Ugandan MP Confirms “The Family’s” Connection to Anti-Homosexuality Bill
August 24th, 2010
This confirms the reporting that Jeff Sharlet has recently done. Speaking to a reporter from Uganda’s The Independent, MP David Bahati, sponsor of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, confirmed the role of the secretive U.S.-based evangelical group known as The Fellowship or The Family:
In an interview with The Independent, MP David Bahati cited his membership in a Ugandan chapter of “The Fellowship” or “The Family”, a U.S.-based Christian political organization, as the key impetus behind the new bill. Every Thursday the members of the local division of The Fellowship, which include a close circle of Ugandan MPs and religious leaders (led by Ssempa), meet to discuss “how to use godly principles to influence public policy.” About a year and a half ago, Bahati reveals, it was decided in one such meeting that the legal framework as it stands was incapable of addressing the urgency of the problem of homosexuality in Uganda. Bahati was chosen and happily volunteered to be at the forefront of developing new legislation.
This matches what Sharlet wrote for the September issue of The Advocate:
When I asked Bahati if there was any connection between the Family in Uganda (where it’s called the Fellowship) and his antigay legislation, he seemed puzzled by the question. “I do not know what you mean, ‘connection,'” he said. “There is no ‘connection.’ They are the same thing. The bill is the Fellowship. It was our idea.”
…When [Family member Bob] Hunter told me his theory of advocacy — reaching out to “the little group around the president” instead of the dictator himself, “the nail on the wall” instead of the man in the presidential portrait, I thought he meant Bahati’s Parliament Fellowship group, which meets on Thursdays. No, Hunter said; “the Friday group is really the power group.” Bahati’s group includes some 60 legislators, and it’s responsible for much of the “morality” legislation that comes out of the Ugandan parliament, but to Hunter it’s secondary. The Friday group, just three or four influential people, “they are the ones we’d go to if we really needed something done.” The leader, he said, is an American named Tim Kreutter, the head of a network of youth homes, schools, and a leadership academy, one replicated in several other countries and designed to create a new generation of African leaders. Bahati, who calls Kreutter his mentor, is one of them.
Bahati also told Sharlet that many American evangelicals secretly support his draconian legislation even when they condemn it publicly. He repeated that assertion to The Independent’s reporter as well:
Even foreign governments like Canada, which have been very active in expressing criticism of the bill, secretly support it, claims Bahati: “Deep in their hearts, [Canadians] don’t support homosexuality.”
A man identified as a gay rights activist in Uganda, Major Rubaramira Ruranga, offers this interesting explanation of why homophobia has caught on so widely:
Major Ruranga argues that, in contrast to Western society, Ugandan society places intense value on communal attachment, even when this comes at the expense of individual expression. As a result, he says, “religion has become more of a culture than a faith.” Instead of promoting sincere belief, the religious establishment promotes outward conformity to standards adhered to by the larger group. In the case of Uganda’s Christian community, Ruranga suggests, the hatred of gays has become one of these unquestioned group standards.
But it was not always so. According to Ruranga, the anti-gay movement in Uganda only gained traction in the 1990s in large part as a reaction to a perceivable rise in gay pride, activism, and the unprecedented occurrence of public disclosures of homosexuality in the Ugandan media. The religious establishment decided this was dangerous and instigated a backlash.
It is not clear how much of a role the U.S. based Fellowship had in fomenting that backlash, but what is certain is that it is now fully supportive of it. According to Bahati, one American Pentecostal friend recently lamented to him that “I wish we [in the U.S.] had done what you are doing thirty years ago; we would be much better off.”