The headline in the online edition of Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper screams, “Pastors Name Benny Hinn Sodomy Bonkmate.” That headline appears to be in reaction to the news that American pentecostal prosperity evangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn is unable to heal his own marriage and is seeking a divorce.
Schadenfreudesters should be cautious however. The Red Pepper is notorious for publishing false accusations, especially when those accusations stoke the fires of homophobia. Last year, the tabloid conducted a virulently anti-gay campaign of public outings. The tabloild was also in the very thick of a wide-ranging “pastor wars,” in which several prominent pastors including pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, an ardent supporter of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, accused rival pastors of sodomy in order to try to boost their own standing. Sports figures have also gotten into the act.
In this latest flare-up, the Red Pepper published a banner headline accusing Benny Hinn of sodomizing a well-known pastor. The pastor, however, appears not to have been named in the Red Pepper piece, but that didn’t prevent Solomon Male and Simon Kyazze from naming their accused rival which appears to be Robert Kayanja. Pastor Benny Hinn held a large “Fire Conference” revivial at Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Centre last June. Kayanja was accused last May of homosexuality by several rival pastors, including Solomon Male and Martin Ssempa. Kayanja retaliated by barring Ssempa, Male and others from Hinn’s revival. BTB readers in Uganda tell us that Hinn is wildly popular there (his program is on Lighthouse TV every weekday evening at 9:00), which makes the snub all the more pointed.
Kayanja was cleared of all accusations by police, and they have charged Ssempa and Male for filing a false report. This may explain the Red Pepper’s reticence in naming the accused pastor in this round. But Ssempa is suspected of being behind the Red Pepper’s numerous anti-gay vigilante campaigns over the past several years. These latest allegations can be seen as just another battle in the ongoing war among Ugandan pastors for supremacy.
If the Anti-Homosexuality Bill should be come law, you can expect such campaigns to increase in frequency and consequence. One provision of the proposed law would significantly lower the bar for conviction. Current law requires evidence of penetration. The new law would expand the definition of homosexual activity to”touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching itself is defined as “touching—(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ, anus or mouth.”
The phrase “with any body part” leaves a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. Or a rival pastor.