Exodus Board Members Plays The “Dupe” In Uganda
This commentary is the opinion of the author, and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
January 3rd, 2010
The New York Times has finally taken notice of the anti-gay pogrom that has been brewing in Uganda for nearly a year now. In Monday morning’s edition, Jeffrey Gettleman provides a brief overview of events over the past year that has led up to Uganda’s current attempt to legislate gay people out of existence, beginning with that infamous anti-homosexuality conference put on last March by three American anti-gay activists:
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.
“I feel duped,” Mr. Schmierer said, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children. He acknowledged telling audiences how homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, but he said he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality.
“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”
What Schmierer has yet to acknowledge is that he had every opportunity not to be “duped,” as he put it. BTB’s Timothy Kincaid sent a warning via Exodus International president Alan Chambers before the conference took place, explaining exactly what he was getting into. Chambers either didn’t pass the warning on to Schmierer, or Schmierer chose to ignore it. The aggravating thing is that this could have been avoided — or, at the very least Exodus International’s implicit participation in the conference.
And of course, let’s not forget Exodus’s first attempt at “fixing” the problem they created — their hamfisted attempt to put a positive spin on Schmierer’s talk by “applauding” his being there.
Schmierer’s behavior in all of this is beyond appalling. He has yet to man up to his responsibility for his actions. Instead, his only public response has been to behave as a befuddled grandfather wondering what the fuss is all about. Charming in some quarters I’m sure, but of absolutely no use whatsoever to the people of Uganda who now stand to fear the midnight knock on the door — and possibly even the gallows. We’ve already seen arrests and blackmail, as well as accusations of homosexuality used as a political and sectarian weapon this year. This Times article provides further illustration of what people in Uganda have gone through:
Human rights advocates in Uganda say the visit by the three Americans helped set in motion what could be a very dangerous cycle. Gay Ugandans already describe a world of beatings, blackmail, death threats like “Die Sodomite!” scrawled on their homes, constant harassment and even so-called correctional rape.
“Now we really have to go undercover,” said Stosh Mugisha, a gay rights activist who said she was pinned down in a guava orchard and raped by a farmhand who wanted to cure her of her attraction to girls. She said that she was impregnated and infected with H.I.V., but that her grandmother’s reaction was simply, “ ‘You are too stubborn.’ ”
…“What these people have done is set the fire they can’t quench,” said the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian who went undercover for six months to chronicle the relationship between the African anti-homosexual movement and American evangelicals.
Mr. Kaoma was at the conference and said that the three Americans “underestimated the homophobia in Uganda” and “what it means to Africans when you speak about a certain group trying to destroy their children and their families.”
“When you speak like that,” he said, “Africans will fight to the death.”
This, of course, is nothing compared to what we will see should the Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law.
If Shmierer feels “duped,” then he needs to put a stop to his helplessness act and behave like a responsible adult. He has no problem traveling extensively around the world when it suits his purposes. This might be a good time for him to return to Uganda, to go on radio and television and talk to newspaper reporters — to try to fix what he helped break. He’s a world traveler, and he’s been to Uganda before; he knows the way.
But since the Exodus gang has no track record whatsoever in accepting responsibility for any of their actions, I predict that Schmierer, Chambers and the rest of Exodus will sit on their hands and pretend that nothing’s wrong. They’ll point to their solitary letter which got no play whatsoever in Ugandan media, and pretend that this small act was sufficient.
Having said that, I keep hoping that someday someone over there will seize the opportunity to prove me wrong. Sure, they’ll grumble about how mean we “militant homosexual activists” are. (That’s Exodus vice-president Randy Thomas new euphemism for this blog.) But their own engagement in the culture war blinds them from seeing the win-win two-fer that’s before them: they can take the bold steps necessary to correct their egregious mistakes and simultaneously make all of us “militant homosexual activists” look like idiots. All in one fell swoop.
But since they’ve been so entirely predictable, I’ll stick with my prediction. Schimierer will continue with his helplessness act, Chambers will pretend that his letter is enough, and Exodus will go on its merry way and pretend that nothing went wrong on their watch.
The ball is in their court to prove me wrong. I’ll even sweeten the pot: if they can prove me wrong, I’ll wear a dunce hat, publicly proclaim how wrong I was, and issue an apology of my own. Because I’m a man who stands behind my principles.