August 24th, 2010
As we have previously discussed, Canyon Ridge Christian Church is a Las Vegas megachurch which has been providing financial support for Uganda’s “kill-the-gays bill” cheerleading pastor Martin Ssempa. And previous efforts to encourage the church to either disavow Ssempa or at least oppose the incarceration of gay people in Uganda have come to no avail.
Neither protests nor the public disassociation by the Southern Nevada Health District has dissuaded CRCC from financial and moral support for Ssempa. But it did lead the pastor, Kevin Odor, to obfuscate the nature of the bill in a special presentation to his church as well as to dismiss concerns by self-righteously reminding his flock of thousands that they care about people with AIDS, as evidenced by their participation in the local AIDS Walk.
And, indeed, it seems that 74 church members signed up and perhaps even put on CRCC t-shirts and walked in the AIDS Walk sponsored by Aid for AIDS Nevada. However, considering that only 12 actually raised a cent and that the total which went to AFAN was $1,385, it is rather difficult for me to believe that their primary motivation was the care and concern for people living with HIV/AIDS. Rather, it seems as though CRCC has found a very inexpensive way in which to appear to care about their community without actually having to exert much effort.
I commend those who raise money for HIV/AIDS issues. But I don’t have much use for those who use HIV/AIDS infected individuals as a platform to advance their own personal image. And it was with this in mind that I wrote the following letter to Aid for AIDS Nevada.
I have recently become aware that Canyon Ridge Christian Church sponsors a team during your AIDSwalk. I further understand that CRCC displays their church name and logo on the shirts worn by their team members.
I wish to caution you that this may be extremely offensive to other participants who either are gay or who believe that gay people should not be jailed and executed.
Canyon Ridge Christian Church is one of the most prominent sponsors of Ugandan minister Martin Ssempa. And Ssempa is the primary champion of a bill before the Ugandan legislature that would:
* make it illegal for gay people to congregate
* institute a lifetime sentence for engaging in “homosexual acts”, which include “crimes” so slight as holding hands
* institute a death sentence for certain gay people, including:
* * when one partner is HIV positive, regardless of consent or protection
* * “repeat offenders”, which would include any same-sex couples
* * when one partner is a minor, regardless of the age of the other partner
* make it a crime for family members not to turn over gay people to the police
For the full text, please see http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/10/15/15609
For a comprehensive understanding of the events leading to and contributing to this bill, please see http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/slouching-toward-kampala
Canyon Ridge has been made aware of the law. They consulted with Ssempa and were told that it only applied to pedophiles and those who intentionally spread HIV.
Ssempa has two messages, one for Uganda and one for their American sponsors. CRCC was provided with evidence of the language of the bill and that Ssempa was targeting gay people, not molesters. This information is readily available on the internet.
CRCC has refused to:
* Break ties with Ssempa
* Read the bill
* Condemn the bill
* Oppose the criminalization of homosexuality
* Oppose the incarceration of gay people
Instead they gave a lecture to their church (which was completely false), justifying their support for Ssempa and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 (which is still before the legislature).
I very much care about whether gay people in Uganda are executed for being gay. I am not alone.
Actually, many conservative evangelical Christians are concerned about this issue and several have renounced the bill and Ssempa’s involvement including Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of A Purpose Driven Life, and Joyce Meyer, author and international televangelist.
Of course, the condemnation is not restricted to conservative evangelicals. A number of mainline churches (the Episcopal Church, for example) and political leaders have weighed in. Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, have condemned this bill. The governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom have officially condemned the bill and warned about international sanctions.
In fact, virtually every decent person or organization that comes to know about the bill opposes it and its sponsors. Except for Canyon Ridge Christian Church.
So please understand that when your AIDSwalk includes CRCC, it is not their faith that is shocking. It is not that they are conservative.
Rather, it is that you have a participant in your event who stands virtually alone in refusing to condemn the incarceration and execution of people for being gay.
This is such an extreme position that the Southern Nevada Health District found it necessary to cease any outreach at the church. They found it not only offensive, but that their support for Ssempa served to endanger gay Ugandans and to harm and hinder the efforts to fight HIV in that country.
I understand that others have brought this situation to your attention, but have not been successful in determining your stance. As I am a writer for a website that has been successful in getting the information about the bill out to the public and which has a large readership and close connections to gay media, they’ve requested that we inquire about your intentions.
So please let me know whether you will continue to allow CRCC to participate in your organization and to display their organization’s name.
Jeniffer Morss, the Executive Director of Aid for AIDS Nevada, does not have her direct email listed on their website, so I directed my letter to:
Jared Hafen – Associate Director
Cira Jones – Director of Finance and Administration
Theresa Mayet – Development Coordinator
Blair Stirek – Development Coordinator
and requested that they “forward to the appropriate person and also please respond to let me know who will be addressing this issue.”
That was Thursday. As of today there has been no response. At all. Not even an acknowledgment of receipt of my letter.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. We are not alone in trying to get AFAN to look at the consequences of their relationship with the church funding a campaign to execute gay people. And their constant response has been silence and stonewalling.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton has also been trying to contact AFAN, and he describes his experience thusly:
When I [contacted AFAN], one staffer I spoke with declined to comment but forwarded my request to the director, Jennifer Morss. I then wrote Ms. Morss two additional emails asking for comment on the relationship with Canyon Ridge and the recent action of Southern Nevada Health to sever ties with the church.
To date, I have gotten no answer. Last week, I went on the Facebook group for AFAN and left a comment on their wall asking for a PR person from AFAN to contact me. Initially, that comment was answered with a recommendation that I contact Terri Maruca, Vice President at Kirvin Doak Communications. When I contacted Ms. Maruca, she replied that someone from the staff would contact me next (now this) week. In the mean time, Michael Bussee also left a request for public comment on the AFAN Facebook group wall. Sometime in mid-week last week, both of those comments were removed by the owner of the AFAN group. Currently, Mr. Bussee has another request for public comment on the AFAN wall.
That request for comment by Michael Bussee has now been removed.
Aid For AIDS Nevada may well have a very good reason for not wishing to confront CRCC (which may or may not have anything to do with their website’s need to assure us that most of their management is heterosexual). But they have no valid reason for ignoring and deleting questions.
We deserve an answer. AFAN owes us the courtesy of replying and letting us know exactly why it is that they are partnering with a church that is sponsoring murder.
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