Gary Skinner, who grew up in a White missionary family in Zimbabwe, has been described by Ugandan human-rights activist Frank Mugisha as “one of the most homophobic people in the world.” Skinner is especially notable for establishing Watoto Church (formerly Kampala Pentecostal Church) in Uganda’s capital city, and he also heads Watoto Child Care Ministries, an organization that cares for children orphaned by the nation’s HIV/AIDS scourge. Its work includes the famous Watoto Children’s Choir (formerly Uganda Children’s Choir).These institutions provide Skinner with moral authority, which he uses to exert enormous influence in Uganda (and beyond) in pursuit of an anti-LGBTI agenda.
When Uganda’s Supreme Court struck down a law criminalizing adultery in 2007, for example, Skinner and other religious leaders denounced the ruling and condemned all “inhuman practices including homosexuality.” In 2009, even as Skinner refrained from publicly commenting on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, his Watoto Church hosted one of Scott Lively’s presentations and—via Stephen Langa, an elder and member—pressured the Ugandan government to enact stringent laws against homosexuality.
In March 2009, Watoto hosted several meetings that became the critical building blocks for Bahati’s legislation, which was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament later that year. Skinner was included in a task force to educate children on the dangers of homosexuality and create an action plan to address homosexuality at the local level. He was also one of many religious leaders who supported Lou Engle’s TheCall Uganda in 2010.
In addition to its role in advancing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Watoto Church targets the LGBTI community through its “ex-gay” program. Its proposed goals include “identifying, providing care for, and reforming homosexual youth, helping them re-integrate into society.”
Despite this track record, Skinner attracts positive publicity by presenting himself as a reformer whose ministries are helping improve Uganda. “Everything we do is about raising the next generation of young Ugandan leaders who will bring transformation to their community,” he has said. “That transformation is what Uganda needs . . . That’s not going to happen through some political effort or some economic effort. It must begin with a change of heart. Because all of us, by nature, are wicked.”
Watoto Church has been named one of Uganda’s 10 most influential organizations in the war on AIDS, and it has received financial support from international philanthropic organizations, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
For more details, see American Culture Warriors in Africa: A Guide to the Exporters of Homophobia and Sexism.