Is Uganda’s “Kill-the-Gays” Bill Author Coming to Washington or Not?

Jim Burroway

January 19th, 2010

Frankly, my ability to take anyone at their word is very strained right now. Ugandan MP David Bahati, the guy who can’t wait to begin killing gay people or throwing them into a Ugandan prison for the rest of their lives (is there really a difference?), says he’s coming to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. Bob Hunter and others connected with the secretive Evangelical group known as The Family have told Warren Throckmorton that Bahati’s not invited and he won’t be allowed in. That’s fine, I guess, if I could trust this information. We’ve heard directly from Bahati; why can’t we hear directly from Doug Coe, the head of the Family?

The Fellowship’s obsession with secrecy means that nobody with recognized authority within the Family has said anything about Bahati, let alone the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament and which appears to have strong support among people associated with the Family. Bob Hunter, a Family member who has deep ties in Uganda, has appeared on NPR and Rachel Maddow to say that the Family doesn’t like the bill, but read the transcript again. Is he authorized to speak definitively on behalf of the Family?

MADDOW: Have you had to get permission to do this interview? Are you here with The Fellowship’s blessing?

HUNTER: No.

MADDOW: No?

HUNTER: No, I didn’t. I first went on National Public Radio, because I felt like I was scandalized on National Public Radio by name. And that’s why I started talking out.

Okay, so Hunter is speaking because he felt scandalized, not because he’s speaking on behalf of the Family. That is most certainly his prerogative. But he was so intent on defending himself that he forgot what he wanted to do on Maddow’s show. According to Jeff Sharlet:

He said he’d planned to talk about Senator Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay politician who is listed in Family documents as the “U.S. leader” responsible for working with Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Bob said he wants to see Inhofe take a bolder stand against this awful bill. But he got sidetracked.

Sidetracked is right. I’m glad he spoke against the bill. I’m also glad to hear him say that he knows others within the Fellowship who are against it. The last thing I want to do is throw cold water on that.

But I’m going to anyway. Because, you see, I know a lot of devout Catholics who worked to try to defeat anti-marriage amendments. Fortunately, they rarely do it by going on the offensive against Episcopalians who also want to defeat the amendments. But that aside, we all know that it’s what the leaders are doing that matters, and Catholic leaders have no qualms about letting everyone know where they stand. That’s why it’s impossible for anyone to claim that the Catholic Church opposes what they clearly support: anti-marriage amendments everywhere. There is no ambiguity about where the organization stands, whatever some members of it may believe personally.

But we have yet to hear from anyone in authority from the Family say anything about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and that leaves a truckload of ambiguity to deal with. Call me paranoid, but I think that this is exactly what they want. You see, the way things stand right now, Bahati can say whatever he wants — he can say he’s going to the National Prayer Breakfast even if he’s really not going. True or not, he can use that to build up his own political capital in Uganda with nary a contradictory whiff from the Family. Meanwhile, the Family’s silence means that Bahati isn’t embarrassed, nor are any other Family members like, say, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. Bahati’s (and possibly Museveni’s) cherished dream goes forward, and the Family’s ties to Uganda’s political establishment remain intact. Everybody’s happy, except of course gay people in Uganda.

But on the other hand, maybe Bahati really is going to the National Prayer Breakfast. And maybe key members of the Fellowship — not Hunter, not people he knows, but others — support the kill-the-gays bills or its practically-equivalent effort, or at least are willing to look the other way. Meanwhile, those who are passing their assurances on the Warren Throckmorton may not be quite as in-the-know as they honestly think they are. How are we to know? And given the gravity of the situation, why should we go on their word while the Fellowship’s leaders maintain their useful silence? We shouldn’t, and more importantly we can’t afford to.

So, are Mr. Bahati or any other Ugandan political leaders going to Washington? I don’t know. Bahati says he is; Hunter says no. Does the Family support or oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Hunter says they oppose, but Sharlet says the group is divided and Hunter would appear to agree, especially if it’s true that Hunter went on Maddow to pressure Sen. Inhofe into taking a bolder stand (and failed). Only Doug Coe can answer all of this definitively, and pretty easily too. For the sake of all that is decent and humane, it’s time for Coe’s yes to be yes, and his no to be no. Silence is not an answer and time has almost run out.

So unless I hear it from Coe or another recognized senior leader who is officially authorized to speak on behalf of the Family, I’m sticking with the only first-person account I’ve seen so far. If trust is in short supply around here, it’s because the people who really matter have not lifted a finger to try to earn it.

Click here to see BTB\’s complete coverage of the past year\’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

David C.

January 19th, 2010

There is a reason people tend to distrust “secret” organizations, and here is an excellent example of why that is so: they cannot be trusted to reveal their true intent.

Lynn David

January 19th, 2010

Yes…. Bahati seems to be very resolute, even to thinking he would speak there. Throckmorton asked for Bahati’s reply via email, and he has gotten nothing.

Jean-Paul Bentham

January 19th, 2010

Whether or nor Bahati goes to breakfast in Washington is a moot point.

There should be a massive demonstration outside the ‘C’ building on February 4th, a demonstration which would include anyone and everyone who hates secret societies which believe and teach that they above the law.

Frankly, if I could, I would show up there operating a pink bulldozer and then, well, che sera, sera!!

JPB

Bob Hunter

January 19th, 2010

I paste below a very recent post from Warren Throckmorton:

National Prayer Breakfast spokesman: Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill sponsor will not attend the NPB
Posted on January 19th, 2010
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Yesterday, I disclosed that Hon. David Bahati, author of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, would not be attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC on February 4. I then posted an update and statement from Ambassador Richard Swett, spokesperson for the National Prayer Breakfast. I am providing both here in this post.
Here is my post from yesterday:
Author of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Uganda MP David Bahati, will not be attending the National Prayer Breakfast according to sources with the Fellowship Foundation. On Sunday, Uganda’s Monitor reported that Bahati planned to attend and to speak at the event. However, according to Bob Hunter and others with the Fellowship Foundation, Bahati was invited months ago [prior to introducing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] to come to Washington DC only as a volunteer and not to attend the NPB event. According to these sources, Bahati declined the invitation prior to introducing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to Mr. Hunter, the Monitor article and Bahati’s statements came as a complete surprise to the NPB officials here. However, in the event the article was accurate, the NPB officials and Congressional leaders were taking action to assure that Bahati did not come to any of the meetings.
I want to make clear that according to the Fellowship the invitation to come to Washington, DC as a volunteer was made prior to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in October, 2009.
Then today, I received this statement from National Prayer Breakfast spokesperson, Ambassador Richard Swett. Richard Swett was Ambassador to Denmark from 1998-2001. Prior to that post, he represented the 2nd district of New Hampshire from 1991-1995 as a Democrat.
Ambassador Richard Swett, a longtime associate of the Fellowship Foundation since his days in Congress in the early ‘90s, confirmed the accuracy of Mr. Hunter’s report to Warren Throckmorton. He went on to state, “The National Prayer Breakfast is an organization that builds bridges of understanding between all peoples, religions and beliefs and has never advocated the sentiments expressed in Mr. Bahati’s legislation.”
For more information, contact Bob Hunter at loonlakeme@aol.com.

This post was in large part in response to your request for an official to confirm my statements contained in the earlier Throckmorton post on this subject. I understand your confusion about my authority to speak for the Fellowship. I did go on to NPR and the Maddow Show with no permission from anyone in the Fellowship. Since that time, many involved in the Fellowship began to discuss my role. Doug Coe and I met and he did say that, as long as I generally cleared what I was doing through a process he suggested and which I am following, I had his authority to speak on issues relating to Uganda and the AHB.

I also understand your confusion about the issue of my not discussing Senator Inhofe on the Rachel Maddow Show. An hour or two after my appearance on Rachel’s show, Jeff Sharlet called to discuss several things. During that conversation, I told him I had been prepared to answer questions about Inhofe on the show, my expectation of such questioning buttressed later by a producer who said I should expect questions along that line. But no questions about Inhofe were asked. Jeff misrepresented or misunderstood what I told him. I was not “sidetracked,” I tried to honestly respond to each question I was asked in what I thought was a very fair (and long, for prime-time TV, in my experience being interviewed fighting insurance companies as a consumer advocate) interview by Rachel Maddow. I cannot fairly be called to account for not answering unasked questions.

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