Engle Offers Tactical Support For Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
May 4th, 2010
Religious Dispatches as a very detailed eyewitness account by Michael Wilkerson of Lou Engle’s participating at an anti-gay rally in Kampala last Sunday. Wilkerson points out that Engle didn’t mention the the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill directly, but given the context of the entire all-day rally he didn’t need to.
Preceding Engle’s performance at the rally, Julius Oyet called on Parliament “not to debate heaven. We call on them to pass the bill and say no to homosexuality.” Oyet, you may recall, is the self-styled “apostle” who is vice-president of the Born Again Federation, an umbrella group of some 10,000 Ugandan Pentecostal churches.
Oyet was in the Parliament’s visitors gallery and was commended by Parliament’s speaker when the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced last October. He is also an Oyet is an adherent to “Seven Mountains” theology, a Dominionist theology that calls upon Christians to “establish the Kingdom of God on earth” by claiming possession to “the Seven Mountains of Culture namely: Business, Government, Religion, Family, Media, Education and Entertainment.” Oyet is also the head of the College of Prayer International’s Uganda branch. MP David Bahati, the credited author and sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is one of eight MP’s serving on COPI’s “servant leadership team” in Parliament.
According to Religion Dispatches, Oyet spent considerable time at the rally pushing for the passage of the draconian bill:
Oyet also brought up the common Ugandan perception that homosexuality is an import of the West which “recruits” new members primarily by bribing children. “Father, our children today are being deceived by the West. To buy them, to give them school fees so that they can be homosexuals. We say no to that,” Oyet said with a rolling voice as a live band played smooth jazz in the background.
Engle took the stage right after Oyet, and almost immediately launched into a defense of the anti-gay bill. According to Wilkerson, Elgle repeated what he said in his statement last week when he claimed that he didn’t know about the bill. He also claimed that he almost canceled his trip over the controversy. But at no point did he contest Oyet’s support for the bill. In fact, he picked up on the homosexuality-as-Western-import theme and ran with it:
We know that Uganda has been under tremendous pressure—the church. We felt that same pressure. But I felt like The Call was to come and join with the church of Uganda to encourage you that in the nation who are showing courage to take a stand for righteousness in the earth,” Engle said.
Since arriving, Engle went on, he had consulted with Uganda’s pastors, who are “dealing with a controversy they never wanted.” He then pivoted to the blame-the-West assertion so popular among the bill’s Ugandan supporters. “What I found out was that NGOs, the UN, and UNICEF were coming in and promoting an agenda that the church of Uganda did not want to be in this nation.”
Engle was careful never to explicitly call for the passage of the bill itself, and to avoid being accused of inciting violence. “We are not standing with violence or hatred to people with homosexual lifestyles,” he preached. Still, as he does in the United States, he insisted that homosexuality harms society: “We are trying to restrain an agenda that is going to hurt the nation and hurt families.”
Engle is trying to have it both ways. When he took the stage, at no time did he distance himself or criticize the draconian bill. Instead, he pivoted and repeated the oft-cited propaganda, with no apparent attempt to verify the “facts” themselves, that homosexuality is a Western imperialist import. But in private, while speaking to reporters on his way back to the car, Engle sought to distance himself from the bill again. Ugandan LGBT advocates noted the tightrope act:
“They tried to avoid the issue of inciting violence but they did not come out and condemn the bill, which was in their [press] statement,” said Dennis Wamala, who works with a group called Icebreakers Uganda. “They did not come out in any way to say this bill is wrong.”
Engle likes to portray himself as a courageous, fearless and bold trumpet of righteousness. When he issued his statement addressing concerns about his then-upcoming rally, we noted then that he tried to weave some sort of middle ground and we were left wondering what message he would deliver in Kampala. We now know the answer.
The problem all along is that the way the bill has been framed by its supporters, there is no room for middle ground. You are either in support of the bill or you are against it. Either you want to legislate LGBT people into oblivion or you don’t. Engle’s actions now leaves him squarely in the supporting camp. He had the opportunity to “[reflect] compassion for those struggling with same-sex attraction and equal justice for criminal offenses committed by heterosexuals or homosexuals,” but he blew it.
Instead, he demonstrated public solidarity with the people who want to kill LGBT Ugandans, and repeated their propaganda to do it. He stood beside those who want to kill LGBT people, including Oyet, Bahati, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James, Nsaba Buturo, among others. Nobody heard an ounce of caution or criticism from him. Instead, Engle affirmed the “righteousness” of the people who want to kill you. He’s an articulate man. Words never fail him. Which means that when he left only one conceivable take-away message for everyone in that crowd, that they are on the right track in trying to legally kill gay people, he did this with deliberate intent. And really, that is all you need to know about him.