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Ugandan Religious NGO Lays Off Staff After US Aid Cuts

Jim Burroway

August 18th, 2014

The Ugandan opposition magazine Observer reports that the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), which is composed of members from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Seventh Day Adventist churches, has had its funding withdrawn for its HIV/AIDS program by the U.S. Agency for International Development over the IRCU’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Funding from the European Union was also withdrawn, forcing the IRCU to lay off its entire paid staff.

The multi-denominational organization was this month forced to lay off all staff after USAID abruptly ended its financial support worth $34.5m (Shs 89.7bn). This funding accounted for about 90 per cent of IRCU’s resource envelope. The local organization says it is a victim of its anti-gay stance, which the donor finds unacceptable, although some sources claim IRCU failed to meet some of USAID’s rigorous accountability procedures. Suspension of funding was communicated to IRCU in a June 26 letter by USAID Country Director Lislie Reed. She told the religious body that their partnership was being terminated effective July 31. According to IRCU General Secretary Joshua Kitakule, the funding was supposed to end in December 2014, but USAID had agreed to fund another follow-on project.

…Disagreement between the Americans and IRCU started when the religious leaders came out publicly to support the December 20, 2013 passing of the now-annulled Anti-Homosexuality Act. Religious leaders were vocal in their support for the law that criminalises homosexuality, and even organized an event at Kololo to celebrate after President Museveni endorsed it. At the time, the NGO’s budget had a balance of $7m (Shs 18.2bn), which was to cover the one year remaining on the funding calendar. This was cut to $2.35m (Shs 6.1bn), forcing IRCU to lay off at least 30 of its 55-member workforce. That number has further been reduced to just five after USAID terminated the partnership. The remaining employees are now not salaried.

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Ben in oakland
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

They can cooperate with each other, as each group rejects the totality of the theology of the others. At the same time, they can agree on “get the gays”.

It’s almost enough to make you think that this has nothing to do whatsoever with “sincere religious beliefs”. It’s a sickness, one that will cost even more lives.

FYoung
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

Funding should never have been granted to them.

Governments should never fund churches, ever; nothing good ever comes from forcing people to fund churches through taxes.

Any group that is ideologically opposed to effective AIDS prevention was never qualified to receive AIDS funding. There was no excuse for Obama to keep funding these groups that are committed only to their own enrichment and domination.

Richard Rush
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

FYoung said “Governments should never fund churches, ever.” I certainly agree. But unfortunately, in the United States virtually all churches receive generous de facto government funding via federal, state, and local tax exemptions. And, to compensate, the rest of us are forced to pay higher taxes than we would otherwise. Non-religious people, such as myself, are being forced to provide funding for churches.

Mary in Austin
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

Good.

jerry
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

It has always been my contention that religious organizations should never get public funding for charitable work unless they are held to strict accounting standards for how the money is spent.

I would be very surprised to learn that none of the organizations involved in the NGO had not spent a lot of effort to raise funds for this worthwhile charity and didn’t bother to tell the people they were dunning for contributions that only ten cents on the dollar would go to the actual work of the charity.

I would also be very surprised if most of the people supposedly providing services were not hip deep or more in proselytizing for their own cult.

Mark F.
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

“But unfortunately, in the United States virtually all churches receive generous de facto government funding via federal, state, and local tax exemptions. And, to compensate, the rest of us are forced to pay higher taxes than we would otherwise.”

Many non-profit organizations receive tax exemptions, not just churches.

Erp
August 18th, 2014 | LINK

Other non-profit organizations are required to file tax returns showing how the money is spent. In the US churches and their counterparts in other religions do not have to reveal any financial information (with a few exceptions such as when filing for bankruptcy). Note that some do provide their financial details anyway (notably some of the ones where the regular members actually have a say in the organization).

Bose in St. Peter MN
August 19th, 2014 | LINK

“A senior member of staff who has been laid off told The Observer that USAID was maintaining support for all the beneficiaries of the projects previously executed by IRCU but now under a different framework.

It just seems reasonable that USAID has managed this transition carefully so that the intended goal of the IRCU’s funding will continue to be met. Some of the laid-off staff no doubt have experience that would make them good hires for the new org.

So, the employment levels remain the same. The benefits to clients may face hiccups in the transition, but should stabilize soon enough. The only losers are the execs/managers who were happy to gum up their humanitarian mission with anti-humanitarian words and work.

(Reminds me of Catholic Charities in Illinois and elsewhere screaming about being “shut down” when many agencies actually just cut their ties to the church, or the fair-minded professionals were happy to be snapped up by the orgs that started or expanded to fill the void. The only harm was to bishops’ egos at being blocked from wedging themselves between kids and the parents they needed.)

Good outcome.

Hunter
August 21st, 2014 | LINK

Catholic Charities in Illinois dropped their adoption services when the state said comply with nondiscrimination laws in placement or lose your funding, which was most of their budget. A number of organizations, both secular and religious, stepped in to take over CC’s cases. Strangely enough, those organizations, even the religiously affiliated ones, were happy to comply with the law.

Strangely enough, this only became an issue for CC after the civil unions law was passed, which gave gay couples the same standing as married straight couples on the state level.

As for the IRCU, maybe it’s time they learned one of life’s basic lessons: actions have consequences. (Which, to hear any number of “Christians” tell it, violates their religious beliefs.)

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