Anti-Gay Gatekeepers of the NFL: The NY Giants’ David Tyree Controversy

The New York Giants’ hiring of former player David Tyree as the director of player development has resulted in controversy and a statement from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The controversy stems from a 2011 interview with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), in which Tyree said that gay marriage would lead to anarchy and lawlessness.  In another interview, he stated that he would trade his 2008 Super Bowl catch if it would stop marriage equality, and he’s also indicated that he believes in reparative therapy. The Giants’ general manager has defended Tyree, stating that the team did due diligence before hiring him for the job, in which he will mentor young players in their off-the-field life, including business interests.  But it’s Tyree’s own mentors and business associates that will likely lead to more controversy for the NFL team and to further questions about Tyree’s claim this past week that his views have evolved.

Tyree’s mentors, and at least one business partner, are apostles in a network of modern-day, self-declared (or, in their view, God-ordained) “apostles” and “prophets.” An invitation-only list of prominent apostles, the International Coalition of Apostles, has included Tyree’s mentor and co-author, Apostle Kimberly Daniels, and his business partner, Apostle Frank Duprée.  They maximize their impact through loose relational networks in a religio-political movement that has been dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

The apostles and prophets of this network aren’t your garden-variety homophobes; they are on the cutting edge of activism and incitement against gay rights in the U.S., Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Following his miraculous Super Bowl catch, Tyree co-authored an autobiographical book with Daniels, whose son Michael Jennings has also played for several NFL teams, including the Giants. Daniels is also a mentor to other players on the NY Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars and was reportedly invited by the Jaguars to lead a Bible study for the team.

Tyree describes Daniels as his “spiritual mother” and the person who prophesied his role, over the phone, on the evening prior to the Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl win. In the New Apostolic world of modern-day apostles and prophets, one’s spiritual father or mother not only acts as a mentor but also provides spiritual authority and protection.  Tyree’s spiritual mother is nationally known as “the demon buster,” a specialist in expelling what are supposed to be literal demons and in “healing” homosexuals. Tyree claims that he himself has been possessed by a demon that caused him to exhibit symptoms of mental illness and to spend four days in a psychiatric hospital.

Like other NAR apostles and prophets, Daniels and Duprée promote the concept of the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” or the belief that Christians should take “dominion” over the seven power centers of society and government.  The sports industry falls under the categories of the entertainment, media, and business mountains, areas aggressively targeted by NAR leaders. In her book of spiritual warfare prayers, Daniels describes “gatekeepers of the sports industry” as being “strategically set in place for prophetic evangelism throughout the industry.”

The Demon Buster

In her dual role as an apostle and prophetess, Daniels has served on the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders.  This group meets to make prophetic declarations about the future and has included such figures as Harry Jackson Jr., Cindy Jacobs, Sarah Palin’s mentor Mary Glazier, and Lou Engle.  Engle is known for co-founding TheCall events, used in 2008 to promote Proposition Eight in California and as a platform for supporters of the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda in 2010.

HILC_RollCall (1) (1)Kimberly Daniels and Harry Jackson Jr. spearheaded the fight against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2007 by targeting African American churches and pastors with claims that the bill was part of a homosexual “satanic agenda” to muzzle and perhaps even imprison pastors.  Their efforts included full-page newspaper ads (pictured left) in D.C. featuring Jackson and Daniels in the top photos of the left column. Jackson has been described in a report by  Americans United for Separation of Church and State as “point man for the wedge strategy” of “using attacks on gay rights and abortion as a wedge between African American churchgoers and their political allies in the civil rights and progressive communities.”  This strategy was revealed in a NOM document leaked in 2012, describing a plan “to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.”

Daniels and Jackson were interviewed on a popular evangelical show on Daystar TV, alongside their fellow “comrade in war” Cindy Jacobs, about their opposition to the hate crimes bill. The six-minute video (embedded below) jumps from the interview to short individual clips of Daniels, Jackson, Jacobs, and also Lou Engle and Che Ahn, in a documentation of their homophobic language and false claims that the hate crimes bill would result in the jailing of pastors for preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit. The compilation of clips was produced by Bruce Wilson, now with TWOCARE, when Daniels was running (and won) a city council seat in Jacksonville, Florida in 2011.

The video also includes short excerpts from a sermon in which Daniels embraces slavery as a Christianizing influence and claims that “Jews own everything.” It reveals glimpses of her brand of the prosperity doctrine, or the belief that God rewards those of proper faith with health and wealth.

Although Daniels won her city council seat as a Democrat, she authored an article in Charisma magazine in 2008 calling for black Christians to vote against Barack Obama.  Daniels is featured regularly in Charisma, which provides a forum for her claims that demons can be ingested by eating Halloween candy. Daniels has written numerous books, including one with a foreword by Diana Hagee, wife of controversial televangelist John Hagee, and another filled with prayers for use in repelling and expelling demons in all kinds of situations.

The spiritual warfare prayers in her book Prayers that Bring Change fall under headings such as “Prayer for Hollywood Entertainers” and “Prayer for Professional Athletes.”  The following are a few selected excerpts:

  • “I pray against all forms of perversion, sex, lust, and homosexuality that are sweeping through the Hollywood industry and professional athletics.”
  • “I bind the spirit of lesbianism, whoredom, and strange women and displace it with the anointing of the virtuous woman.  I command the gay men to become straight and the unfaithful brothers to repent and become mighty men of valor.”
  • “I renounce the witchcraft that comes with homosexuality/lesbianism.”
  • “Bless all the men and women who stand before the world as gatekeepers of the sports industry.”
  • “I pray that salvation will be made known to the people of Israel who do not believe the Messiah has come.”
  • “I break the control of all forms of ancient religions, philosophy, astronomy, divination, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, new age, and any other power that these secret organizations draw power and strength from.”

David Tyree also references his close relationship with Apostle Ardell Daniels, Kimberly Daniels husband.  Ardell Daniels is one of founding board members of the Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization fighting against a perceived Marxist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition.  In 2010, the Oak Initiative produced a short video titled “Marxism in America” featuring another board member, retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who claims in the video that the nation is in the grips of a Marxist takeover.

Apostle Frank Dupree

dupree and tyree (1)As recently as 2013, Transformation Newark magazine featured a double-page advertisement for David Tyree and Frank Duprée’s joint venture marketing health supplements, powders, and drinks for the Northeast region of Impax World products.  The ad, as seen, capitalizes on Tyree’s fame and his book authored with Kimberly Daniels.

Frank Duprée hosts a "solemn assembly" in Newark's City Hall in 2001, keynoted by Apostle John Kelly.  Kelly is now international head of the ICAL and Apostle Joseph Mattera is the U.S. overseer.

Frank Duprée hosts a “solemn assembly” in Newark’s City Hall in 2001, keynoted by Apostle John Kelly. Kelly is now international head of the ICAL and Apostle Joseph Mattera is the U.S. overseer.

Apostle Frank Duprée is also well connected in regional and national networks.  “Bishop Duprée,” as he is also called, is one of the founders of Transformation Newark and the Metro Apostolic Network in New Jersey and New York, with branches in Pakistan and Kenya. The Metro Apostolic Network council includes Apostle Joseph Mattera, recently named U.S. head of the International Coalition of Apostles. (The ICA also recently changed its name to the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders or ICAL.)  The ICAL is forming national networks of apostles in countries around the world.

Gatekeepers in the Sports Industry

Giant’s coach Tom Coughlin has described the position of director of player development, for which Tyree has been hired, as extremely important in football franchises. In Coughlin’s words, the job is to aid players in “their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city that they happen to be playing in.”  Tyree certainly has access to extensive and very interesting networks in the New York and New Jersey area.  He has repeatedly voiced his willingness to use his access and position to advance his worldview. Now, he can be one of those strategically placed “gatekeepers in the sports industry.”

According to the introduction to his autobiography, Tyree left a letter in each of his teammates’ lockers in September 2007. In the letter, he described himself as called by God to be a spiritual leader to remove the team out from under a “spiritual dark cloud.”  He wrote that God wanted to do great things with the team, but that it required faith in the Lord in order to win the championship.  He issued an invitation to the “First Team Fellowship/Bible Study” at his house.

Tyree continues the introduction by admitting that not many of his teammates took him up on his offer, but he still describes the Giants’ victory as “A Supernatural Bowl” (also the title of a chapter in the book).  The book includes a “Hall of Faith” of NFL players who also believe in a supernatural component to football, and that the faith required to tap into that supernatural power must be shared with their teammates.  A football-style prosperity doctrine is described in detail by Tyree and Daniels in the closing chapters of the book.

In his 2011 interview with NOM, Tyree said that athletes and believers who are in positions to do so should voice their opposition to gay marriage.  He added that believers are doing God an injustice if they don’t “make his heart known to the country.” “It’s not about establishing a theocracy,” Tyree continued. “It’s about what’s right.”

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Archbishop Tells Africa Homosexuality is a Human Rights Issue, Will American Culture War Exporters Listen?

During a working visit to Zambia on June 29, the head of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, showed true global leadership when he reportedly told Zambian journalists and Christians what they may not have wanted to hear. “Homosexuality is a global issue,” the Archbishop said. “We need to treat others with respect and dignity. It is a human rights issue… there is need to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Image via The Sun

For those who don’t know Archbishop Welby, he belongs to an Evangelical Wing of the Anglican Church, and is a highly respected leader in the evangelical community. In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I explain that unlike his predecessor, Rowan William, Archbishop Welby met with African leaders of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)—founded by American Conservatives opposed to LGBTQ advances in the Episcopal Church—on October 20, 2013,following the Westgate Mall bombing of September 2013, and again just before the official GAFCON (October 21-26) in Nairobi, Kenya. After leaving Kenya, he sent a video message to GAFCON participants explaining his absence at the conference. Part of his message addressed the issue of human sexuality. “We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one,” he told the participants. “How we respond rightly to that, in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious, is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel.” Anti-LGBTQ Archbishops of Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria and their counterparts in the United States—the very bishops U.S.-based pastor of Saddleback Church, Rick Warren, has long been working with in both African and here in the U.S. to promote and extend the culture wars—misinterpreted the Archbishop Welby’s words as endorsements of their anti-gay position.

This time, however, the Archbishop made it very clear—the issue of human sexuality is a human rights issue. His words attracted the attention of conservative pastors.

Addressing the local media, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, rebutted the Archbishop’s message and instead of heeding the calls for love and tolerance, encouraged sexual minorities to “cure” their homosexuality through prayers and counseling.

The Archbishop’s courageous words came at the time when Zambians were awaiting the ruling on a same-sex couple James Mwape and Phillip Mubiana, who were pulled from their home and arrested on charges of being homosexual in May, 2013. After spending over a year in jail, subjected to dehumanizing “medical tests” such as forced anal examinations by the state, the court finally ruled on July 3, 2014, that the state did not prove beyond doubt that Mwape and Mubiana had engaged in same-sex sexual relations.

James and Phillip’s acquittal also brought to the foreground what many Africans believe, thanks to the propaganda spread by U.S. conservatives who travel to their countries, that LGBTQ people are foreign to Africa.

“We, the Youths of Zambia Say No to Gay Rights,” and “Abash Homosexuality, —Leave Zambia,” were some of signs seen outside the courtroom the day of the acquittal. At the same time, the presence of family members of the couple—particularly Phillip’s grandmother, who courageously stood by her grandson—proved the Archbishop’s point, that persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is not a political issue; it is a moral issue; it is a human rights issue. It is time to stop playing politics with human lives. We all have the moral responsibility to stand up and be counted—gay rights are human rights! The Archbishop’s example is commendable, for religious leaders to hide behind diplomacy when human lives are being destroyed is a betrayal of our sacred calling.

Moreover, the persecution of LGBTQ persons in Africa is defended by the myth that they can somehow be “cured.” Alan Chambers, the American Evangelical leader who made his career claiming he could “cure” homosexuality, was one of the Speakers at the Evangelical Lausanne Conference in Cape Town in 2010, and whose presentation was later deleted from the Lausanne website. Yet although he later retracted his claims, and apologized for ever claiming that sexual orientation could be altered, African politicians and pastors are busy repeating these made-in-the-USA lies.

Let the sacred truth be said, LGBTQ persons are human beings with fundamental human rights to be protected and defended. To deny these rights is to dehumanize and harm ourselves. As the Archbishop said, this is a global issue, and it deserves a global response. As Africa’s problems multiply, LGBTQ persons have become the easiest scapegoat at political gatherings for African politicians eager to turn public attention away from issues of corruption or economic inequality. And some local religious leaders, who receive funding from these American culture warriors, then celebrate such demonization as courageous leadership.

Global religious institution such as the Anglican Communion and the Vatican need to speak out against such atrocities—failure to do so is to sanction the persecution and discrimination our fellow human beings, and a sin.

The Archbishop refused to separate our common humanity into camps—“us” (heterosexuals) and “them” (homosexuals). He did not say one thing in Africa, only to turn around and deny it to a Western audience (as did Saddleback pastor Rick Warren); he did not condemn the decriminalization of African sexual minorities to a Western audience only to allow local African clergy to support anti-LGBTQ legislation in Uganda and Nigeria (as the Vatican has done). He defended our common humanity, calling on all people to respect the dignity of every individual regardless of the person’s sexual orientation.

The story of the Good Samaritan is critical here. The Archbishop of Canterbury has done his part. Will Pope Francis, Bill Graham, and Rick Warren follow suit? I hope so!

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PRA’s Fred Clarkson Discusses Religious Liberty on Between The Lines Radio

PRA’s senior fellow, Frederick Clarkson, joined Between The Lines radio this week to discuss the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision, and the broader campaign to redefine religious liberty by the Religious Right.

Between the Lines“The greatest significance [of the Hobby Lobby ruling] is going to be over time. When a Supreme Court decision comes down, a body of federal case laws develop as a result… As a matter of religious belief, the Supreme Court has now said that a company can defy medical science, and get an exemption from federal law. That’s an extraordinary development.”

Clarkson goes on to explain how the Right is implementing not only a judicial and court campaign to redefine religious liberty, but are also using legislative and PR attacks in an effort to create the exemptions necessary for them to be able to dictate the religious consciences of individuals.

Click here to listen!

Check out more from Between The Lines here.

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Fred Religious Freedom Picture

PRA Discusses American Culture Warriors in Africa on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

PRA had the opportunity this last week to work with HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, discussing the U.S.-based conservative evangelicals who are responsible for exporting the culture wars to Uganda and other African nations. Watch it below!

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John Oliver

Confronting Hate: Addressing Violence Against LGBTQ and HIV-Affected Communities

While the mainstream LGBTQ rights movement made historic progress in 2013, LGBTQ and HIV-affected people around the country still face appalling rates of prejudice-fueled violence and discrimination. During 2013, Manhattan alone—from Harlem to Greenwich Village—saw multiple, brutal attacks on LGBTQ and HIV-affected residents. These incidents, as well as the broader struggles of LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities around the country, point to the complex nature of violence animated by bias and call attention to the enormous work yet to be done to ensure social justice for all people—across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other vectors of identity.

image via COLORLINES

image via COLORLINES

Recently, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) published its 2013 report, which documents and discusses hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. The findings underscore the ongoing challenges faced by these communities, and shows how violence continues to shape their lives in troubling and pervasive ways.

In the study, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2013,” the NCAVP used data reported from its 14 member organizations in cities around the country and analyzed 2,001 reported incidents of hate violence, or violence motivated by the victim’s identity status, whether perceived or actual, in 2013. From analysis of its person-level data, NCAVP found an increased rate of hate violence against individuals with intersecting marginalized identities.

For instance, the report found that transgender people of color, when compared to other LGBTQ or HIV-affected people, were more likely to experience physical violence from law enforcement; more likely to experience sexual violence; more likely to experience violence in shelters; more likely to experience discrimination, harassment, threats, and intimidation; and were more likely to require medical attention as a result of hate violence. LGBTQ and HIV-affected people of color, when compared to the rest of the report’s sample, were also more likely to experience physical violence, discrimination, threats and intimidation, police violence, and violence in the workplace and public areas.

Moreover, when LGBTQ people try to report incidents to the police, they often face indifferent (28.81 percent) or openly hostile (32.2 percent) responses. This means that in more than 60 percent of responses to hate violence, police were either indifferent or hostile—a particularly sobering aspect of this report.

Undocumented members of the LGBTQ and/or HIV-affected communities are also often vulnerable targets of hate violence, the report asserts. In fact, while undocumented people make up about 3 percent of the LGBTQ community in the United States, they represent about 8 percent of hate violence survivors. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, undocumented people were more likely to report incidents to police, which the report suggests may have to do with increased rates of hospitalization and increased outreach efforts in these communities. Still, undocumented people face particular challenges after experiencing violence, given the threat of arrest and deportation.

In its conclusion, the report calls upon policy makers and funders to “end the root causes” of hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people by ending poverty and discrimination. NCAVP urges these groups to use their resources and influence to increase public awareness of LGBTQ and HIV-affected issues, to denounce the culture of bias that produces hateful beliefs in individuals, to end police profiling of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people, to collect more data on these communities and their experiences with violence, and to increase funding for local and national violence prevention programs.

The Limits of Law Enforcement in Addressing “Hate” Violence

As the report’s discussion of law enforcement begins to suggest, LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities must navigate a fraught and complicated struggle in trying to live free from violence. For one, while law enforcement officials may ostensibly seek to establish safer communities, definitions of safety and security, and even of who “counts” as a member of the community, are often guided by dominant narratives and structures that are related to these “root causes” of hate violence. It is no accident that the report finds that cisgender white males were most likely to report hate violence and most likely to get a favorable police reaction.

The ability of the police and FBI to reduce, rather than exacerbate, violence is further called into question by the militarization of local police departments, which has been prominently documented by the ACLU.  It’s in large part a symptom of our fearful post-9/11 world, particularly among security professionals. Even the FBI’s principal defense of its hate crime policy invokes the specter of domestic terrorism:

“Investigating hate crime is the number one priority of our Civil Rights Program. Why? Not only because hate crime has a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country.”

The FBI’s numbers regarding instances of hate violence are also far below those of NCAVP’s reporting, even considering the fact NCAVP’s reports include instances of violence that are not reported to law enforcement agencies, local or federal. The difference is so stark—a discrepancy of 600 survivors or victims, with the federal numbers about 68 percent below NCAVP’s—that the report calls them “disconcerting.”   As the report states,

“Federal hate crime reporting guidelines require that a hate crime be classified as motivated by a single type of bias. Therefore, a hate incident which was motivated by racism and homophobia would be reported as motivated by race or sexual orientation, which fails to demonstrate and address the multiple forms of bias involved.”

This single-bias requirement isn’t just a harmless bureaucratic restriction, it’s a sign of an ideological shortsightedness regarding the relationship between prejudice and violence. This procedural shortcoming is evidence that the intersectional and systemic components of violence against the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities are at best considered inconsequential, and at worst unintelligible or not understandable, to the lens of law enforcement.

How are we to proactively address the root causes of homophobic, transphobic, racist, and sexist violence if the very institutions that promise to ensure physical security are stuck in a narrative of self-defense that requires its own “war” on crime and terrorism? Ultimately, the struggle for social justice and the holistic, subtle and violence-free vision that it requires is not the same struggle that criminal justice and law enforcement institutions are waging in their efforts to “combat” crime and terrorism.

Overall, all of these challenges suggest that the frame of “hate violence” is at best a limited one.  Kay Whitlock (whose 2012 discussion paper for PRA heavily influenced the framework of this blog post) talks about how the concept of “hate crimes” is arguably counter-effective in stopping violence against people with marginalized identities. She notes that the concept of “hate” cloaks the offender with a “fringe,” “extremist,” or outsider connotation, releasing them from any connection to “mainstream political, economic, social and religious institutions who seek to maintain traditional hierarchies of power.” Moreover, the “crime frame,” associated with the related term, “hate crime,” treats deviant or unacceptably violent behavior as psychologically, rather than historically, constituted. In this framework such activity is likely to be perpetrated by the very marginalized or “criminalized” populations who are supposed to benefit from hate crime laws, and renders rule breaking as addressable only by punitive measures and an increasingly reprehensible prison-industrial complex .

Instead, Whitlock urges us, if we really want to address the root causes of what the report calls “hate violence” against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, we must transcend the dominant narratives and approaches to security, the misleading label of “hate,” and the seemingly localized instances of and merely punitive responses to violence. As the report suggests, let’s work to dismantle “the homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic culture that fuels violence,” work to change police and criminal justice responses away from the punitive and towards the regenerative, and increase our efforts to provide local, safe, educational spaces in which to propel our society forward towards an inclusive justice.

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RELEASE: Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma Applauds Obama Admin Sanctions on Anti-LGBTQ Ugandan Leaders

BOSTON, 6/19/14 – After the Obama administration announced new sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda on Thursday, PRA applauds the plan for targeted sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Uganda, including persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
From the administration’s press release:

Today, we are announcing several additional steps. Specifically, the Department of State is taking measures to prevent entry into the United States by certain Ugandan officials involved in serious human rights abuses, including against LGBT individuals. In addition, the United States will take steps, consistent with current authorities, to prevent entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.

“This is a wonderful first step,” says Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, whose groundbreaking research first brought global attention to the American right-wing religious groups behind Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. “While we await the details of the State Department’s plan, we have been a critic of blanket sanctions on Uganda and support approaches that target the leaders most responsible for human rights violations. But this action must  be expanded. Uganda is not the only African nation with life-threatening human rights violations being passed by governments. We hope to continue working with the State Department to create similar sanctions against leaders in Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon, and other nations.”

“What we need to be careful about,” added Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of PRA, “is about falling into the trap of thinking this is a problem happening exclusively across the ocean in Africa. The exportation of homophobia and sexism comes from U.S.-based conservatives, and we would like to see the U.S. government take a closer look at American culture warriors like Scott Lively, Rick Warren, Lou Engle, and Sharon Slater, who are just as much responsible for these massive human rights violations against sexual minorities and reproductive autonomy as their African allies are.While one of them, Scott Lively, is going to trial for crimes against humanity, most have not been held accountable.”

It is not yet known which anti-LGBTQ political and religious leaders in Uganda will face the sanctions, but PRA is encouraging the State Department to include:

  • MP David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Pastor Martin Ssempa, who was instrumental in garnering support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act, including its original form which called for the death penalty for LGBTQ people
  • Stephen Langa, leader of the Family Life Network, who hosted the infamous 2009 anti-homosexuality conference in Kampala which featured U.S. Pastor Scott Lively
  • Gary Skinner, who used his position at Wototo church to host meetings with members of parliament to build support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act
  • Julius Oyet, who served on a 2009 task force to raise funding for anti-LGBTQ programs at the behest of MP David Bahati

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma is the senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates, and the author of Globalizing the Culture Wars, and Colonizing African Values (the primary research reports which exposed U.S. conservative influence and involvement in anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive freedom initiatives in Africa). He is also the author of the new book American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.

Kaoma is also featured in the award-winning documentary, God Loves Uganda.

Relevant Links: 
Globalizing the Culture Wars:

American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism:

Exclusive undercover video of Scott Lively in Uganda:

About PRA:
Political Research Associates is a social justice think tank based in Boston, MA, devoted to supporting movements that build a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.
Media Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300 ext 19

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In Post-Hobby Lobby Era, Rick Warren Says He Is Willing to Go to Jail

Depending on the outcome of the soon-to-be-announced U.S. Supreme Court decision in the historic Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case, maybe someday they’ll call it The Day Religious Liberty Died — or Survived. While confident of legal victory, megachurch Pastor Rick Warren and other Christian Right leaders announced at a recent forum that they are committed to going to jail if their version of religious liberty isn’t upheld in this case—and forevermore in an ever expanding horizon of evangelical prerogative.

As we recently discussed here at PRA, the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores owned by the conservative evangelical Green family, many concerned conservative Christian groups, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) believe that the government’s requirement that contraceptives be included in employer insurance packages is a violation of their religious freedom under the First Amendment. Whether a secular, commercial entity like Hobby Lobby has religious rights under the First Amendment is one of the many implications of this case.

Rick Warren tells a Southern Baptist Convention audience he's willing to go to jail over his inaccurate interpretation of religious liberty

Rick Warren tells a Southern Baptist Convention audience he’s willing to go to jail over his inaccurate interpretation of religious liberty

The recent “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty” panel, hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), offered a preview of the framing the Christian Right will be bringing to the religious liberty theme in the post-Hobby Lobby era.  (The ERLC has a transcript) None of the panelists were lawyers, so they brought a different, but nevertheless significant, viewpoint to the subject. Rick Warren was joined by Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), David Platt of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, and ERLC officers Russell Moore and Philip Bethancourt.

The panel is notable because the discussion was marked by frequent political hyperbole and paranoia.  While in many ways, this is characteristic of the style and substance of much of the public policy approach of the Religious Right, that the panel was prominently featured by the SBC as the kick-off of their annual meeting brought a religious gravitas of leading SBC figures (and the non-Baptist Rodriguez) to the matter. Indeed, panelists made a point of insisting that the matter of religious freedom was first a religious issue, and not merely political or even legal.

Even though ERLC president Moore says he is confident Hobby Lobby will win their case, the panelists nevertheless agreed that Christians, and all people of faith, face creeping governmental “persecution.” The Hobby Lobby case, Pratt claimed, awakened some Christians to this, but more need to see it. “They need to know it’s coming,” he said. “It’s going to affect every person in every profession in the church.”

According to Warren, personal sacrifices will be necessary in the face of this persecution. “And,” Warren declared, invoking Martin Luther King, the matter of religious freedom “may take some pastors going to jail. I’m in. I willingly said it, I’m in.”

Platt added, “I hear Pastor Rick say, ‘I’m in,’ and I’m with you.  And I want to raise up an army, an entire body of members that says, ‘I’m in,’ who are in regardless of what happens in this case.”

While Warren and Platt were claiming that they were willing to go to jail in defense of their notions of religious freedom, Russell Moore said, “I’m doing everything we can to keep out us out of jail, but there is one thing worse than going to jail.  And that is staying out of jail and sacrificing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Samuel Rodriguez also invoked Martin Luther King Jr. in his remarks, and compared the contemporary debates about the meaning of religious freedom to the African American Civil Rights movement. “While ending racial inequality emerged as the civil rights issue of the 20th century,” he declared, “religious liberty will be the civil rights issue of the next decade” and for that matter, “of the 21st century.”

“Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity,” Rodriguez continued.  And, reflecting the kind of political paranoia that so infects conservative Christian leaders in this area, he concluded “The firewall against secular totalitarianism is religious liberty and religious pluralism.”

This point is worth highlighting. Rodriguez’s claim about “secular totalitarianism” notwithstanding, many religious organizations’ idea of religious freedom and religious pluralism are quite the opposite, and based on the notion of secular government and the Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state that seeks to protect the rights of all. These religious groups, including major bodies of mainline Protestantism and Judaism, see no risk of “secular totalitarianism” in the Affordable Care Act or any of its provisions.  Numerous religious groups, including the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, observed in an Amicus Curiae brief filed in the Hobby Lobby case that “Not only do different religious leaders have different views about contraception, but attitudes about contraception vary even within individual religious denominations.”

Indeed, if Hobby Lobby prevails as the panelists hope, the owners of secular corporations would be able to impose their personal religious beliefs on their employees in matters far beyond just insurance coverage. According to the brief, this means that “employees would find it more difficult to make personal decisions about healthcare and contraception in accordance with their own consciences.  Those effects would be especially pervasive because most Americans receive their health insurance as part of their employment compensation.”

That hardly seems like creeping secular totalitarianism, especially coming from scores of religious organizations representing many millions of members.  And yet this false framing of versions of secular totalitarianism vs. religious freedom will likely be one of the major elements of the debate going forward.

Also significant is how the Christian Right is seeking to avoid coming across as hateful, while still sustaining their anti-LGBTQ politics. According to Rodriguez, part of their solution is an attempt to adopt traditionally progressive language, branding his and Warren’s inaccurate version of religious liberty as the Civil Rights movement of the day. When the moderator asked whether equal rights for LGBTQ people were more important than religious liberty, Rodriguez invoked his Imago Dei Campaign, (his softer-language campaign which we have previously written about here at PRA).

Rodriguez and his Imago Dei colleagues Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family insist on denying equality under the law to LGBTQ people (whom they also claim to love and respect), and that advocacy for civil rights for all is in effect, an effort to silence, or persecute Christians. Here is what Rodriguez said on the panel:

“And right now popular culture is saying, popular culture is saying if you believe a marriage is an institution ordained by God as a sacred union between one man and one woman, you are in a de facto if not in a de jure manner, homophobic. That is the attempt to silence the voice of Biblical truth. That’s why today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity. I do believe religious liberty is a greater civil rights issue than the LGBT agenda or drive for those rights. As Christians, we need to repudiate all vestiges of homophobia, without a doubt. We need to recognize the image of God in every single human being but we should never ever under any circumstance water down the Gospel or sacrifice truth on the altar of political or cultural expediency; our job it not to put smiles on people’s faces. It is to make sure they get crowns on their heads. It is to make sure people are saved and they recognize Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Any questions?

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Exploiting the Fear of Exploitation: The Truth Behind the Right’s Resistance to Human Trafficking

Here in the United States, rainbow flags are being unfurled across the country in honor of LGBT Pride Month. Meanwhile, in Brazil, fans from around the world are eagerly waving the flags of their countries and favorite teams in anticipation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Beyond the flag-waving and weeks of revelry, there may seem to be few connections between the two events, but the U.S. Christian Right will be tracking the events in both San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro very closely.

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As with many major sporting events, preparations for the World Cup have been accompanied by lots of media hype about the supposed surge in sex trafficking that plagues these gatherings. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has claimed that the Super Bowl (featuring the other football) is the single largest sex trafficking incident in the United States. At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about trafficking and sports events held on January 27, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) cited a popular statistic from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, claiming that 10,000 prostitutes were transported to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl.

Yet when questioned, researchers at the Center admit that they have no idea how Ernie Allen, the organization’s former president, derived the number. In fact, in a 2011 report examining the record on sex trafficking related to World Cup soccer games, the Olympics, and the Super Bowl, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women found that “despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.”

So what is the relationship between quests for athletic glory and hyperbolic increases in human trafficking? In short, the Christian Right has identified the fight against human trafficking as an un-opposable mission by which it can covertly promote restrictive ideologies pertaining to sexuality and bodily autonomy. While they purport to be nobly fighting the exploitation of young children and poor, defenseless women, Christian Right groups advance a surreptitious attack on some of the their favorite scapegoats: LGBTQ people – especially transgender women of color, who are disproportionately targeted by police and “anti-trafficking” efforts.

Consider Project ROSE, a “prostitution diversion” program jointly developed by 15 partner organizations, including the Phoenix Police Department, Arizona State University School of Social Work, and Catholic Charities (its primary funding source). During bi-annual stings, Project ROSE profiles and arrests suspected sex workers, forcing them into faith-based programs without due process or a conviction. Participants who don’t qualify (as was the case with Monica Jones) or refuse to participate in the program, are transferred directly into the criminal punishment system.

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In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this year, Kate Mogulescu, the supervising attorney of a project at the Legal Aid Society that represents nearly all of the people arrested on prostitution charges in New York City, documented a massive increase in prostitution-related arrests in the lead-up to the 2014 Seattle/Denver Super Bowl showdown. But by the end of the weekend, not a single trafficker had been investigated or prosecuted. Ultimately, the anti-trafficking frenzy hurt the very people that advocates claimed to be protecting. Hundreds of sex workers–who are already vulnerable–found themselves facing jail time, potential deportation, warrants for failure to appear in court, and lifelong criminal records. As Mogulescu observes, “These arrests are not indications of an increase in prostitution activity, but rather of an increase in policing.”

Certainly, the abuse, manipulation, and exploitation of others is unacceptable in any context, and should be confronted and stopped. Yet conservative religious groups, lobbyists, and legislators have done little to curb the harmful elements of the sex trade. Rather, they use anti-trafficking policies to maintain a righteous “tough on crime” image while ignoring the broader systemic issues that put people at risk for exploitation in the first place. The Right’s focus on sex trafficking has far more to do with restricting individuals’ bodily autonomy—and maintaining the poverty-induced subservience of already marginalized people—than with ending the exploitation of vulnerable populations.

As feminist scholar and activist Emi Koyama observes, the youth sex trade is fueled by a variety of “push” and “pull” factors independent of religious morality or women’s empowerment, including poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia/transphobia, family violence, failure of the child welfare system, and the effects of incarceration and deportation on family cohesion. To be truly effective, efforts to combat sex trafficking and its associated human rights violations must be developed in partnership with sex workers and their allies. As Koyama points out, it is “workers organizing among themselves that [has] successfully challenged and transformed exploitative and abusive working conditions, not police officers or politicians.” (Or, I might add, the Christian Right.)

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Meet Seyoum Antonios, Ethiopia’s Martin Ssempa

In American Culture Warriors in Africa, I argue that the U.S. culture warriors in Africa are a diverse group. At the individual level, they range from Massachusetts’ Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist, to mainstream figures like California’s Rick

Seyoum Antonios

Seyoum Antonios

Warren, a megachurch pastor and best-selling author. Some are longtime leaders of the Christian Right, recycling old arguments for a new audience in the Global South, while others are relative newcomers to the national and international arena of culture-war politics. Institutionally, they range from small organizations, like Sharon Slater’s Family Watch International, to large and well-funded organizations with global affiliates, such as Focus on the Family and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Yet the role of parachurch organizations, such as World Vision and Campus Crusade for Christ, is often overlooked, even as these groups are run by individuals who are allies of key culture war-exporters and African preachers of hate.

In January 2013, Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored the “Pamoja III” conference in Lagos, Nigeria, which drew thousands of attendees. There, Dr. Seyoum Antonios was introduced by Bekele Shanko of the Campus Crusade for Christ, and he gave a presentation on the international “gay agenda.” As has become a standard for these persecutors of sexual minorities and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), Antonios criticized and blamed Western influence (for the existence of sexual minorities in Africa), while hiding the fact that his entire presentation was based on U.S. conservatives’ talking points.

Halfway through Antonios’ presentation, he shared a video clip promoting a meeting he had previously organized in Ethiopia, which he claimed was attended by over 2,000 people. According to Antonios, the audience included government officials and religious leaders from the Evangelical Fellowship, the Ethiopia Orthodox Church, the Islamic Affairs Council, and the Roman Catholic Church—among other organizations. In the video clip, Antonios could be seen telling the audience that homosexuality is the “pinnacle of immorality” and claims that the international “gay agenda”—which Antonios declares has taken over the whole world—is now attempting to claim Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa. He then told his audience in Nigeria that they should stand firm against this agenda:

“Ethiopia shall be the graveyard for homosexuality, not its bleeding ground. Ethiopia shall be the place where people from all other nations will be coming to—seeking healing from their homosexual life styles. Ethiopia shall present itself again as the beacon of hope and an emblem of freedom, by leading the fight against homosexuality in the continent of Africa—making Africa also the graveyard of homosexuality.”

Antonios’ presentation rejected LGBTQ rights as human rights—just as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church did in 2008, while visiting Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya. Like notoriously anti-gay Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, as well as U.S. conservatives like Lively, Antonios warned his audience that gays were planning to take over Africa through the promotion of sexual immorality. Antonios may not be as charismatic as Ssempa or Scott Lively, but his Powerpoint presentation—filled with pornographic photos of gay sex and claims that “gays put on diapers for life” and “enjoy eating feces”—are almost identical to the ways Ssempa manipulates his audiences into a dangerous frenzy.

Also like Ssempa, Antonios presented LGBTQ persons in Africa as Western infiltrators who are working with foreign governments to impose homosexuality on Africa. He does not shy away from calling for the destruction of gays, while also promoting the myth that homosexuality can be “cured.”

But the persecution of African sexual minorities was not the only set of talking points Antonios borrowed from U.S. conservatives and Ssempa. He concluded his presentation by discussing women’s reproductive rights and abortion—again parroting U.S. Christian Right talking points. Mirroring language of the U.S. personhood movement, Antonios claimed that life begins on conception and showed graphic pictures of fetuses to further inflame his audience. Like his American right-wing counterparts, his message was simple: women’s reproductive and bodily autonomy is not a human right.

Many evangelical leaders seek to paint Antonios as a fringe element or outcast within the evangelical leadership, but that is not the case. Antonios was among those who gathered for the 2010 Lausanne Conference—the gathering of world evangelical religious leaders in Cape Town, South Africa—where American conservatives associated with the Exodus Global Alliance and the now-defunct Exodus International presented papers on homosexuality. He was even quoted by The Guardian newspaper in their coverage of the conference.

The partnership between Campus Crusade for Christ, Advocate International, and Alliance Defending Freedom in African sexual politics is just one among many networks of U.S. conservatives using their power to police sexuality around the globe. U.S. evangelical leaders’ claims that they do not share the views of these dangerous opponents sexual minorities and women should translate into official denouncements, but just as World Vision has found it hard to reject religiously based homophobia both at home and in Africa, well-meaning evangelical leaders have failed to officially condemn people like Antonios.

As my friend and Political Research Associate fellow Victor Mukasa has been known to say, “Homophobia kills, but so does silence.”

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RELEASE: Rick Warren’s Return to Africa a “Grave Threat to Human Rights”

What will rick warren preach about lgbtq people this time?

Since being publicly shamed into denouncing the African anti-LGBTQ laws he helped create, Pastor Rick Warren of the California-based Saddleback Church has quietly continued to expand the international reach of his conservative attacks on LGBTQ people and reproductive freedom. In an email to supporters this week, Warren announced that he will return to Africa yet again to host an “All-Africa Purpose Driven Church Leadership Training Conference” in Rwanda next year, and is calling for African evangelicals from around the continent to join him.

Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, PRA’s senior researcher and the author of American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism, says the U.S. conservative’s trip is significant, given his strong attempts to distance himself from the international outcry over African legislation such as the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill–which grew out of the U.S.-style culture war theology Warren has been spreading in Africa.

Warren’s influence in Rwanda is especially strong given his close ties to President Paul Kagame, who has been accused of numerous human rights violations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others. Warren sits on the Presidential Advisory Committee and has hosted Kagame as a guest of honor at Saddleback’s main campus in Lake Forest, CA.

“What will Rick Warren preach about LGBTQ persons this time?” Kaoma and PRA demand to know. “Many of the African leaders at the forefront of persecuting LGBTQ people and criminalizing women’s bodily autonomy on the continent have been trained by right-wing U.S. evangelicals. This planned training for African religious leaders represents a grave threat to human rights on the African continent.”

In American Culture Warriors in Africa, Kaoma and PRA profile Warren (and many other American culture warriors involved in the effort overseas), saying:

Warren travels extensively in Africa as part of his HIV/AIDS ministry, taking his right-wing agenda with him. He has partnered with anti-LGBTI African Anglican bishops, including … Henry Luke Orombi, as well as Martin Ssempa, an aggressively anti-LGBTI pastor in Uganda.
In 2008, Warren announced a “Purpose Driven Living” campaign in Uganda. His website reported that the 2008 visit to Uganda “resulted in a self-sustaining, grass-roots coalition connecting government, business and church leaders in an unprecedented way.” … He also said of homosexuality that it is unnatural and “we shall not tolerate this aspect at all.” When Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009 (with its death penalty provision), Warren initially refused to oppose it. Under intense pressure, he eventually reversed his position.

More details on the book can be found here:

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