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Posts for November, 2010

Uganda To Revive Anti-Homosexuality Bill Soon

Jim Burroway

November 19th, 2010

The big news yesterday was that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo ordered a women’s conference scheduled for Wednesday in Entebbe canceled. The reason given was that one of the topics to be discussed was to have been the plight of sex workers. But buried beneath all of that in the last paragraph of this Daily Monitor news item:

Dr Buturo also revealed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which brought controversy between government and donors, will be revisited upon completion of the Chogm debate which is on-going.

The “Chogm debate” is over rampant corruption in the awarding of government contracts and other acts of bribery that took place when Uganda was preparing for its role as host for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007. Parliament is due to issue its report into the investigation. If that report follows previous patterns in dealing with corruption, it will likely offer up a few low-level scapegoats while protecting the guilty among the elites.

But the big news for us is the indication that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to be debated in full Parliament. That bill, in its current form, would impose the death penalty for gay people under certain circumstances, and impose life imprisonment (which is practically a death sentence when it comes to Ugandan prisons) under all other circumstances. It would also outlaw all free speech and advocacy on behalf of gay people and threaten relatives and friends of gay people with three years imprisonment if they fail to report their LGBT loved ones to police.

Earlier this week, Warren Throckmorton interviewed MP David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, who said that the anti-gay bill remains in the queue:

“The last time I talked to the chairman,” Bahati said referring to the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, “what he assured us is that he is going to work on this for sure.” Bahati added that the timing is unclear. “But if it will come up before recess, I am not certain.” The Parliament is slated to recess for nominations on November 25. Bahati told me that there were other bills in committee that would need action before his could be considered.

Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2010

Australia’s SBS network, which fills a role similar to that of PBS in the United States, delved into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Sunday in a segment of the documentary program Dateline by Canadian journalist Aaron Lewis. The non-embeddable video is available online at the Dateline web site, along with a full transcript.

This documentary explores similar ground covered in other documentaries on Uganda that have appeared in the U.S. and Britain. Regular readers of BTB are unlikely to learn many new facts, but this documentary does a wonderful job of re-telling the story in different contexts. As with the other documentaries, Lewis obtained interviews with M.P. David Bahati, chief sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters in Uganda’s Cabinet. It also features brief appearances from pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male, who both have been involved with hurling accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors during last year’s vigilante campaign.

Among the things this documentary covers that we’ve seen before is Bahati’s assertion that many American evangelical leaders privately tell him that they support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill bill:

We have friends who are evangelicals in the US and they are being supportive. Some confidentially supporting this, others, very few openly, in support of this because of the fear to be blamed back home and we truly accept that.

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda

But where this documentary truly excels is in covering the impact the debate over the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has had on Uganda’s LGBT community. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said that since the bill has been introduced, life has become much more difficult:

Many Ugandans have taken the law into their own hands and started attacking homosexuals, beating them up. Landlords have thrown people out of their houses because they are saying “If this legislation is passed and I have a homosexual who is a tenant, then I become a criminal, so it is better I throw you out now before the law is passed”.

Pepe, a transgender advocate for SMUg, agrees:

Kampala is one of the places that is known for mob injustice – anything can happen. You can move on the street and someone can say “Look, the homosexual is doing something” – just that word alone is going to draw attention and something can happen so that we live in fear of all the time.

SheilaMore compelling is this recounting of a case of “curative rape,” a common threat against lesbians throughout Africa.

SHEILA MUGISHA: At the age of 12 I had a friend at home – and actually these things are done by friends. I had always told him my stories, my secrets, my encounters in bed. So, he would tell me, “You know what? I want to teach you how to play with boys, not with girls.” He put his leg here, and here, and then he got into my body, into my vagina, and I screamed because I’d never had any sex, I’d never known, you know, any of those practices. “So, from now, you are going to learn how to play with boys.”

As a result of the rape, Sheila became pregnant at the age of 12. Her family took her to have the child aborted but the effects of the rape continued.

SHEILA MUGISHA: I went to a certain AIDS information centre in Mengo with a friend – I took a test – and it was positive.

Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba ButuroSheila has been living with HIV for almost twenty years. When the reporter told Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo about Shiela, the cabinet minister who has been one of the anti-gay bill’s staunchest supporters said that the entire story is a lie:

I have never heard of that, actually. But they lie a lot. Lies. They use that as a major tool because you see that’s the only way they garner sympathy from all over the world. Now the idea that in Uganda we have plans to kill gays you know, that the bill of Honourable Bahati is intended to kill homosexuals – that is the view that the entire world has got, yet it is not the case.

Stanley NdualaBut what has to be the most interesting element of the documentary for me is that for the first time we get to hear from Stanley Nduala, who writes for the notorious tabloid Red Pepper. He has been in the forefront of that tabloid’s outing campaigns. Apparently, making life miserable for LGBT people pays very well in Uganda; we see Nduala driving around Kampala in a late model Mercedes. Incredibly, he claimed that he, too, would fall under the bill’s provisions against “promoting” homosexuality:

STANLEY NDUALA, JOURNALIST ‘RED PEPPER’: For them, they believe that anything you write about homosexuality is promotion. So they think that I’m working with the activists to promote homosexuality in Uganda. So it is quite strict.

Far from promoting homosexuality, ‘The Red Pepper’ goes so far as to out homosexuals in its most popular section. No-one is spared.

FRANK MUGISHA: I know very many people who were outed in that tabloid who lost their jobs, who lost their families, who lost friends. I know people who were even bashed, I know people who were beaten. I know people who were harassed because they were outed in ‘The Red Pepper’.

REPORTER: Do you feel that you are persecuting a minority?

STANLEY NDUALA: I don’t know why they believe like that. We are just being journalists – True journalists.

Stanley tells me that the reason for such interest is that no crime is as hated as homosexuality here.

STANLEY NDUALA: When you commit homosexuality, they think all these other things, like rape, what, are just minor. If you have done that one, you could do everything.

REPORTER: So here in Uganda, being a rapist is minor compared to being a homosexual?

STANLEY NDUALA: Yes, to the public eye

Lawyer Lad Rekefuzi confirms that rapists and murderers fare better in Uganda’s courts than do gay people.

Also making a brief appearance is retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a brave man who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting last May in Southern California. This documentary is a great addition to the body of work being done all over the world to call attention to the deplorable treatment of LGBT people in Uganda.

David Bahati’s Plan for Genocide

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2010

Ugandan MP David Bahati

Jeff Sharlet, author of the upcoming book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, will appear on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air today on NPR. Sharlet also has an article appearing in the September issue of Harmer’s. It’s behind a paywall, so I haven’t seen it, but NPR reveals that when Sharlet spoke with MP David Bahati, the sponsor of Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Bahati said that his plan was to “kill every last gay person.”

Bahati said ‘If you come here, you’ll see homosexuals from Europe and America are luring our children into homosexuality by distributing cell phones and iPods and things like this,’” Sharlet recounts. “And he said, ‘And I can explain to you what I really want to do.’”

Sharlet accompanied Bahati to a restaurant, and later to his home, where Bahati told Sharlet that he wanted “to kill every last gay person.”

“It was a very chilling moment because I’m sitting there with this man who’s talking about his plans for genocide and has demonstrated over the period of my relationship with him that he’s not some back bender — he’s a real rising star in the movement,” Sharlet says. “This was something that I hadn’t understood before I went to Uganda, that this was a guy with real potential and real sway and increasingly a following in Uganda.”

Ugandan MP Confirms “The Family’s” Connection to Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

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.”

Ugandan MP: Homosexuality is an abomination punishable by death

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2010

Uganda’s Sunday Monitor this morning features a fawning profile of MP David Bahati, the who proposed the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s Parliament last year. That bill would have imposed the death penalty on gay people under certain circumstances, and it would have criminalized virtually anyone else who rented to or provided services for gay people.  It also would have imposed a three year prison sentence on teachers, family members or other “persons of authority” who failed to report gay people to police. That bill is now stalled in Parliament.

Daily Monitor’s Mike Ssegawa asked Bahati about his anti-gay campaign:

Bahati says he has a passion for service and trying to make a difference in people’s lives and also, fighting for what he believes is right. In his words, “One of the things I do is fight for the future of our children. And that is why I fight homosexuality.” Bahati accuses the rich for trying to influence the world with their homosexuality agenda, which he calls a great threat to society and the future generation.

“This habit is learned and can be unlearned,” he adds, quoting the Bible: “Homosexuality is an abomination punishable by death.” When I asked him how, as a Christian, he can advocate for a death penalty, he replied, “It is in Leviticus. Go and read – the penalty for homosexuality is death.”

However, he says the Bill has not been passed yet and whoever is concerned about the death clause should change it, but believes there is nothing more important than keeping Ugandan children morally upright.

Sometime back, there were reports that Bahati would be denied visas to some countries if the bill passed. But the legislator says he has heard no such thing. “I don’t know – but if that is the price I have to pay, I would rather stay here and keep our children safe, for I am comfortable and happy to be involved in this cause.”

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation's Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)'s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

Bahati undoubtedly was reinforced in his belief that homosexuality is a “habit” that “is learned and can be unlearned” from the March 2009 conference put on by three American anti-gay activists. Two of those activists, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer,  reportedly met with several unnamed members of Parliament following the conference. One month later, Parliament approved a motion to draw up a draft of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. An early draft, dated April 20, began circulating a short time later.

Emblematic of the misinformation that Bahati has consistently deployed about what the Anti-Homosexuality would do if passed into law, Sunday Monitor incorrectly describes the death penalty as being reserved “for gays who lure the underage into the vice or infect one with HIV/Aids.” In fact, the actual death penalty portion of the bill goes much further:

3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by  enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Clause 3. (1) (b) was often cited to support the claim that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would impose the death penalty for the “deliberate” spread of HIV, but it is important to note that the bill contains no requirement that the intent be deliberate at all. In fact, the third subclause would suggest that the death penalty would apply upon receiving a positive serostatus result from an HIV test, which might very well be the first time the charged individual would know he or she was HIV-positive. Alternately, if the accused already knew he was HIV-positive, the proposed bill provides no acknowledgment that the accused’s partner may have known about it and entered into a consensual relationship.

Clause 3. (1) (a) includes a prohibition against sex with a minor, but as you can see, the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” goes much further than infecting someone with HIV/AIDS or “luring the underage.” Clause 3.(1) (e), which prohibits sex with a “person with disability,” assumes that a disabled person — perhaps someone who is deaf, blind or in a wheelchair, for example — is unable to provide consent. Nowhere in the bill does it suggest that proof that the individual did not consent is needed.

And then of course, there’s the problem with 3. (1) (f), where the “offender is a serial offender.” That could mean anyone who has ever had more than one partner, or anyone who has had sex with his or her partner more than once. And as Rob Tisinai demonstrated, the bill is so badly written that the death penalty for the “serial offender” is so poorly written, just about anyone can be convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Ironically, Bahati says he draws inspiration from Nelson Mandela for his work in reconciliation and conflict resolution. Ironic, because it was under Mandela’s leadership that South Africa moved vigorously to dismantle state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people.

Lou Engle Supports Criminalization of Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2010

Lou Engle on stage with other supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at a TheCall rally in Kampala (Michael Wilkerson / Religion Dispatches)

Lou Engle, the Dominionist evangelical preacher behind TheCall, has confirmed more or less what Uganda MP David Bahati told author Jeff Sharlet: That Engle supports Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill – at least some form that is similar to the one that is currently under consideration.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Votersposted an interview she conducted with Engle for the Religion Dispatches web site. In this exchange, Engle denied knowing MP David Bahati (the bill’s sponsor) or Julius Oyet, who appears to be a major behind-the-scenes player in promoting the draconian bill in Uganda, and he denied supporting the bill when meeting with Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo. But he also said that “we appreciated the two guys [Bahati and Oyet] whose hearts were to bring forth a principled bill.”

Posner asked a series of questions specific to the bill. Engle denied supporting the death penalty provision, although he believed that there was a biblical basis for having one under certain circumstances. She also asked what other provisions in the bill he didn’t support:

I pressed him about which penalties in the bill he didn’t support — and he did say that although he could see someone supporting the death penalty, he did not, and he did not support “hard labor” as punishment or the requirement that churches report LGBT people to the authorities. But when I asked him if he would support a bill with less harsh penalties, he added: 

My main thing is to keep — is to not allow it to be legalized, so to speak, so then it just spreads through the legal system of the nation. So I’m not — I’m not making a statement as to what I think the penalties should be. It’s not my job to do that. I do think, I do think that these leaders are trying to make at least some kind of statement that you’re not just going to spread the agenda without some kind of restraint, a legal restraint and punishment. And I don’t know what the line is on those, but I can’t go that far as I understand that bill already said. [emphasis mine]

Engle admitted that his praise for the bill’s supporters’ “principled stand” might have led them to believe that he supported the bill. Although he insisted he did not support the bill as written, “I did support the principle of a nation saying, restraining it from coming into their nation.” He then went on to maintain that because homosexuality hasn’t been “restrained” in the United States, “I don’t think it’s going to be good for the nation, it sweeps into the education system, and the church is going to end up losing its privilege to have its own voice. Gender rights, will trump religious rights. I think it’s wrong, it’s not good for society. Those are the statements I came with, so frankly I was quite surprised to be thrown into this huge controversy.”

According to this interview, it appears that Lou Engle’s position on Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is virtually identical to that of Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. Lively, too, says that he doesn’t support the death penalty, but he finds the rest of the bill acceptable. Lively has called the bill “a step in the right direction” several times. More recently, he told Current TV’s Marianna van Zeller that passage of the bill would be “the lesser of two evils.” When asked whether that endorsement includes the death penalty, Lively had to struggle with that option for quite a long time before finally deciding that he still doesn’t support it, even as the “lesser of two evils.”

Engle now appears to hold the exact same position as Lively.

Does Lou Engle Really Oppose Uganda’s “Kill-the-gays” Bill?

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2010

The answer to that very simple question was never clear. Today, we might have a bit more clarity than before. If so, the news isn’t good.

Lou Engle addressing a rally in Kampala, Uganda. (Marc Hofer/New York Times)

American evangelical leader Lou Engle traveled to Uganda last month to put on another of his TheCall rallies on the sports field of Makarere University in Kampala. That event turned into a political rally in support for passage of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The rally featured key bill supporters like MP David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor; Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, and Ugandan pastor Julius Oyet. Just before Engle traveled to the rally, he released an extremely ambiguous statement in which he promised that he “will not promote this bill.” He continued:

In fact, we challenge the Church of Uganda to join with Christians around the world, to first examine our own moral failures, confess our own lack of love, and from that heart seek to establish true biblical standards, reflecting compassion for those struggling with same-sex attraction and equal justice for criminal offenses committed by heterosexuals or homosexuals. We believe this also reflects the heart and intent of the Christian leaders of Uganda.

But news reports from Uganda itself suggests that Engle went back on his promise and spoke in favor of the bill. The New York Times reported that he praised Uganda for its “courage” and “righteousness” in proposing the bill. Further reports indicate that while Engle was clearly careful in not calling explicitly for the bill’s passage, he nevertheless gave his implicit support by defending Uganda’s pastors who were dealing “with a controversy they never wanted.” He also refused to comment when other speakers took the stage and demanded the bill’s passage. It’s pretty obvious from several reports of people who were there that the crowd was left with the distinct impression that Engle supported the bill, and Engle did nothing to disabuse them of it.

Five weeks later, and almost immediately following Exodus International president Alan Chambers’ contrite statement regretting his failure to more vigorously oppose the infamous “nuclear bomb” conference held in March of 2009, Engle tried to jump on the same bandwagon. Just two days later, Engle issued a press release:

I was actually asked to release a petition at TheCall for the people to sign in support of the Bill. I did not allow that to happen because the purpose of the gathering was not a political gathering; it was a prayer gathering. However, I had to leave the prayer meeting early to catch our flight back home. After returning home, I was told that the Bill had been clearly promoted after I left the meeting. I apologize that this took place and that my stated purpose of not promoting the Bill was compromised. I take responsibility for what was done on the stage of TheCall, even in my absence.

Engle’s apparent defense is that his tacit non-endorsing endorsement could have been worse. He could have circulated a petition that would have removed any lingering doubt whatsoever as to his real stance on the bill. Thanks for small favors.

But even if we try to look at this with the deepest rose-colored charitable glass-half-full benefit of the doubt, Engle’s true position on the bill still remains ambiguous at best. Even in this latest statement, he repeated his admiration for Uganda’s commitment ” to raise up a principled stand to protect their people and their children from an unwelcome intrusion of homosexual ideology.”

So even under the most generous assumptions, Engle’s stand with this bill would still remain anybody’s guess. I think you know mine. And today, we have some more information which confirms my strong suspicion that Engle really supports the bill but won’t actually allow those precise words to escape from his lips.

Engle’s most recent statement prompted Jeff Sharlet to write about his encounter with the bill’s supporters while attending Engle’s rally in Kampala. Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, spent quite a bit of time with Oyet and Bahati immediately following the rally and reports that they were both “ecstatic at what they perceived as Engle’s strong support of the bill. They felt his rally and his statements would be a turning point for the bill, reassuring their Ugandan allies that they had support abroad.”

Sharlet also says that Oyet and Bahati both insisted that Engle had explicitly supported the bill when speaking with them, but that he had to “lie to the Western media because gays control it.” Bahati recounted that Engle spoke to the BBC against the bill, and then promptly walked over to Bahati offer his private support. Sharlet continues:

I tend to believe Bahati here, since Engle didn’t mean anything to him until he met him that day. He hadn’t heard of him and decided to attend the rally only after I’d told him a few things about Engle. In other words, he left the rally thrilled with Engle based on that encounter with Engle alone. Clearly, Engle did something to please him.

Sharlet also says that despite reports that Uganda may remove the death penalty from the bill, both Bahati and Oyet strongly support retaining the provision.

"Apostle" Julius Oyet

Sharlet confirms that Oyet is playing a very prominent role in promoting the bill, and is now officially working for Bahati. I’ve heard some suggestions that Oyet is the bill’s true author, but that hasn’t been confirmed. He is, nevertheless, very closely identified with it. For example, we know that Oyet was in the visitors gallery when the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Parliament last October, and that the Parliament’s Speaker specifically acknowledged him and commended his presence there.

Oyet is the self-styled “apostle” who is vice-president of the Born Again Federation, an umbrella group of some 10,000 Ugandan Pentecostal churches. He is also an adherent of “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.

Finally, according to Sharlet, “Oyet insisted that there are American church leaders who are supporting the bill privately but lying to the American media about it.” This repeats almost word-for-word what Bahati told Current TV’s Mariana van Zeller

The many friends that we have, especially evangelicals in America, when we speak to them privately they do support us. They encourage us, but they are in a society that is very hostile. And we appreciate that and we say do what you think is right for your conscience. …But we have support in America. There are people who support what we are engaged in.

At that time, I asked aloud who some of those Americans might be. Today, we may very well have one answer: Lou Engle.

Kill-the-Gays Bill Sponsor: Uganda Is Providing Leadership Where It is Needed Most

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2010

Current TV’s Vanguard reporter Mariana van Zeller has posted some outtakes from their documentary “Missionaries of Hate“, which explored the events that followed the three-day anti-gay conference put on by three American Evangelicals in March, 2009, which ultimately culminated with the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, sometimes referred to as the “kill-the-gays bill,” by MP David Bahati. In this video, we see an extended interview with MP Bahati.

Bahati brags that many American Evangelicals who publicly condemn the bill have told him they privately support it. One wonders, which Evangelicals are he referring to?

Click here to read a rush transcript of the interview.

Myths and Consequences: The True Impact of the Kampala Anti-Gay Conference

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2010

L-R: Unidentified woman, American holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, International Healing Foundation's Caleb Brundidge, Exodus International boardmember Don Schmierer, Family Life Network (Uganda)'s Stephen Langa, at the time of the March 2009 anti-gay conference in Uganda.

One criticism of the coverage of the three American Evangelists who held their anti-gay Kampala Conference in March 2009 and its aftermath is over the inference that without the conference, we wouldn’t be in this mess today. Critics of our coverage have charged that we have blamed Uganda’s rampant homophobia on these American activists — a position we have never held. Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, one of the principal American speakers who delivered his “nuclear bomb” at that notorious conference  has even played the race card: “It’s racist to suggest that Africans have no will of their own to produce public policy to suit their own values.”

While we do reject the notion that homophobia in Uganda is an American import, I think it is proper nevertheless to hold the three Americans — Lively, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer, and the International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge — accountable for the conference and its aftermath. As many independent observers have noticed, this particular conference, with the unwieldy title “Exposing the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda,” turned out to be – as I correctly feared when I first learned about it a week before it took place – the prime catalyst for the massive convulsion of anti-gay hysteria which followed and ultimately led to the tabling of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill before Parliament.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo (Retired)

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is a rare straight allies for LGBT people in Uganda, and he’s paid a very heavy price for his support. Last Friday, I asked him whether the link between the conference and the events following were overstated:

Jim Burroway: Over here in the US, we often get an unclear, distorted view of what’s happening in Uganda. But when we look, we find that there have been a lot of outing campaigns in the 2006, 2007. To put things in perspective, did that conference really make things worse for LGBT people in Uganda? Or was it just that the rest of us in the Western world, we noticed it because we hadn’t been paying attention before? Did it really make things worse?

Bishop Senyonjo: What we saw coming to the office, it made things worse. Because soon after that conference, we saw the introduction of the bill, you know what I mean? Because I think it was October something when Bahati came out with that bill, And we knew, I knew, different ones were at that conference that before the people come to speak to us, Lively and his company, they had also met with some members of Parliament and talked with them, even I think with the Minister of Integrity. So they had met with him and of course they spoke with someone in power behind them. Right? And not long after, this bill comes up.

Burroway: So, some of the people that you counsel, have they talked about their fears about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

Senyonjo: Oh yeah.

Burroway: Do you have any particular examples you can share without breaking anybody’s confidentiality?

Senyonjo: Many, many are afraid, and they have been coming and talking to me about it. And they are afraid and would like to run out of the country. And that is something very difficult. They don’t know how they can live in Uganda like that because their life will be in great danger, because they feel they cannot change what they are. And because many are losing their employment, we are trying to see that we can have some place where people can have what they call self-employment in a certain way so that they may not live a destitute kind of life. We’re trying to do what we can, to have some possible room where you can have people, even if for a short time in a transition to allow them to see where they are going. Some people would need some shelter for some time, they could need transit to get to work…

Burroway: Because a lot of them loose their family, too, is that correct?

Senyonjo: Oh yeah. That’s true. … so it is not easy. There is real fear of what is going to happen if this bill passed. And that is why many of us feel everything possible should be done to reject this bill.

Bishop Senyonjo was an eyewitness to all three days of the three-day conference, so I pressed him to talk more about Lively’s talk –particularly Lively’s assertion that homosexuality and Nazism are inextricably linked, and his blaming the Rwandan genocide on gays — but he was reluctant to touch those topics. “It creates a lot of unnecessary fears,” he said. “It does, and we may probably not want to repeat those.” Besides, he felt that those who attended the conference didn’t place much weight to those two points, which surprised me because I thought that those were the most incendiary parts of the entire conference.

Instead, it turns out that the centerpiece message that came out of the conference was Lively’s,  Brundidge’s and Scmierer’s reinforcement of the myth that gays recruit school children through child sexual abuse. That was the message which struck a particular chord in Uganda. Bishop Senyonjo concurred:

Burroway: One of the things that I keep reading in the newspapers in Uganda that are on the Internet is that there’s a widespread belief that gay people are recruiting children in the schools, and then I heard basically Scott Lively say the same thing at his conference. Do you think that his talk helped confirm some of those fears that people have?

Senyonjo: Yeah. In fact, even myself, I was at one time accused that I was going to schools and trying to recruit, as it were, people into homosexuality, which is actually blackmail. And you can see, what are the intentions of these people to do this? …. People who will say this, they have very evil intentions which I don’t understand. Because I don’t go to schools to recruit young people. In each …. People develop into what they are, they know themselves whatever they are, what kind of sexual orientation they are. They are not being recruited into it.

Buroway: I know. I mean nobody recruited me.

Senyonjo: [Laughs] That’s what I’m saying there’s a lot of work we have to do in education. They threaten the parents, they say that people are going to schools trying to recruit their children into being gay or what?  This is not true, you know?

This reinforcement of the already prevalent myth — and it truly is a myth – is perhaps the worst legacy of the conference. As NPR’s East African correspondent Gwen Tompkins reported last December:

Scott Lively’s philosophies have been deeply internalized here among those who are proponents of the law, and for people who are listening to these public dialogues on homosexuality, they’re hearing Scott Lively’s words reiterated by Ugandan Evangelicals and others who are proponents of the bill. And they believe it to be Gospel. They believe it to be scientific fact, what they’re listening to.

The Vanguard episode, “Missionaries of Hate,” which premieres tonight on Current TV, further confirms the critical role that March 5-7 conference played in propelling this myth as “scientific fact.”  Here is one exchange between Pepe Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda and Peabody-award winning reporter Mariana van Zeller:

Pepe Onziema: (SMUG) The conference basically introduced the idea that homosexuals, their agenda is to recruit children into homosexuality.

van Zeller: So before this conference this concept didn’t really exist in Uganda?

Onziema: No.

The truth is, despite Pepe’s recollection, this allegation didn’t originate with the conference. I’ve seen these allegations in Uganda media long before the conference took place. But Pepe’s faulty memory reinforces what NPR’s Tomkins reported, that because those prior suspicions are now regarded as “scientific fact,” the March 5-7 conference has now been thoroughly associated with being the origin of the charge. Where before, the myth was passed on as rumor, this conference led by three American “experts” elevated this rumor to ”fact.” Human rights advocate Julius Kaggwa told van Zeller confirms, “The theme of this conference was the gay agenda and the gay agenda was that there is a massive recruitment of school children into homosexuality.” He added:

There is a culture of fear among gay people and among non-gay people. I mean the non-gay people are fearing that the gay people are invading our culture and want to recruit children into this thing. The gay people are scared because there’s a massive onset of hatred, if you look like you’re gay then you might be arrested, you might get mob justice, you might just get assaulted. So there is generally fear on every front.

And to match what Bishop Senyonjo told me about his clients’ fears in the conference’s aftermath, van Zeller followed the story of “Long Jones,” a gay man who was arrested by police following the conference. Because of the conference, he said, “people became more out and spying and mentioning others.”

As we noted yesterday, van Zeller talked to Scott Lively, who admitted that he knew that Ugandan lawmakers were considering new legislation to “strengthen” their already draconian anti-homosexuality law (life imprisonment is already the current penalty, depending on how it is prosecuted). And as we have reported multiple times, the three Americans also met with Ugandan members of Parliament as part of their tour in March, 2009.  Van Zeller also spoke with MP David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Parliament. She asked him why he wrote the bill. His response:

I did that for the sake of protecting our children. Here in Uganda we have a problem of people promoting homosexuality, especially using money and materials to recruit young people.

And we know exactly where he got his ”facts” from.

Missionaries of Hate” airs Wednesday on Current TV at 10:00 EST. A preview is also available on Hulu.

(See also part 1 and part 2 of our talk with Bishop Senyonjo.)

Engle Offers Tactical Support For Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

May 4th, 2010

Lou Engle on stage with other supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill at a TheCall rally in Kampala (Michael Wilkerson / Religion Dispatches)

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.

Lou Engle Praised Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

May 2nd, 2010

Lou Engle addressing a rally in Kampala, Uganda.(Marc Hofer/New York Times)

In an apparent contradiction to a statement Lou Engle released earlier last week, the New York Times reports that Engle praised Uganda for its “courage” and “righteousness” in promoting the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

In a rally held Sunday on the sports grounds of Makerere University in Kampala, Engle told the crowd of about 1,300 people:

“NGOs, the U.N., Unicef, they are all coming in here and promoting an agenda,” Mr. Engle said, referring to nongovernmental organizations. “Today, America is losing its religious freedom. We are trying to restrain an agenda that is sweeping through the education system. Uganda has become ground zero.”

The Times reports that Engle was followed by Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, who addressed the crowd, “These are desperate times, but we will not accept intimidation. It is our business to do what God wants. Pray for Bahati, and pray for the bill.” MP David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, also attended the rally. Bahati called the rally’s turnout “a good sign” for the bill’s passage, which he said he expected to occur soon.

Peter Tatchell’s Correction

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2010

Veteran UK LGBT activist Peter Tatchell has issued a correction to yesterday’s assertion that Ugandan MP David Bahati, author of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, ”is demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts.” In an email sent to BTB, Peter’s statement reads:

On 16 February, I issued a news release about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda and the Bill’s sponsorship by David Bahati MP, who is also Chairman of the Scout Board of Uganda.

I should have made it clear that Mr Bahati was not explicitly calling for the execution of gay scouts and scout leaders. His Bill proposes the execution of gay serial offenders, which could, of course, include gay scout members. But his Bill does not target gay scouts in particular and he has not specifically called for the execution of scouts who are gay. The threat to gay scouts in Uganda is implicit, not explicit.

Apologies for my lack of clarity. Below is a revised, corrected version of the news release, together with some new information about the Uganda Bill.

Peter Tatchell – London, UK

In his revised press release, Tatchell asks that UK readers write to their members of Parliament about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Click here to read the revised news release.

Bahati Won’t Attend the National Prayer Breakfast, But Others From Uganda Will

Jim Burroway

January 28th, 2010

The Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa television program this week featured a discussion of the secretive evangelical group known as the Family or the Fellowship and its connections to Uganda. Appearing on the program were Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and Bob Hunter of the Family.

Hunter explained that Ugandan MP David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, had been invited earlier this year to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. That invitation was extended before Bahati introduced the draconian bill into Parliament. Hunter said that Bahati had not accepted the invitation, and was surprised to see Bahati’s boast in Uganda’s Daily Monitor that he would be there. Then, during the program, Bahati himself called in briefly to the program and confirmed that he will not attend the Family’s National Prayer Breakfast “because of a prior engagement.”

But here’s an interesting detail. Hunter reiterated that Bahati’s invitation had been to be a “volunteer” rather than to attend the event itself. (Hunter had also described Bahati’s invitation the same way when he first confirmed that Bahati wasn’t going to attend the Breakfast.) But on the VOA program, Hunter offered a few more details. As he described it, if someone is invited to attend the National Prayer Breakfast for a second time, the invitation is to serve as a volunteer to accompany a larger delegation — in this case, a delegation from Uganda — but not to attend the Breakfast itself. In other words, Bahati has attended the Prayer Breakfast before, but this time he was asked to facilitate the attendance of a delegation from Uganda at the Breakfast.

So who’s coming? We don’t know. But just because Bahati can’t attend due to a “prior engagement,” that doesn’t mean the rest of the Uganda delegation won’t be there.

If I were to put together a “watch list” of Ugandans associated with this bill, I think it would include:

  • President Yoweri Museveni
  • First Lady and State Minister for Karamoja Janet Museveni.
  • Attorney General Khidu Makubuya. He is heading the Cabinet subcommittee examining so-called “compromises” to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and is believed to be a supporter of the bill.
  • Regional Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position on the bill.
  • Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position in the bill.
  • Gender Minister Gabriel Opiyo is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position on the bill.
  • Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo is on the subcommittee, has been a very strong supporter from the very beginning.
  • Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi has urged passage of the bill.
  • Deputy Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga also appears to be a strong supporter.

And, of course, Pastors Martin Ssempa, Steven Langa, David Kiganda, Henry Mina, and Julius Oyett should also be on the watch list.

Update: Bob Hunter of the Family left a comment below to say that these people are not coming to the Prayer Breakfast. That leaves open the question of who is coming and whether they are supporters of the bill or not.

[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Uganda’s Cabinet Debates Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

January 20th, 2010

Uganda’s state-owned New Vision reports that a “heated” Cabinet meeting took place yesterday to discuss the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The discussions don’t look good:

Sources said the Cabinet was divided on the clause spelling out the death penalty. After failing to agree on a position, works minister John Nasasira reportedly proposed that the Bill be delayed. His position was rejected, sources disclosed.

This suggests that there are people in the cabinet who don’t even want the death penalty removed, let alone any of the other draconian and wide-ranging provisions of the proposed legislation. The independent Daily Monitor reports that MP David Bahati, the bill’s sponsor, said that he is willing to amend the proposed law in a way “without putting the values of the country at risk. He was tight-lipped about the Cabinet meeting itself.

The cabinet decided to form a sub-committee headed by Attorney General Khidu Makubuya to suggest amendments to the bill. Other members of the sub-committee include Regional Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba, Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire, Gender Minister Gabriel Opiyo, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo. Buturo has been one of the bill’s strongest proponents.

It looks like any hope that the bill would be withdrawn is diminishing. Merely “amending” the bill would still leave a bill that would represent a staggering setback for human rights in Uganda. As the bill is currently written, it would:

  • Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. 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.”
  • Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
  • Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
  • Require anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
  • Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years.
  • Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
  • Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
  • Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room, set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
  • Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
  • Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

It’s impossible to imagine any amendments short of a “strike-all” amendment that would represent a material improvement to the bill.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Is Uganda’s “Kill-the-Gays” Bill Author Coming to Washington or Not?

Jim Burroway

January 19th, 2010

Frankly, my ability to take anyone at their word is very strained right now. Ugandan MP David Bahati, the guy who can’t wait to begin killing gay people or throwing them into a Ugandan prison for the rest of their lives (is there really a difference?), says he’s coming to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. Bob Hunter and others connected with the secretive Evangelical group known as The Family have told Warren Throckmorton that Bahati’s not invited and he won’t be allowed in. That’s fine, I guess, if I could trust this information. We’ve heard directly from Bahati; why can’t we hear directly from Doug Coe, the head of the Family?

The Fellowship’s obsession with secrecy means that nobody with recognized authority within the Family has said anything about Bahati, let alone the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament and which appears to have strong support among people associated with the Family. Bob Hunter, a Family member who has deep ties in Uganda, has appeared on NPR and Rachel Maddow to say that the Family doesn’t like the bill, but read the transcript again. Is he authorized to speak definitively on behalf of the Family?

MADDOW: Have you had to get permission to do this interview? Are you here with The Fellowship‘s blessing?

HUNTER: No.

MADDOW: No?

HUNTER: No, I didn‘t. I first went on National Public Radio, because I felt like I was scandalized on National Public Radio by name. And that‘s why I started talking out.

Okay, so Hunter is speaking because he felt scandalized, not because he’s speaking on behalf of the Family. That is most certainly his prerogative. But he was so intent on defending himself that he forgot what he wanted to do on Maddow’s show. According to Jeff Sharlet:

He said he’d planned to talk about Senator Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay politician who is listed in Family documents as the “U.S. leader” responsible for working with Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Bob said he wants to see Inhofe take a bolder stand against this awful bill. But he got sidetracked.

Sidetracked is right. I’m glad he spoke against the bill. I’m also glad to hear him say that he knows others within the Fellowship who are against it. The last thing I want to do is throw cold water on that.

But I’m going to anyway. Because, you see, I know a lot of devout Catholics who worked to try to defeat anti-marriage amendments. Fortunately, they rarely do it by going on the offensive against Episcopalians who also want to defeat the amendments. But that aside, we all know that it’s what the leaders are doing that matters, and Catholic leaders have no qualms about letting everyone know where they stand. That’s why it’s impossible for anyone to claim that the Catholic Church opposes what they clearly support: anti-marriage amendments everywhere. There is no ambiguity about where the organization stands, whatever some members of it may believe personally.

But we have yet to hear from anyone in authority from the Family say anything about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and that leaves a truckload of ambiguity to deal with. Call me paranoid, but I think that this is exactly what they want. You see, the way things stand right now, Bahati can say whatever he wants — he can say he’s going to the National Prayer Breakfast even if he’s really not going. True or not, he can use that to build up his own political capital in Uganda with nary a contradictory whiff from the Family. Meanwhile, the Family’s silence means that Bahati isn’t embarrassed, nor are any other Family members like, say, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. Bahati’s (and possibly Museveni’s) cherished dream goes forward, and the Family’s ties to Uganda’s political establishment remain intact. Everybody’s happy, except of course gay people in Uganda.

But on the other hand, maybe Bahati really is going to the National Prayer Breakfast. And maybe key members of the Fellowship — not Hunter, not people he knows, but others — support the kill-the-gays bills or its practically-equivalent effort, or at least are willing to look the other way. Meanwhile, those who are passing their assurances on the Warren Throckmorton may not be quite as in-the-know as they honestly think they are. How are we to know? And given the gravity of the situation, why should we go on their word while the Fellowship’s leaders maintain their useful silence? We shouldn’t, and more importantly we can’t afford to.

So, are Mr. Bahati or any other Ugandan political leaders going to Washington? I don’t know. Bahati says he is; Hunter says no. Does the Family support or oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Hunter says they oppose, but Sharlet says the group is divided and Hunter would appear to agree, especially if it’s true that Hunter went on Maddow to pressure Sen. Inhofe into taking a bolder stand (and failed). Only Doug Coe can answer all of this definitively, and pretty easily too. For the sake of all that is decent and humane, it’s time for Coe’s yes to be yes, and his no to be no. Silence is not an answer and time has almost run out.

So unless I hear it from Coe or another recognized senior leader who is officially authorized to speak on behalf of the Family, I’m sticking with the only first-person account I’ve seen so far. If trust is in short supply around here, it’s because the people who really matter have not lifted a finger to try to earn it.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Bill Author Coming to National Prayer Breakfast

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2010
Washington HIlton, site of the National Prayer Breakfast

Washington Hilton, site of the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4, 2010.

That’s according to a feature story in Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, The Sunday Monitor:

In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of DC.

Mr Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.

“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati – himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast. This week, citing international pressure, President Yoweri Museveni advised his party’s National Executive Committee, his cabinet and the NRM parliamentary caucus to “go slow” on the Bill.

MP David Bahati

MP David Bahati

MP David Bahati is the sponsor of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament. He is also a member of the secretive American evangelical group known as the Family, which founded and organizes the National Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in February, typically at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W. The Monitor reports that the Family has invited Bahati to the prayer breakfast.

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, another  is also said to be planning on attending the National Prayer Breakfast as well.

I find it absolutely incredible that secretive Family would risk this kind of attention at their premiere event. Did the Family actually extend an invitation to Bahati, as he has told The Monitor? If they did, will they honor that invitation or will they publicly repudiate their connections with Bahati and Buturo as had been suggested?

Also, every U.S. President since Eisenhower has attended and spoken at the breakfast. Will President Obama agree to share the same room with these two would-be murderers?

I think it’s a good time to convene a special session of the rainbow welcoming committee.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Beware of a “Compromise” In Uganda

Jim Burroway

January 15th, 2010

Uganda’s independent Monitor reports that the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament Edward Ssekandi insists that, despite President Yoweri Museveni’s call for a “discussion” of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill due to international outrage and the prospect of forfeiting badly needed donor aid, the bill will go forward in Parliament:

Uganda's Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi

Uganda's Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi

Mr Ssekandi said: “There is no way we can be intimidated by remarks from the President to stop the Bill. This Bill was officially tabled in Parliament and was subsequently committed to a committee for scrutiny. The President has a right to express his views like any other people who have petitioned me.”

He added: “This was a private members’ Bill and if the Executive wants to bring their views they are free. The Constitution is clear, it doesn’t allow people of the same sex to get married and what we are looking for in the Bill is (basically) the penalty and the process should continue.”

When Museveni announced to the Executive Council of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) that his Cabinet would sit down with fellow party member MP David Bahati to discuss the wide-ranging and draconian bill, many observers saw it as a signal that the bill would be withdrawn. But since then, we’ve noticed that while Uganda’s state-owned media gave Museveni’s remarks prominent play (the state-owned New Vision, the country’s largest daily newspaper, has mostly ignored the Anti-Homosexuality Bill until now), it has also been extremely cautious about reporting what the implications of his remarks might be. Meanwhile Bahati has remained defiant, insisting that he will proceed in pushing the so-called “kill-the-gays” bill through Parliament, and now it appears that the Parliament’s Speaker has Bahati’s back.

Museveni justified his announced intervention by telling the NRM gathering that the repercussions of the bill has gone beyond the borders of Uganda and has become a ign policy issue. But Voice of American yesterday reported that Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem now denies that the government is backing away from the draconian legislation because of foreign policy implications:

Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem

Foreign Affairs Minister Henry Okello Oryem

The minister said the president’s remarks to party members was in response to a recent war of words in the media between senior government officials over the gay bill, with one minister stating the government’s position was that the bill was “not necessary.”

“What the president was trying to say was that when it comes to those kind of issues that are related to the current issues relating to homosexuality – will aid be cut, will it affect our relations with other countries, and so forth – nobody has the right to comment on those matters except him as the president, and then it will be integrated by the Foreign Affairs [ministry],” said Oryem.

President Yoweri Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni

So what’s happening? It’s hard to know. Uganda is effectively a one-party state (Museveni’s NRM controls more than two-thirds of Parliament) and Museveni is about to begin his twenty-fifth year in power. In many ways, he rules as a strongman, closing radio stations and declaring opposition demonstrations “illegal” whenever it suits him. Uganda’s 1995 Constitution (PDF: 459KB/a whopping 192 pages!) calls for an “independent” Electoral Commission, but all seven members of the commission are appointed by the President. The constitution originally called for term limits on the President, but that was amended in 2005 to remove those limits and allow Museveni to run for a third term in 2006.

In fact, with the NRM dominating Parliament as it does, Museveni can change the constitution pretty much at will, and there are suspicions that he may do so again to gain a further advantage in the upcoming 2011 elections. The NRM, not surprisingly, has already named him as their candidate for a fourth term. Assuming he wins and completes that term, he will have held power for thirty-one years. Uganda has not had a peacful change of government since its independence in 1962. Museveni came to power after overthrowing his predecessor in a civil war in 1985. Museveni’s predecessor, Milton Obote, came to power following an invasion from Tanzania in 1979 which overthrew Idi Amin.  Despite the U.S. Congress having mandated that the State Department closely scrutinize the upcoming elections, few people expect a peaceful change in government next year.

None of these are the hallmarks of a transparent, functioning democracy. And yet, NRM appears to be a rather fractious party these days. In addition to competing statements on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill from various NRM ministers even after Museveni spoke on the subject, delegates at the NRM gathering openly challenged Museveni on his preferences for appointing fellow members of his Ankole tribe to key positions and steering the country’s resources to western Uganda, his home area.

Unlike his predecessors, Museveni  seems to tolerate a measure of dissent, but this tolerance only goes so far and it extends to those areas which are useful to him. While he has no qualms about banning demonstrations by opposition parties and deploying a huge show of force to prevent them from taking place, Museveni has been remarkably “tolerant” of announced massive anti-gay rallies. Pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, who has close ties to several American evangelical groups as well as to Museveni and the First Lady (who also happens to hold a seat in Parliament), has just announced a”million-man” march for February 17 in support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni

So let’s not be fooled into thinking that Uganda is a free-wheeling and fully functioning democracy. It isn’t, and Museveni holds all of the cards where the future of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is concerned. And we must not forget this, because Museveni may point to those appearances of an open and functioning democracy as an excuse for refusing to prevail upon Bahati to withdraw the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, even though this is something which Museveni could very easily do without breaking a sweat.

The danger then, is that we may see a “compromise” in the works, which would be just as disastrous for human rights as having the bill become law unchanged. To see what I mean, consider what the bill does now. If passed, it would:

  • Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier. 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.”
  • Affirm Uganda’s lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality.
  • Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.
  • Require anyone arrested on suspicion of homosexuality to undergo HIV testing to determine the individual’s qualification for prosecution of “aggravated homosexuality.”
  • Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment for seven years.
  • Criminalize “promoting” homosexuality with fines and imprisonment for between five and seven years. This overly-broad provision would criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda . It would also criminalize any attempt to repeal or modify the law in the future, as those moves could also be seen as “promoting” homosexuality.
  • Criminalize “aiding and abetting homosexuality” with seven years imprisonment. This provision could be used against anyone extending counseling, medical care, or otherwise providing aide gay people.
  • Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment for up to three years.
  • Penalize people who run “brothels” with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people. However, it defines a brothel as “a house, room,set of rooms or place of any kind for the purposes of homosexuality” instead of the more normal definition of a place where commercial sex work takes place. Anyone’s bedroom would be a “brothel” under this definition, placing landlords and hotel owners in jeopardy for renting to LGBT people.
  • Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
  • Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

There can clearly be no “compromise.” Should even one provision of this bill survive, it would still represent a disastrous setback for human rights in Uganda. It could also, not surprisingly, become a powerful tool that Museveni could deploy against his political opponents with devastating effect.

In 1999, Museveni ordered a campaign of mass arrests under the current anti-gay law. “I have told the CID (Criminal Investigations Department) to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them,” he announced. Several people were jailed. Five men and women who had formed Right Companion, a fledgling LGBT group, were beaten and tortured by police and the women were sexually abused. Others fled the country in fear. The survival of any part of this proposed bill will result in anti-gay pogroms which will make 1999 look like child’s play.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Video: Ugandan MP Remains Defiant on Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

January 14th, 2010

Uganda’s independent NTV Television maintains a YouTube channel, but unfortunately not all NTV news reports get uploaded. An anonyous BTB reader in Uganda sent this clip from the January 13 broadcast of “NTV Tonight.” It includes reactions from MP David Bahati, sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, to President Yoweri Museveni’s remarks that his cabinet will “discuss” the bill with Bahati. Bahati responds:

“We welcome the comment of the president on this bill and the need to engage with cabinet to ensure that we have a fine piece of legislation that will protect our children, defend our traditional family as we know it, between a man and a woman.”

Interviewer: “Are you intimidated by the pressure that is mounting?”

Bahati: “As pressure intensifies, we are also intensifying prayer and we are happy that the religious leaders are engaged in this matter.”

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Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to read the transcript.

Voice Of America on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2010

The Voice of America’s hour-long Straight Talk Africa television program today was devoted to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Today’s program featured Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power; Ugandan MP David Bahati, sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill; Matt Kavanagh of the Health Gap Coalition; and Olara A. Otunnu, Former Ambassador of Uganda to the U.N. (1980-1985).

Some background on Otunno is warrented. He was ambassador for the government of Milton Obote, who was overthrown by Uganda’s current President Yoweri Museveni in a civil war. Otunnu is a member of the Obote’s Ugandan People’s Congress, and he is actively courting the divided party’s nomination for the 2011 presidential elections.

The program is available this week for download.

David Bahati continues to assert that “homosexuality is learned and can be unlearned” (wonder where he got that idea?), and characterized gays as being predators who “recruit” children in schools (wonder where he got that idea?), and that is why, he says, the bill is essential. Bahati insisted that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni “has common ground” with Bahati on the need for the bill.

Bahati was asked if he was a member of The Family. He acknowledged having “friends” in Washington and having attended the National Prayer Breakfast which is organized by the Family. However, he denied that the Family had any input to the bill.

Matt Kavanagh pointed out that the provisions in the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill would criminalize efforts to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS in the LGBT community, since providing such aide could be seen as “aiding and abetting” homosexuality with prison sentences of five to seven years. “Driving people underground is a horrible public health policy. It means only that you are going to increase the spread of HIV.”

Jeff Sharlet talked about the tremendous influence people like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who “adopted” Uganda and has a close personal relationship with President Museveni. He said that Museveni, and Bahati are members of the Family, but that the Family is now shedding its secretive image in order to “throw Mr. Bahati under the bus” in order to protect their relationship with Museveni, which the Family considers their more valuable asset.

Sharlet confirmed that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo plans to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on February 4th. Buturo has been a heavy promoter of the draconian anti-gay bill throughout the year, having responded to the anti-gay conference put on in Kampala by three American anti-gay extremists with promises to “strengthen” Uganda’s law against homosexuality. Uganda’s laws against “crimes against nature” already provide for lifetime imprisonment. Buturo’s very office was created at the suggestion by the Family.

Ambassador Otunnu denounced the death penalty aspects of the bill and said that all Ugandans deserve equal human rights, but called for sensitivity to the “deeply held traditions and cultures of particular societies. …When a society  sees suddenly a practice that was not (known to be) so widespread, it begins to ask questions, it goes into shock, it begins to panic, and you see reaction which can be irrational.” He went on:

I am very sad that it has taken the issue of homosexuals for key western leaders and key western governments to discover the human rights disaster in Uganda. We’ve had genocide in Northern Uganda for fifteen years, no comments from any high officials in the West.  We had thirty people massacred in the streets of Kampala on the tenth of September the last. No high level comments. We have torture chambers in Kampala as we speak. WE have widespread corruption, fraud in elections. So I’m very disappointed that is has taken this issue to have any comment on human rights, and even then the comments are not about human rights in general in Uganda, but specific to the fate of homosexuals.

Much of the rest of the program was devoted preparations for the 2011 elections, which international observers fear will not be free and fair.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Ugandan State-Owned TV’s Cautious Coverage of Museveni’s Remarks

Jim Burroway

January 13th, 2010

Uganda’s state-owned UBC television this morning featured Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s comments made yesterday during an Executive Council meeting of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party meeting at State House, Entebbe about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In these videos, provided by an anonymous BTB reader in Uganda, we see a report on Museveni’s remarks.

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As you can see, the report on state-owned TV, which is followed by remarks by Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi, is extremely cautious and does not speculate on the implications of Museveni’s remarks. Early coverage by the state-owned newspaper New Vision gave Museveni’s remarks extraordinarily large and thorough coverage, but offered no analysis of the bill’s future either. However, New Vision printed another article quoting Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Livingston Sewanyana, as backing Museveni’s remarks, saying that the bill infringes on human rights. This is, I believe, the first time this opinion has been reported in the state-owned paper.

Independent media has been less cautious. The earlier report by NTV speculated that Museveni’s remarks might be a “nail in the coffin” for the draconian anti-gay bill. Uganda’s independent Monitor newspaper, which is owned by the same media group as NTV, this morning said:

He also left Ndorwa West MP David Bahati holding the can, when he, for the first time publicly, disowned the legislator’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, saying it does not represent the party or government position.

As for Bahati himself, he was reportedly on WBS television last night, still determined to push the bill through Parliament.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Click here to see a transcript of the UBC television reports

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