International Day Against Homophobia: Have You Seen God Loves Uganda?

The documentary God Loves Uganda, which depicts the role of American conservative evangelicals in generating vicious antigay campaigns in Uganda, has received acclaim at film festivals across the continent. PRA expert Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma–featured throughout the film discussing the role of U.S. Christian Right leaders in whipping up antigay fervor and pushing for passage of the “kill the gays” bill in the Ugandan parliament–has been attending and speaking at many of these screenings since the film’s Sundance debut. Today, for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, Kaoma joins the film at the Washington National Cathedral in D.C.

The film draws on much of Kaoma’s original research and reporting, as found in his PRA articles and reports, the 2012 Colonizing African Values and 2009 Globalizing the Culture Wars. PRA exposed U.S. Christian Right figures Scott Lively and Rick Warren’s role in the creation of the infamous Uganda bill–garnering major media attention and continuing to inform global understanding of homophobic campaigns in the U.S. and in Africa. PRA is proud that this investigative work has been utilized by African LGBTQ groups struggling for human rights such as Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

A recent review in Christianity Today, the leading magazine of evangelical Christianity, attempts to change the subject by portraying the film as a hostile attack all evangelicals, even though director Roger Ross Williams is clearly focusing on right-wing religious interests involved in Africa and has deliberately reached out to evangelicals for dialog. (At public appearances, he speaks about becoming friends and seeking common ground with his interview subjects.) In an apparent attempt to discredit the film, reviewer John G. Stackhouse, Jr., a professor of culture and theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC., minimizes the research and scholarship of Kapya Kaoma, with factual errors that we will not enumerate in this brief space. His review is also highly disrespectful of academy award winning director, Williams.

On this, the International Day Against Homophobia, we encourage readers to seek out God Loves Uganda as a critical educational tool. Churches and faith groups in particular are encouraged to host screenings. However, it is important to understand that the human rights crisis facing sexual minorities in Uganda is one part of a much broader phenomenon that is sweeping across Africa and some other parts of the globe. At the time of this writing, Kaoma’s own home country, Zambia, is engaged in arresting and persecuting LGBTQ activists.

Stackhouse admits that moderate evangelicals “must speak up in public and both denounce and distance ourselves from such extremists,” as Scott Lively and Lou Engle, conservative evangelicals featured in the film. But he claims that “we here in North America can’t do much about Uganda except feel outraged.” This call to complacency is wrongheaded and dangerous. By speaking out against those American actors who share responsibility for the human rights crisis abroad we can take meaningful action at home to improve the situation in Uganda and elsewhere.

In our reports on the U.S. Christian Right in Africa, we offer a series of recommendations, including:

  • Expose and confront U.S. religious conservatives who foment homophobia in Africa;
  • Support the visibility of LGBTQ Africans as a means of curbing homophobia;
  • Rally against bigotry across ecumenical lines and demonstrate respect for religion;
  • Expose the covert financing of African conservatives by various American sources;
  • Confront the myth that human rights advocacy is Western neocolonialism.

For additional recommendations and explanations, see Colonizing African Values and Globalizing the Culture Wars.