 2011, a week before Perry announced his presidential campaign.  Bickle himself led much of the event, which used New Apostolic language and imagery to call for the country to repent for abortion and gay rights (referred to as sexual immorality) and for the conversion of Jews.  IHOP puts a trendy and youthful gloss on a movement that is fiercely opposed to reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and has played a role in TheCall events held around the nation.  The Desert Streams ministry of Andy Comiskey, former head of Exodus International, was temporary housed under the umbrella of Bickle’s ministries after leaving the Vineyard network Next Profile arrowand continues to work closely with IHOP.  One of many IHOP tax affiliated entities is Exodus Cry/Nefarious, a ministry dedicated to ending sex trafficking, whose leadership teaches that conversion of prostitutes is a priority and that it is necessary to expel demons from prostitutes.

Mike Bickle leads Rick Perry’s “The Response” prayer event in Houston in 2011.