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Does Exodus Support Criminalizing Homosexuality?

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2009

Scores of Human Rights activists around the world have publicly denounced Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill which, in addition to lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality, adds the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive. It also criminalizes all advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda, and contains an extra-territorial clause which extends the long arm of Ugandan “justice” to LGBT Ugandans abroad. Reading the text of the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone crafting a worse piece of legislation.

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Lee Caleb Brundidge

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge

The three Americans who kicked off this latest spasm of anti-gay hostility have really outdone themselves. This whole thing started last March when Exodus board member Don Schmierer, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation conducted a three-day anti-gay conference in Uganda. Schmierer was there as the “ex-gay expert.” The result of that conference was the initiation of an anti-gay task force calling for strengthening Uganda’s already draconian anti-homosexuality laws. It also unleashed a wave of anti-gay vigilantism which led to arrests, torture, blackmail and ruined careers. According to Sexual Minorities Uganda, it has also led to several deaths, including the death of Brian Pande at Mbale Hospital as he awaited trial. And it has led to where we are today, with Parliament Wednesday giving first reading to this new proposal to effectively ban all freedoms — even the freedom to exist — for LGBT people and those who would support them and provide safe haven.

While human rights activists around the world have been quick to raise their voices for the defenseless, one might ask where’s Exodus in all this? Early signs indicate that you needn’t bother looking. Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas left a comment on Warren Throckmorton’s blog in which, speaking strictly for himself and not on behalf of Exodus, he condemned the proposed bill. It’s interesting that he can only say this speaking strictly for himself. Would Exodus be willing to say the same thing officially? Will they try to tamp down the wildfire their own board member helped to ignite? Thomas says don’t count on it:

Not sure that a statement from Exodus will happen. As for the past, Don never needed our permission to spend his own money to attend a non-Exodus conference to talk about topics from his books. He is one of the most caring people I have ever met and am glad those folks had a kind person to minister to them. That said I’ll be praying for doors to open for ways to try and speak love and redemption into what is obviously a very hostile environment.

This is a cop out. They knew about the conference long before it took place, when it was still possible to do something about it. And since then, they’ve tried every way they knew how to wash their hands of their board member’s handiwork. And they’ve refused to address the situation in Uganda where it really matters — in Uganda. This isn’t beyond their facility to do so. Uganda media has telephones, fax machines and email just like everyone else, and Don Schmierer has contacts over there. Exodus is not helpless or without resources.

And Exodus leaders certainly aren’t incapable of raising their voice when they want to. Anyone following Exodus International knows that this is not a shy outfit. We know well that they are very eager to have their voices heard on issues they really care about. They quickly went on record as being “troubled” by the ELCA’s vote to affirm same-sex relationships. On something like that they have no problem whatsoever finding their voice, loud and clear. Obviously, the decisions of a church to minister to those who are comfortable with their same-sex attractions — a decision which has no impact to conversion therapy or ministry to those who are “struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions” — is something that Exodus nevertheless cares deeply about.

But ask them to take responsibility for their own handiwork in Uganda, and we get unofficial excuses, denials, and crocodile tears. But no official statement, even though, according to Sexual Minorities Uganda, Exodus already has blood on its hands. And Exodus may well end up with more blood on their hands when the first HIV-positive gay person is executed by the Ugandan government.

Does Exodus Support Criminalizing Homosexuality?
Exodus’ silence is puzzling. But as disturbing as this silence is, it is in keeping with Exodus’ pattern of saying one thing to one audience and saying something else (or keeping silent) for another audience. And we see this whenever the subject of criminalizing homosexuality comes up.

For example, Alan Chambers told the American publication The Christian Post that Exodus doesn’t support Uganda’s policy of criminalizing homosexuality. He added that “neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy.”

That’s great as far as it goes. But this statement appeared in one specific forum to one specific audience concerning one specific set of circumstances. Uganda’s current law, which provides for lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality, ought to be an easy law to denounce. So good on them for doing so. But they did it to that limited American Evangelical audience only, addressing only this particular set of circumstances. There was no attempt to make their position known to leaders in Uganda, not even to the evangelical Ugandan leaders who hosted the conference where the three Americans spoke. That’s where the message counts, not on the pages of the Christian Post.

So what if someone who hadn’t seen the Christian Post article wanted to know if Exodus supports criminalizing homosexuality? One would hope that the simple answer is no. And to find that simple answer, a natural place to look might be on Exodus’ own web site. But it turns out that the answer is not that simple, and perhaps not that “no” we were hoping for. It turns out that when one searches Exodus’ web site, one is left with the distinct impression that Exodus actually supports criminalization — at least as it existed in the U.S. before the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.

I have found only two statements on the Exodus web site related to criminalizing homosexuality, and both are reactions to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In this “News Media Highlights,” Randy Thomas posted excerpts from “one who believes sodomy to be a sin and is directed to people who share that belief.” Thomas quotes the reaction of that unnamed writer with no further comment:

If the Supreme Court does repeal these laws, it will rob citizens, of all beliefs, the opportunity to enter their voice into the public record over this issue. Yet on the same hand it is this writers conviction that sodomy laws work against our redemptive witness.

So clearly that unnamed writer that Thomas quoted was against the Lawrence v. Texas ruling. But what about Exodus themselves? The only other statement I could find, this one quoting Alan Chambers, is equally negative:

As a result of today’s ruling, young people will be led into further confusion. Alan chambers [sic] states, “Our young people are not going to grow up under the same teachings about morality that we did. The school books will simply state that homosexuality was legitimized by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2003. We are risking the moral upbringing of all the generations to come. …”

Unfortunately, the political pendulum could swing harshly the other way. Americans of all conservative faiths are facing a serious problem; now that this decision damages the traditional view of sexuality and relationships, progay initiatives across the country will gain momentum. People of faith could potentially experience marginalization if we do not implement loving concern and active civic involvement.

Why won’t Exodus Speak Up Where It Matters Most?
So the question remains: What is Exodus International’s position on the criminalization of LGBT people? And if their position is any different from these two examples posted on their official web site — as Alan Chambers implied in the Christian Post — then why can’t they just say so on their own web site?

And more pressing, why can’t they raise their voice in Uganda? They ought to be able to do that pretty easily. After all, their own board member has some pretty powerful contacts over there.

One possible explanation for Exodus’ silence — and if this is true, then it means that they are far more petty than anyone can imagine — is that they don’t want to be seen as caving to “gay-identified activists.” But look at what’s happening. This isn’t some comparatively petty culture war over employment non-discrimination legislation or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We’re talking about a very real and imminent matter of life and death in Uganda. At some point, if Exodus had an ounce of integrity or a smidgen of conscience, they would have to see that it’s time to suck it up, drop the defensive ego trip, screw whatever the “gay-identified activists” might say and do what they know in their hearts what needs to be done to try to fix what Schmierer helped break.

But so far — and you don’t know how eager I am to be proven wrong in this! — it looks like they have neither the integrity nor conscience. Their silence — or their actions; it’s their choice — will tell us everything we need to know about their character. Everything.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Comments

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Lynn David
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Really, Jim, why care what Exodus does/should do anymore. They aren’t much of a blip on the gaydar these days. Let them wallow in their sins of omission and ineptitude. Let Exodus, just fade away.

Timothy (TRiG)
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

They may not be important in America anymore; they certainly aren’t important here in Ireland. However, it appears that they are important in Uganda.

TRiG.

Christopher™
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Why should we be surprised at the non-response from Exodus?

They’re an organization with a desperate aversion to anything factual regarding sexual orientation, and make patently false claims about the source of said orientation. They make up success numbers out of whole cloth. They speak out of both sides of their mouth, depending on what audience they are addressing. They redefine words to mean something else entirely. And they adhere to a form of “therapy” that has proven to be an abject failure… except, of course, for those on the payroll of an “ex-gay” ministry.

On top of all that, they have the unmitigated gall to emphasize the importance of “real” masculinity, when both Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas have proven that they are nothing more than big babies. Alan tried to weasel out of his responsibility in the Uganda situation with a mealy-mouthed “apology” in which he couldn’t man up and take responsibility for what he failed to do. And Randy is just a drama queen that gets all pissy when you call him on his hypocrisy.

I know plenty of gay men who are way more masculine than either of these two posers, and I don’t mean how they “act.” I’m talking about real men who are contributing something valuable to the world, either through helping repair the mental and spiritual damage that “ex-gay” groups have inflicted on members of their church, or by reaching out to the less fortunate through a charitable organization that makes a real difference in people’s lives… one that they themselves may have started because they saw an unmet need.

Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas have no guts, no conscience, and are an embarrassment to real men, both gay and straight. Anyone who is ignorant enough to call either of them “men of God” hasn’t read their Bible or has turned off their brain. Probably both.

Richard Rush
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Based upon the amicus briefs filed in the Lawrence v. Texas case and the subsequent eruptions of outrage after the decision in 2003, it is obvious that Christian social controlatives favor the criminalization of homosexuality. Although the majority of them are politically savvy enough not to be openly promoting criminalization anymore, I have no doubt that they favor it privately.

So, if anything, the most I expect from the controlatives regarding Uganda’s laws are a few quiet statements suggesting that the punishments may be just a tad excessive.

Benjamin
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Isn’t what Exodus International doing a federal crime in the United States? Isn’t it meddling in the internal affairs of another country affecting their laws in a destructive way something the CIA should be investigating? How come this has not been given national attention in the U.S. news media? Sounds like Exodus needs to be shut down and it’s leaders need to be severely penalized through major monetary sanctions. What Exodus is doing is absolutely treasonous and extremely immoral.

Gil
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

EXODUS a CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION is EVIL, PURE EVIL!… Their words just brought HATE and DEATH to many in Uganda… This IS precisely why I stopped trusting Megachurches and many Christian Organizations. All they have and know is Hate and more Hate and so they promote it with all their resources bringing SADNESS and DEATH to people just because hey are different. It’s so sad that the Christian community as a whole is so Bigoted, Ignorant and Blinded, it’s totally the opposite of what Jesus did meant us to be, I bet!… And if being Christian is being this I rather be something else because something is deep rotten in their Community!

PS. I know there are Good Christians, I’ve met them and I hope you are one of those. But things like Exodus demoralize the community as a whole and those Good Apples shouldn’t be supporting this source of HATE and DEATH!

David Blakeslee
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Another possible headline for your article…Is silence passive endorsement?

I believe at times it is, and have said so in other situations…especially as it is not a short-term reaction (panic, shock, surprise) but a longstanding style.

Exodus made a mistake in lending their support (either overtly, or by co-sponsoring) to Lively and others. That was active…

It is time to become active again.

Bruce Garrett
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

The whole point of Exodus and ex-gay outfits like them is to play a supporting roll in the political fight against gay equality, not a front-line one. To the extent that they can say anything at all For The Record about laws that actively persecute gay people, it would only be that repealing them might discourage homosexuals from seeking change and that would be a bad thing. Get it? It’s not the laws are bad, but that change is good.

Count on them to stay on message here. Change is good. And if you happen to get hanged in Uganda for homosexuality it’s your own fault for not seeking change. Change is good. Question homosexuality, not the hangman.

Priya Lynn
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Pet peeve of mine: Jim said “…for LGBT people and those who would support them and provide safe haven.”.

A haven is by definition a safe place “safe haven” is redundant, its like referring to wet water.

David Blakeslee
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

@ Bruce,

I don’t think that Exodus can play any other role on the issue of gay equality. Their charter drives their actions, and their charter is Biblically focused primarily on sexual taboos…

That is who they are (there are other Biblical taboos…but they are not central to Exodus’ identity).

@ Jim Burroway,

Are there local Ugandan religious groups who have come out in favor of this legislation?

Is there any chance that religious power brokers in Uganda (on the left or the right) can speak up?

David Blakeslee
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

can speak up…against this legislation?

Timothy Kincaid
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

The religious power brokers in Uganda are already on the record about this law. They endorse it based on those same Biblical taboos that are at the heart of Exodus’ mission.

In February, before Schmierer went to Uganda, I warned Alan that Lively’s involvement in the Balkans had “contributed greatly to physical harassment of gay persons” and that his message to Uganda would likely be to “encourage reprisals, state action, and public abuse of gay persons in that country.”

Clearly I was not wrong. I warned Alan that it was dangerous to have an Exodus Board Member affiliated with such actions. But those same Biblical taboos caused Alan Chambers to dismiss my warning about letting Don Schmierer go to Uganda and tell the Ugandans that he was on the Board of a group that proclaims that “Change is Possible”.

Had I said nothing in advance, I would be less critical about Exodus and how they intentionally ignored my warning and how Alan chose instead to look away and do nothing.

Don Schmierer is still on the Exodus Board. Brian Pande is still dead.

Bruce Garrett
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t think that Exodus can play any other role on the issue of gay equality. Their charter drives their actions, and their charter is Biblically focused primarily on sexual taboos…

So they can’t actually come out and say that imprisoning, let alone executing homosexuals is a bad thing. Fine. Maybe they should change their advertising a tad then. Move the message away from Change Is Possible to Change If You Know What’s Good For You. Ex-Gay Or The Noose…We’re Here To Help You Make The Right Choice…

This should fit in nicely with their rhetoric about how the Gay Lifestyle is unhealthy…

David Blakeslee
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks Timothy, for speaking early and often.

Are you saying there are no Ugandan left leaning religious groups who could energetically represent the rest of scripture?

@ Bruce,

“That is who they are (there are other Biblical taboos…but they are not central to Exodus’ identity).”…

Religious conservatives have generally been in favor of the power of the legal system to enforce moral values…

Each sect has forgotten what it was like to be in the minority and to be imprisoned and oppressed by the majority.

They have forgotten their Trail of Tears; they have forgotten what the religious immigrants fled to America to find…

Tolerance…Freedom.

Reminding them, reminding them, reminding them is what must happen–for Baptists, Quakers, 4 Square, Mennonite, Lutheran, Catholic…

Reminding them that acts of conscience are sacred.

Richard W. Fitch
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

From the little I know about the religious situation in Uganda, there is no left leaning group. Even the Anglicans are fundamentalists like most of the African provinces.

John
October 16th, 2009 | LINK

I doubt that this Ugandan law is based on morality at all. Ugandan political rivals like to accuse each other of homosexuality. One of the leaders of the current anti-gay campaign was targeting a rival Catholic priest with these accusations.

Exodus allowed its name and board members to be used in the conference that set the stage for this current law. Exodus did nothing to distance itself from the conference, praised Schmierer’s participation and Randy Thomas made snide remarks about not being forced by anyone to speak up about Exodus’ involvement in this whole debacle.

I don’t think that Alan and Randy care in the least about the damage that they did to the people of Uganda for years to come. Perhaps one day, they will land in Entebbe and be convicted of “agravated sodomy” based on nothing more than someone looking at them and deciding they are both just a bit to feminine.

GreenEyedLilo
October 17th, 2009 | LINK

It’s not enough that they want LGBTs to experience hell eternal; they gotta work to create hell on earth for them, too.

Everything else I can say, has been said. Scum, just pure f***ing scum. May their actions against LGBT Ugandans come back to them with interest.

werdna
October 17th, 2009 | LINK

Excellent opinion piece called “Bahati’s Bill – a Convenient Distraction for Country’s Government” can be found here:

http://allafrica.com/stories/200910161126.html

Lynn David
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Posted also on the Exodus Blog, but I wonder if it will survive….

From Randy Thomas on the Exodus Blog: I asked Don… about his thoughts on what is happening now in Uganda. He responded:

What this David Bahati is introducing does not reflect the Ugandans that I have ministered too. The only place where I have run into this thinking is from some former Russian hardliners and that was only a very small percentage of the participants attending my seminars. After some challenges from me (except for one person) they softened up and came around to a more redemptive position.

____________________________________

How does Schmierer’s statement compare with what one of his associates in Uganda, Stephen Langa of the Family Life Network, has been doing – after the conference Schmierer attended, for instance [http://www.monitor.co.ug/artman/publish/news/Homosexuality_threat_to_Ugandans_activists_83727.shtml]:

Activists against homosexuality in Uganda stormed parliament on Tuesday protesting against the practice and demanded a probe into the practice in the country. The activists who were holding banners denouncing the activity were led by the Family Life Network in conjunction with religious leaders.

The groups led by the Executive Director of Family Life Network, Mr Stephen Langa while handing over their petition to the Deputy Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga said the Parliamentary select committee should also assess the extent of the damage homosexuality has caused to children and Ugandans.

…Mr Langa said the homosexuals under the group Sexual Minorities Uganda spend huge sums of money to recruit University students and those in secondary schools into homosexuality. They did not give details.

____________________________________

Another Uganda news outlet, UGPulse [http://www.ugpulse.com/articles/daily/news.asp?about=Civil%20society%20petitions%20Parliament%20over%20homosexuality%20vice&ID=9749], reported that Deputy Speaker Kadaga “promised to push for the amendment of Article 31 of the Constitution which prohibits homosexual marriages. Langa had earlier noted that the article prohibits gay marriages but not the actions.”The Daily Monitor’s article indicates that the group explained that they wanted the proposed amendment to be broadened to “openly prohibit homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and other related practices.”
____________________________________

Then there was the time Langa sponsored a press conference in which another allegedly “former gay activist” Paul Kagaba accused a very popular Catholic priest and gospel singer, Fr. Anthony Musaala, of being gay.
____________________________________

The blogger GayUganda is has reported that Stephen Langa, the director of Family Life Network, spoke on Ugandan FM radio stations advocating the arrests of Ugandan LGBT leaders. [http://gayuganda.blogspot.com/2009/03/anti-gay-agenda.html]
____________________________________

Now how is it that these actions by Langa are not supportive of Bahati’s bill on homosexuality? Schmierer certainly didn’t “soften up” Langa and get him to “come around.”

… … …

SharonB
October 19th, 2009 | LINK

Q:Does Exodus Support Criminalizing Homosexuality?

A:Yes.

Is this a serious question? We all know the answer to it.

Mike Airhart
October 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Randy Thomas did not condemn the legislation.

He only said that penalties for sex among minors should be lessened a wee bit.

Then he suggested that more lazy, careless, ignorant evangelical prayers for “redemptive” vigilantism and prosecution might alleviate a situation that he created and that he continues to support.

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