Uganda’s New Anti-Gay Law A Copy of U.S. Right-Backed Laws in Russia/Nigeria

Reports of the new anti-gay bill—“Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill of 2014” being considered in Uganda have caught the world unaware. Supporters of Uganda’s LGBTQ community had hoped that the Uganda court’s striking down of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA, formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill”), as well as president Yoweri Museveni’s subsequent meetings with President Obama at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, had buried the tide of anti-LGBTQ persecution in Uganda. But, then the news came—the new bill is in the pipeline. Unlike the “Kill the Gays” proposal, this new potential law is a virtual copy of the recently-passed anti-gay laws in Russia and Nigeria banning recruiting into, or “promotion” of homosexuality—all guided by U.S. exporters of homophobia and sexism.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni

The new proposed law is a response to international outrage to both the death penalty and life imprisonment for homosexuality previously proposed by the country’s parliament. By tailoring down the punishment for being an LGBTQ person to 5-7 years imprisonment, the authors hope to appear more moderate and assuage some of the international outrage of their treatment of sexual minorities.

But while this new proposal is sure to draw continued (and deserved) international headlines, the Western world’s near-exclusive focus on Uganda, while ignoring identical legislation in countries like Nigeria, have left the African social justice community vulnerable to anti-gay activists. How are we, as fair-minded people, going to oppose Uganda’s latest anti-gay legislation, when the international opposition to Nigeria has been tame at best? And after the bill (likely) becomes law, there is little question that we should expect similar bills to quickly follow in many other African countries.

Following the international community’s threats of trade sanctions over the original Anti-Homosexuality Act, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni appeared to be stepping down his opposition to LGBTQ people, asking his followers to take it easy due to its impact on the national economy. But this apparent easing of his positions has quickly become transparent as little more than lip-service, when last month he oversaw the consecration of the Bishop Alfred Acur Okodi as the first Anglican Church of Uganda Bishop of West Lango in Uganda—he even donated a brand new SUV to Okodi. During his consecration, Bishop Okodi “pledged a relentless fight against homosexuality,” and argued that the court’s striking down of the Anti-Homosexuality Act “only serves to clarify that the problem is beyond political solution and it’s a spiritual problem that calls for a spiritual solution.”

The global social justice community must understand that Museveni himself is now devoid of virtually all political power on this issue. The Anti-Homosexuality Act was struck down on technical basis—the parliament did not meet its required quorum of members present during the vote—only, and not because of the merits of the law. To the anti-gay community, this problem can be resolved easily by taking the bill back to parliament or simply introducing a new bill since they have more than enough votes to pass it.

Museveni knows he must downplay any anti-gay laws if he is to keep up economic relations with the rest of the world, but at the same time, his backing away from the laws doesn’t play well with the local electorate who have been whipped into an anti-LGBTQ frenzy by the Religious Right. Museveni has been in power in Uganda for the last 28 years, but things are rapidly changing. Museveni needs the support of religious leaders in order to win the next election, but he also needs the international community, especially the United States, to legitimize his dictatorial hold on power. To please both groups—the electorate controlled by anti-gay pastors like Martin Ssempa and the international community—is a fine line to walk.

In this regard, the new bill could work to his advantage by being virtually identical to the new law in Nigeria—which raised almost no international consternation.

In his letter to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (the real power in Uganda at this point) in December last year, Museveni explained that while he opposes the AHA, he nevertheless agreed with anti-gay activists when it comes to barring so-called “promotion,” defined as any mention whatsoever of homosexuality in a positive light in public. This bill, Museveni is likely to argue, fits into the U.S. Right’s narrative that gays are out to recruit children into homosexuality.

Museveni may want to play good politics here. But how is he going to please religious leaders (who are crucial to his hold on power), with their close ties to, and funding from, the U.S. conservative Evangelicals who were behind the creation of the “Kill the Gays” law?

Museveni may wish to veto the new anti-gay law when the Parliament inevitably passes it again—as they have pledged to do—in order to save face with the international community, and preserve the approximately $118 Million the African nation reserves in foreign aid from various Western countries. But even if he were to do so, the Parliament could easily override the veto by simply passing the bill two more times. Museveni has been backed into a no-win political corner, as he would be blamed for the loss of foreign aid if he signs the bill intolaw, but if he vetoes the (sadly) popular anti-gay legislation and is overridden by the Parliament, it would be the final nail in the coffin of his political career.

Regardless of how much he wants to present himself as a moderate to the international community, Museveni does not have the power to stop the anti-gay bill from becoming.

So what is to be done?

The anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has boiled up to the tipping point in Uganda, Nigeria, the Gambia, and so many other African countries is not native to Africa. Rather, as I discuss in American Culture Warriors in Africa, it was born in the United States. U.S conservative culture warriors such as Rick Warren, Lou Engle, Scott Lively, Sharon Slater, and others have successfully capitalized on the widespread anger and mistrust of all things Western in African nations after decades of colonization by Western governments—infiltrating local communities to export their anti-LGBTQ and anti-sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) views in the name of religion. They have also defined Western LGBTQ people as straw men villains, who these U.S. conservatives are there to “warn” Africans about—feeding off of existing prejudices against anything Western while simultaneously neo-colonializing Africa’s values with their own Western anti-human right prejudices.

Spreading imagined and fictitious stories of Western gays infiltrating African schools and recruiting and abusing African children into “gay lifestyles” has fruitfully turned many Africans to U.S. conservative causes. And providing local religious and political leaders with funding and connections has won these U.S. conservatives a powerful crop of talking heads and decision makers who are all too willing to further the homophobic and sexist policies to please their new benefactors.

Local LGBTQ organizations that are on the ground and working day and night to educate and change hearts throughout Africa are fully capable of turning this trend around, if only the spigot of U.S.-based anti-LGBTQ and anti-women money, resources, and talking points were turned off.

While Western people of conscience should indeed take heart at the temporary push-back of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, it is imperative to triple our efforts to shed light and bring to justice the culture warriors who live in our own backyard. The only path to safety and equality for the African LGBTQ community is for Americans to stop the source of this evil where it lives, and allowing the African LGBTQ activist communities to work for change in their countries without the exportation of the culture wars from the U.S.

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Conversion Therapy: A Bigger Threat to Africa Than Scott Lively

Conversion therapy, also known as ex-gay or reparative therapy, is the biggest obstacle to LGBTQ liberation in Africa. An idea promoted heavily in African nations by U.S. conservative Evangelicals who hold tremendous power and sway, many African Christians have bought into the thoroughly debunked belief that through counseling, a person’s innate sexual orientation can somehow be altered or modified.

The exportation of these pseudoscientific claims began as early as 1998, during the Lambeth conference for Anglican Bishops. At the conference, African leaders were told that there is a cure to homosexuality. Bishop Wilson Mutebi of Uganda later recounted “We met some people [at Lambeth] who were healed of homosexuality. They testified how they were healed. Some of them are now married.”

Over the years, despite there being no documented cases of conversion therapy actually succeeding (former participants in these programs say they were only taught to change behavior, and their sexual orientation still remains the same), this argument has become a popular talking point for anti-LGBTQ political and faith leaders in Africa. In March of 2009, at the infamous “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda”—also known as the “Kill the Gays” conference—Ugandans heard claims about conversion therapy’s success. The Uganda-based Family Life Network, self-styled anti-gay crusader (and Holocaust revisionist) Scott Lively, Don Schmierer of the since-disbanded “ex-gay” group Exodus International, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of the International Healing Foundation taught Ugandans that homosexuality is learned behavior and can be “cured.”

This group of mostly American conservatives promoted not only the conversion therapy claims of Scott Lively’s book, The Pink Swastika—which also claims Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were actually “monster” homosexuals—but also Richard A. Cohen’s book, Coming Out Straight. Cohen is the founder and executive director emeritus of the International Healing Foundation, which advocates conversion therapy. There was no mention that the conversion therapy claims they were promoting have been thoroughly discredited by the scientific, psychological, and medical community, but instead were presented as scientific fact.

The influence of Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge’s words was apparent only a week later, at a strategic meeting titled “Combating Homosexuality in Uganda,” where political leaders—including representatives of the Uganda Parliament—said that thanks to the American’s words at the conference, they now knew that LGBTQ people could be changed. Harry Mwebesa—also of Family Life Network—told the audience that he knew that “some gays” were present at the meeting. Looking directly at members of the group Sexual Minorities Uganda, which included prominent Ugandan LGBTQ activist David Kato—who was later murdered in what human rights groups believe was a hate crime—Mwebesa said “We don’t hate you, but we want to help you.”

The “ex-gay” movement may be fizzling out in the United States, as more and more people and even state legislatures continue to disavow it as little more than a scam, but across other areas of the globe, particularly in countries where U.S. culture warriors are working hard to stir up anti-LGBTQ sentiments and policies, it remains the basis for the criminalization of sexual minorities. Alan Chambers’ Exodus International may now be defunct, but organizations such as Exodus Global Alliance, the International Healing Foundation, and Desert Streams still pose serious threats to the welfare of LGBTQ persons in Africa.

Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Cape Town, South Africa, 2010

Sadly, the so-called “ex-gay movement” has found a home in global evangelicalism. In October, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa, 4,000 global evangelical leaders from 198 countries convened for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization—the biggest gathering of global evangelical leaders in modern history. Among the attendees were members of Exodus Global Alliance (EGA), a network of “ex-gay” groups. The Alliance was tasked with leading a discussion on “Sexuality, Truth, and Grace.” In its presentations, EGA argued that “compassionate” conversion therapy and prayers for LGBTQ people were the best approaches to homosexuality.

The plea to “help gays escape” homosexuality is perhaps the most commonly repeated mantra across the African continent. From vicious anti-LGBTQ figures such as Martin Ssempa of Uganda, to ostensibly more respectable evangelical leaders such as Rev. Pukuta Mwanza (Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia), religious leaders endorse prayers and counseling as an answer to homosexuality. Despite the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion) telling Zambians that homosexuality is a global and human rights issue, Rev. Mwanza (who spoke afterwards) asked LGBTQ persons to seek “spiritual help and prayers” from the Church. In his judgment, the church is the hospital for African gays—if they accept to be “cured.”

This characterization of LGBTQ people as “sick” and in need of healing is also used to jail those who are perceived to be “against the cure.” Anti-LGBTQ leaders argue that allowing sexual minorities to live among the public will not only pollute the social life of communities, but also pose a risk to public health and must be forced into therapy, locked up, and/or forced to live in exile. “The choice is theirs!”

Worse still, based on the conviction of the validity of reparative therapy bolstered by U.S. conservative evangelical talking points, some advocate policies that outlaw homosexuality and even allow forced therapy.

On the surface, the ex-gay movement appears to be kind, gentle, and even compassionate. But its ultimate goal is the same as that of U.S. Christian Right leaders—to oppose the human rights of sexual minorities. While the movement operates under the facade of “Christian compassion,” such compassion perpetuates homophobia and the persecution and criminalization of African sexual minorities.

The American Psychological Association has made clear that homosexuality is not a disorder and warns that trying to “cure” it can lead to “intimacy avoidance, sexual dysfunction, depression, and suicidality.” Exodus International president Alan Chambers denounced the idea of a “cure” for homosexuality. But Exodus International (despite what the name may suggest) was only the U.S. arm of a global network. Exodus Global Alliance, the umbrella group for Exodus affiliates all over the world, continues to push the harmful idea that “change is possible.” John Paulk, one of the leading poster boys for “ex-gays,” who appeared on the cover of Newsweek and in a national ad campaign touting his “change,” disavowed conversion therapy in the April 2013 issue of Proud Queer Monthly saying, “Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.”

Nevertheless, the claim that gays can and should be “healed” is repeated by Archbishop Henry Orombi, Martin Ssempa of Uganda, Seyoum Antonios of Ethiopia, Peter Akinola of Nigeria, and countless other politicians and religious leaders across Africa. As the world seeks to stamp out homophobia, there is a need to stop the “ex-gay” movement’s unmatched influence across the globe. Failure to do so will allow the exporters of the U.S. culture wars to continue to undermine the human rights of sexual minorities while hiding behind the veneer of “Christian compassion.”

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Museveni Plays Politics with Human Rights

On Friday, Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) on procedural grounds, ruling that it was invalid because Parliament lacked a quorum when it passed the legislation on December 20, 2013. (In Uganda’s Parliament, a quorum requires that at least one third of members are present when a vote is held.) Thanks to this decision, LGBTI Ugandans no longer face the risk of life imprisonment, and advocacy for LGBTI rights is no longer criminalized. While this ruling is a significant victory for Uganda’s LGBTI community, the road forward remains rocky and steep. And the timing of the decision raises concerns that President Museveni is once again playing politics with human rights.

It’s ironic that the court struck down the law based on an issue that President Museveni himself raised in his letter to Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on December 28, 2013—the very letter that led many people to the incorrect conclusion that Museveni would not sign the bill into law. Despite his criticism of the Speaker, succession struggles in his own party compelled Museveni to sign the bill—making him the hero of Uganda’s highly influential anti-gay pastors.

With the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in D.C happening this week (an event that Museveni is expected to attend, despite significant outcry from international human rights advocates), the timing of the court’s ruling should be viewed with suspicion. Some analysts claim that Museveni forced the courts to rush this ruling in time for his U.S. trip.

Quite probably, Friday’s ruling is Museveni’s attempt to silence the international outrage that has been directed against him and his country since he signed the AHA into law in February. Beyond that, it is an attempt to clear his path to yet another term as president. (He has already been in power for 28 years.) Since Uganda’s opposition candidates have condemned the law, this ruling works to the advantage of Museveni at home as well as internationally, allowing embargoed aid from the World Bank, the U.S., and other Western nations (approximately $118 million in total) to resume its flow into the country’s coffers.

The Court did not consider substantive objections to the legislation made by those challenging its constitutionality, ruling only on the technical issue of the quorum. That is, the ruling establishes no precedent with respect to human rights. The legislation could potentially be reintroduced. However, Museveni understands the cost of this law to his own image abroad and it seems unlikely he would welcome a re-tabling of the measure anytime soon. Regardless, sodomy laws imposed on Uganda during British colonial rule (which exact upon guilty parties a maximum punishment of seven years in jail) are still in place, and, more significantly, the anti-LGBTI, anti-woman ideologies imported and propagated by Christian fundamentalists from the West remain deeply entrenched.

Following the ruling, Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and one of the petitioners contesting the validity of the law, expressed relief. He also acknowledged, “Society won’t give in.” The LGBTI community in Uganda is braced for a surge in violent retaliation from supporters of the legislation.

Mugisha’s concern warrants reflection: the striking down of this law will not put an end to the violence and persecution experienced by LGBTI persons. If anything, demonization of sexual minorities is likely to escalate. Notorious homophobic pastor Martin Ssempa, a key promoter of the legislation, charged that the “gay lobby” bought off the judges. The reality is that a justice based on technicalities is not trustworthy. We need justice that accepts the full humanity of African LGBTI persons—a justice based on fundamental human rights.

But currently, there is no political will to put the persecution of LGBTI persons in Uganda to rest. It wasn’t long ago that the very same legal system that struck down this law callously threw out SMUG’s case against the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo—a person known for persecuting LGBTI persons in Uganda.

And we must not forget that all of this is happening on Museveni’s watch. For all of his flaws, Museveni is a clever politician, and he knows how to please the West. Now, at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, he is about to meet with the very people he has previously referred to as the “homosexual lobby”—and with the law out of play, he can once again feign innocence, alongside other African presidents who are busy imprisoning LGBTI persons using colonial anti-sodomy laws.

Rather than give these African leaders a pass at the Summit we must support African human rights leaders who demand that colonial-era sodomy laws (and their neocolonial expansions supported by U.S. conservatives) be struck down. If we miss this opportunity, we will have allowed Museveni to divert us from our commitment to justice for African LGBTI persons—a dream that will only be realized when sexual minorities are decriminalized.

The process of dismantling these systems of oppression is tedious and difficult, and it requires perseverance, courage, creativity, sacrifice, and steadfast commitment. To endure the journey, we need to pause periodically to celebrate our progress, and when a panel of five judges unanimously nullifies a law that violates the human rights of LGBTI persons—even if the ruling is based more on technicalities than true justice—we are assuredly seeing progress. But after we have paused, momentarily allowing a relieved exhale to quietly escape our lungs, we must inhale once more and cry out even louder than before—tirelessly working for a durable and lasting 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: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2009/12/01/globalizing-the-culture-wars-u-s-conservatives-african-churches-homophobia/

American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism: http://www.politicalresearch.org/africa/book-american-culture-warriors-in-africa/

Exclusive undercover video of Scott Lively in Uganda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9F9k4guN3M

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
press@politicalresearch.org

pra press release

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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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.

Scott Lively & Rick Warren: The PR Campaign to Whitewash the Right’s Anti-Gay Uganda History

scott lively, rick warren, uganda

As a comms person myself, I can really appreciate a good PR campaign, and the best I’ve seen in a long time is the new effort by U.S. right-wing evangelicals to completely whitewash their own history of involvement with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality law.

For the last five years, human rights advocates around the world been discussing how U.S. conservative figures were integrally involved in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (originally called the “Kill the Gays Bill”). Vast amounts of research have been produced on the involvement of conservatives such as Rick Warren (who posted a YouTube video supporting California’s Prop 8 only to later take it down and deny it ever happened), and hours of undercover footage were taken of Scott Lively (famous for claiming the Nazi Party was really a gay club in his book The Pink Swastika) in Kampala, Uganda, advocating the bill’s creation with local political and religious leaders.

As evidence of their involvement has spread throughout the U.S., the public’s sentiment on these characters’ involvement has soured considerably. This was exacerbated when, last month, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law, ascribing life-in-prison sentences to LGBTQ people in the African nation, criminalizing advocacy of homosexuality, and requiring authority figures (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) to report LGBTQ people to the government.

The American public is finally taking notice. Story after story in major media outlets (The GuardianReal News NetworkThe Rachel Maddow Show, and the National Journal in just the last few weeks) is running about these right-wing evangelicals’ involvement, and the millions of dollars they’ve poured into Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and elsewhere in carefully crafted campaigns to train local pastors and political leaders how to use culture wars-talking points for an all-out attack on LGBTQ people.

So if you were a right-wing public figure, and all of a sudden found yourself standing alone, staring down the barrel of public anger over your past work, what would you do?

For most public figures, it would be a career-ending disaster. But when you’ve got the money, the personnel, and a stellar PR team, you just might be able to convince the rest of us of a simple little lie: They were against the law in the first place.

The process of turning someone who claims “gay = Nazi” and that “equal rights = condoning pedophilia” into a “moderate” is quite the sight to behold.

Step 1: Float the New Idea 

In an interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More” program, Scott Lively wasted no time distancing himself from the criminalization measures in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Almost before host Michel Martin could finish introducing him, Lively jumped in with, “I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don’t support those and I wish they’d gone in a different direction.”

Quite the change from the Scott Lively of 2009, who wrote a blog post while in Uganda where he admitted meeting with local lawmakers, warning Ugandans “how bad things would be” if it was not illegal to be an LGBTQ person, and that his campaign to enact legislation further persecuting sexual minorities was “a nuclear bomb against the ‘gay’ agenda in Uganda.” He concluded, “I pray that this, and the predictions, are true.”

Step 2: Create a New Image

For the last several years, Pastor Rick Warren has been successfully advancing his media blitz to get people talking about anything other than his stance on homosexuality. In December of last year, he was featured in TIME Magazine talking about his new weight-loss plan. This same story has been pushed hard by Warren’s PR team, resulting in features in Parade Magazine and NPR—none of which mentioned his flip-flop on Prop 8, or his involvement with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

Step 3: Strategically Place Reinforcements of your Talking Points

Following the NPR story with Lively, a new article surfaced on the Religious News Service, expertly titled “U.S. evangelicals on the defense over Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.”

Staging the piece as a journalistic interview, author Sarah Pulliam Bailey basically transcribes a press release from Scott Lively and Rick Warren, disavowing themselves of their involvement:

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill…

Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

Never mind that Lively himself has admitted on several occasions that he had seen and reviewed the original “Kill the Gays Bill” before it had been released to the public. Despite the ample evidence of Lively and Warren’s involvement in Uganda, none of it is mentioned. There isn’t even a hint at what pro-human rights groups have found in their research.

Step 4: Spread the Word

Now that they’ve gotten their press release printed as if it were an accredited journalistic account, the right-wing PR campaign can push to get mainstream outlets to reprint. The whitewashed article has been republished not only on small sites like Spokane Faith & Values, but on major outlets like The Washington Post.

As is typical with controversial and nuanced stories, the simple talking points are much easier to publish. Why bother researching what these right-wing evangelicals have said and done beyond U.S. borders, when they’re willing to tell American media a completely different—and significantly more palatable—story on camera?

The Fatal Flaw

This massive PR campaign has only made one mistake so far, but it’s a big one. Rick Warren has, by far, been the most successful at misleading the public into thinking he’s a moderate. He’s been at it for years. If the campaign had aimed to only wash Warren’s hands of Ugandan LGBTQ blood, it would probably succeed with flying colors. But the efforts have been ambitious than that.

The inclusion of Scott Lively throws the door wide open for the public to see this PR stunt for what it is. While few people other than researchers on the ground have seen Warren at work in Africa—partnering with local anti-gay clergy and feeding them the funds necessary to push through the Anti-Homosexuality Bill—plenty of people have heard Scott Lively on air or in his writings comparing LGBTQ people to rapists and pedophiles. Plenty of people have seen the undercover videos from Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma of Scott Lively in Uganda explaining that if they don’t enact anti-gay legislation then gays from America will come and recruit their children. And plenty of people have seen the videos of Scott Lively on Ugandan TV with the vehemently anti-gay Pastor Martin Ssempa, saying that Uganda needed to enact the Anti-Homosexuality law and criminalize LGBTQ people in order to save children from being “recruited

There’s no question of right-wing evangelical involvement in Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. The work has been verified and fact-checked by researchers around the globe, organizations like Amnesty International, and outlets such as the New York Times. There’s a reason a court refused to throw out the case against Scott Lively for crimes against humanity.

It’s not just human rights advocates who are shocked by the turnabout from these conservatives. The anti-gay clergy in Uganda they’ve spent years training are shocked as well. Pastor Martin Ssempa was so surprised he published a letter addressed to Rick Warren, asking why he is now changing his story.

When you came to Uganda on Thursday, 27 March 2008, and expressed support to  the Church of Uganda’s boycott of the pro-homosexual church of England, you stated; “The Church of England is wrong, and I support the Church of Uganda”.

You are further remembered to say, “homosexuality is not a natural  way of life and thus (its) not a human right. We shall not tolerate this  apect at all”.

Good PR work has a tendency to override facts. Tell people that something didn’t happen enough times, and eventually they’ll start to believe it. It’s up to us to tell the truth louder and more often.

National Journal: PRA Researchers Describe U.S. Evangelical Involvement in Russia & Uganda

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PRA’s religion and sexuality researcher, Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma (left) and LGBTQ rights researcher, Cole Parke (right)

In the latest issue of the National Journal, Political Research Associates’ researchers Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma and Cole Parke discuss how U.S.-based conservatives are working directly with the governments of nations like Russia and Uganda to bring about anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Check out the snippet below, and read the full article, “Evangelicals Are Winning The Gay Marriage Fight — in Africa and Russia” here.

national journal logoThings have only gotten worse for LGBT Russians since then: Moscow’s city council passed a 100-year ban against gay-pride parades in 2012; TV personality Anton Krasovsky was fired in 2013 after coming out as gay; and the parliament approved a national version of the propaganda law, which had been overwhelmingly rejected as recently as 2009. When gay Russians have tried to demonstrate in recent years, they’ve been subject to violence from antigay mobs and even the police, who often arrest LGBT activists and leave violent counterprotesters alone. Putin’s government has encouraged the crackdown, finding that strident social conservatism is useful in uniting his base and building power internationally. “He’s saying essentially that to be pro Russia is to be anti-LGBTQ, and to be pro-LGBTQ is to be pro-Western and anti-Russia,” says Cole Parke, who studies LGBTQ rights in Russia for Political Research Associates.

American social conservatives realize that associating with these countries looks bad, but they insist they “hate the sin and love the sinner,” as the saying goes. “We really are not monsters,” Ruse says. “We really do not want to harm anyone.” Indeed, they all distanced themselves from Uganda’s antigay bill when it included the death penalty. Lively, perhaps the most extreme of the bunch, calls even the life-in-prison version overly draconian and says it’s his “biggest failure.”

But for LGBT-rights advocates, that’s not enough. Even if the U.S. conservatives don’t support laws that harm gays, they say, LGBT people are being harmed in places where the Americans work. “The blood of African gays in places like Uganda and other parts of the world is on the hands of the U.S. extreme Right,” [Political Research Associates’ religion and sexuality researcher Kapya] Kaoma says. “When you lie to people, when you tell Ugandans that ‘there is a well-financed group that is coming after your children—defend yourself against this movement,’ they will take the law into their own hands and you don’t know what they’ll do.” 

 

Different Countries, Common Threads: Connecting the dots in the global surge of anti-LGBTQ attacks

God_Loves_Uganda_insert

The passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Friday brings renewed attention to the plight of LGBTQ people in Africa. Initial outcry sparked by the bill’s introduction in 2009 faded into the shadows of shrinking attention spans and the challenge of sustaining interest in an issue that isn’t constantly confronting our daily lived realities. It reemerged periodically, but mostly disappeared from the headlines.

However, ignorance is only bliss for some. While many in the U.S. were still sleeping, the nightmare haunting thousands of Ugandans for years became real. Unless President Yoweri Museveni vetos the bill (which seems highly unlikely), the legislation that passed on Friday will put LGBTQ Ugandans in jail for life if they’re found guilty of being “repeat offenders” of homosexuality, and will further silence the human rights community by criminalizing advocacy on behalf of Uganda’s sexual minorities. Additionally, it calls for a witch-hunt by compelling Ugandans to inform on their LGBTQ sisters and brothers or risk imprisonment themselves.

Unfortunately, this nightmare isn’t unique to Uganda.

Being gay is still a crime in 76 countries—a crime that’s even punishable by death in several, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria. This might seem unthinkable to many in the United States, but it was only ten years ago that our last sodomy law was finally struck down, and regardless… marginalized and oppressed communities throughout history can attest to the fact that equality and acceptance are difficult things to legislate. No matter what judges and legislators might say about who we are, how we dress, what we do in our bedrooms, or whom we love, LGBTQ people experience untold amounts of violence and discrimination all around the world.

Sadly, this oppression is easily justified when politicians, community leaders, priests, and other authority figures offer their condemnatory endorsement. Under the guise of “protecting children” and “preserving the natural family,” we are witnessing a growing surge of homophobia and transphobia across globe. Though Russia has consumed much of the international human rights spotlight recently, since passing its own slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court recently re-criminalized homosexuality, and just this week Nigeria passed a law prohibiting same-sex marriage and any form of LGBTQ organizing (building on existing laws that already punish consensual same-sex activity with 14 years in prison, or death in 12 northern states).

But oppression isn’t the only link between these regions. The same U.S. evangelicals responsible for promoting the initial drafts of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill (often referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill due to clauses in its original form that would have applied the death penalty to individuals found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”) are also well-known figures in Russia’s anti-LGBTQ movement. Scott Lively, who’s currently being charged with “crimes against humanity” for his involvement in Uganda’s attack on LGBTQ people, has also claimed credit for Russia’s gay propaganda law. Rick Warren, who was also influential in the conception of Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, is in the process of launching a new branch of his ministry in Moscow. Don Schmierer, another of the U.S. evangelicals guilty of endorsing Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ movement, has gone to the effort of having his book (a guide for how to “prevent the homosexual condition”) into Russian.

It’s often said that imitation is the best form of flattery, and beyond sharing common cheerleaders, the legislation in Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia also shares common language, revealing what seems to be a great deal of mutual admiration amongst the countries leading these recent legal attacks on LGBTQ people. For example, echoing Russia’s gay propaganda legislation, Uganda’s law criminalizes “the promotion or recognition” of homosexual relations “through or with the support of any government entity in Uganda or any other nongovernmental organization inside or outside the country.”

Fortunately, though equality and acceptance might be difficult to legislate, love and truth are impossible to legislate, and resistance continues. Human rights advocates around the world are rallying behind those who find themselves at the frontlines of U.S. culture wars gone global. In addition to offering resources, diplomatic strength, and support, there is much work to be done here at home. As Americans, we have greater access to the U.S.-based propagators of LGBTQ oppression, and it’s imperative that we do our part to clip their wings – to stop the Livelys and Warrens and Schmierers of our communities from jet setting around the world and hold them accountable for the harm they’ve done.

RELEASE: Uganda Passes Anti-Homosexuality Bill

press release:

The Uganda Parliament has passed the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first proposed in 2009 and condemned by the international human rights community, President Obama, and other international dignitaries.

Political Research Associates, the social justice think tank that first exposed the U.S.-based right-wing evangelicals who proposed and promoted the bill at a 2009 conference in Kampala, now calls on the U.S. State Department to step up pressure on President Yoweri Museveni to veto the bill.

The legislation would put LGBTQ Ugandans in jail simply for being who they are and aims to silence the human rights community by criminalizing advocacy on behalf of Uganda’s sexual minorities. Further, it calls for a witch-hunt by compelling Ugandans to inform on their LGBTQ sisters and brothers under penalty of law.

“This human rights crisis was made here in the United States,” says Tarso Luís Ramos, Executive Director at Political Research Associates. “Scott Lively, one of the right-wing U.S. evangelicals most responsible for the legislation, has had charges filed against him in American courts for persecution of Uganda’s sexual minority community. Even as we call on the U.S. State Department and the international community to do everything possible to secure a veto from President Museveni, we ask all Americans of conscience to demand accountability from those U.S. conservatives who planned and encouraged these human rights violations and now hide behind the African pastors and politicians who are their willing partners in persecuting people because of who they love.”

When the 2009 bill was originally proposed by MP David Bahati, PRA’s researchers brought to light the role of Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Rick Warren and other U.S. evangelicals in exporting the U.S.-style culture wars to Uganda.

“As one of the founders of the struggle in Uganda, today I am in despair and fear,” says Victor Mukasa, co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and fellow at Political Research Associates who is living in America under asylum after being persecuted in Uganda. “With the passage of this bill, thousands of lives are now under extreme risk, with nowhere and no one to turn to. Let’s all rise up with local activists. LGBT rights globally are under attack.”

“The Uganda situation must be seen in context,” adds PRA senior religion an sexuality researcher Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma. “It is part of a larger trend. The persecution of sexual minorities in other African nations such as Zambia and Zimbabwe has been especially severe in recent months. Also, we have to consider that the actions of Russia’s Vladmir Putin to criminalize both homosexuality and reproductive freedom in Russia may provide cover as well as courage to human rights violators. Of course, in all of these regions, we find the active involvement of American conservatives who, having lost public opinion in the United States, have determined to take their culture war crusades abroad.”

Background on the Anti-Homosexuality bill, and how U.S. evangelicals came to be involved can be found at www.PoliticalResearch.org/Africa

Press Contact:
Eric Ethington
Communications Director
617-666-5300
press@politicalresearch.org