Follow The Money: The American Connection to Uganda’s Death Sentence For Gays
November 25th, 2009
Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he laid out yesterday for the first time the pipeline of money and support for those behind the Anti-Homosexuality Act which is now before Uganda’s Parliament.
Before investigating that particular connection, a bit of background on the American secretive group, The Family, is in order. The Family (sometimes known as The Fellowship) was founded in 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant preacher who said that God came to him one night and said that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people: the poor and the suffering. According to Vereide, God commanded him to become a missionary to the rich and powerful, so that they could unleash blessings to the rest of society through the exercise of theocratic principles that would, in effect, “trickle down” to the masses.
Immediately, Vereide set out to recruit a group of “Key Men” in Seattle, where his new theology was put to the test. Key Men are said to be those who are identified as having been chosen by God to be in positions of power and influence — that they are in those positions not because of their own hard work or fortune, but because they were chosen by God to be there. And in their positions, they are to exercise their power and influence in order to bring out a New Order throughout the world. To give you an idea of some of the influence The Family has in American politics today, Jeff Sharlet told Terry Gross:
And in particular – Joe Pitts has been in the news because of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment – was one of the guys who really helped to bring abortion to the forefront to the group, starting in the late ’70s, and that’s become a concern of a lot of members. And, as you expand outwards over the last couple decades, and you look at the concerns of politicians like Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Tom Coburn, all these guys who are very involved members — you see homosexuality, you see all the culture-war issues taking a place alongside biblical capitalism and this foreign affairs expansionism, and, in fact, merging in The Family’s view into one sort of united world view.
Other key members of The Family that has made news lately are Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R). But it’s not just Republicans. The Family also has key players in the Democratic Party as well, including Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Stupak. (D-MI). Senator Mark Pryor (D-AK) told Sharlet that Jesus didn’t come to take sides, but to take over.
Now on to the Ugandan connection. In his book, Sharlet identifies Uganda President Yoweri Museveni as “The Family’s man in Africa,” who came into The Family when he rose to power in 1986 following a civil war, and he has been a key player in Africa on behalf of The Family ever since.
But the connection between The Family and the currently proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act doesn’t end with that relationship. It goes much deeper. Here is the key part of Sharlet’s interview yesterday, detailing for the first time the specific role that The Family is playing in the proposal to add the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances and to bring an end to all public advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens in that country:
GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn’t been signed into law. So it’s not in effect and it might never be in effect. But it’s on the table. It’s before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Uganda?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.
GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?
Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.
GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You’ve described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.
Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family’s 990s, where they’re moving their money to – into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, “invisible family binding together world leaders,” and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads – graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO’s through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media – which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Those behind this bill claim that it is necessary because, they charge, wealthy foreign homosexuals are pouring money into the country to turn everyone gay. But as is typical in cases like this, these people are denouncing ghosts which are reflections of their own reality. It is, in fact, wealth, powerful and influential Americans at all levels who are making this literal death sentence possible.
The entire interview is an eye-opener, and provides an excellent introductory view of The Family. Sharlet’s book is required reading for every American who cares about the future of not just this country but the entire world.