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Posts for December, 2010

“Kill The Gays” Bill Author And His American Friends: The Final Part of Rachel Maddow’s Interview

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2010

Last night, Rachel Maddow wrapped up her pre-recorded interview with Ugandan M.P David Bahati, author of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is currently under consideration in that country’s Parliament. The full uncut video is available here, including portions that were not shown on Rachel Maddow’s show. The third part of that interview which aired last night follows:

This portion of the interview repeats a small segment that aired the day before, and here is the transcript of that portion:

RM: What is God’s law about homosexuality?

DB: God’s law is that homosexuality is sin.

RM: Punishable by…?

DB: God’s law is that homosexuality is sin. …

RM: … In your view, does God’s law prescribe an appropriate punishment for that sin?

DB: God’s law is always clear that the wages of sin is death, whether that is implemented through legislation like mine or by a mechanism of a human being, whatever happens is the end result. We need to turn to God.

Did you catch that? “…Through legislation like mine or by a mechanism of a human being, whatever happens is the end result.” This appears to be justification for killing gay people even if that killing takes place outside of the rule of law, through vigilante justice or other extra-judicial killing. Whatever happens, he says. This is truly a cold-blooded statement. It clearly matches Jeff Sharlet’s observation of him. In his must-read book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, Sharlet interviewed Bahati in his home in Uganda, in which he asked Bahati what his ultimate goal was. This is how Sharlet explained it in an interview on NPR with Terry Gross:

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.”

Bahati also has increasingly a following in the U.S., including people like Lou Engle; Andrew Wommack and his man in Kampala, Leland Shores; and now, a former director of non-public education at the Department of Education under the President George W. Bush. Sharlet has more on that in the next segment.

Sharlet explains in a post on his facebook page that Bahati and Jack Klenk met through Klenk’s “Ugandan missionary work with an anti-gay Anglican religious movement.” (Update: Klenk is on the board of directors for Uganda Christian University, located outside of Kampala.) Sharlet told Maddow that he had spoken to Klenk and said that Klenk wouldn’t take a position on the bill. But Klenk says that the bill comes from a “beautiful place” and that the punishments in it are “loving punishments.” These loving punishments include not only the death penalty for many gays, but life imprisonment for the rest, seven years imprisonment for talking about homosexuality, and three years imprisonment for even knowing a gay person or renting a home or hotel room to him.

Sharlet believes that Klenk is not part of the Family, but he points out that Bahati nevertheless has numerous connections both inside and outside the Family, including Lou Engle, the Family Research Council and Sen. James Inhofe, who regularly travels to Uganda to talk about these issues. Sharlet describes Uganda as an American Evangelical “laboratory of ideas” that they cannot promote in the U.S. By exporting those ideas to a place like Uganda, the hope is these ideas can ferment so that they can then use those “successes” to re-import those ideas back to the West. In fact, Bahati has said several times that he believes his bill will serve as an example for the rest of the world to follow.

The anonymous blogger GayUganda notes that Uganda is in the midst of a very active campaign season ahead of Parliamentary elections in February. He says that it’s odd that Bahati would take the time to go to the U.S. to attend a conference that he likely knew would not welcome him. Given his hob-nobbing with a well-connected former Bush administration official, GayUganda’s speculation that this was actually a fundraising trip gains much greater credibility.

Was The Uganda Outing Campaign A Precurser To “Kill The Gays” Bill Revival?

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2010

That’s the harrowing possibility that Jeff Sharlet raised yesterday during his interview on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now.

Sharlet, author of C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, spoke with Amy Goodman yesterday about recent events in Uganda, and gave some possible connections between a recent vigilante campaign launched by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. magazine by the same name) and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which has been languishing in at least one Parliamentary committee since earlier this year:

Well, this article in Rolling Stone, the Ugandan Rolling Stone, what it marks is really an escalation. We’ve already seen this happening in Uganda. Rolling Stone is a new paper. The big national tabloid, you might say, is called Red Pepper, and they’ve been publishing so-called kill lists for some time now, with names, sometimes addresses, photographs, of gay people. You see also some Ugandans taking out ads in these papers to say, “Here’s this person I don’t like, arrival at work,” or something like this, “I have secret information that he’s gay.” This idea of sort of formalizing the list, naming the top hundred, this is a real escalation.

And I think what it shows us, and with what’s going on in the bill right now and what’s alarming, is the bill hasn’t been passed. It got stalled after it was introduced, in response to international pressure. But it’s still there. It’s, in effect, kind of a tiger on a leash that the regime can let off depending on its own fortunes in upcoming elections. And what I’m hearing from David Bahati, the author of the bill, with whom I remain in touch, that he is now being promised a second reading. And I think this new step in the press is a very alarming one, because it shows it moving right back to the forefront of Ugandan society.

Sharlet also expresses concern that Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Community Church, which is a financial backer of Ugandan pastor and staunch Anti-Homosexuality Bill support Martin Ssempa, has not only maintained ties to Ssempa, but is misleading their own congregation on what Ssempa stands for. 

What’s interesting about it is it’s not even a far-right megachurch, and there’s a lot of members of Canyon Ridge who would be, I think, really outraged if they understood that their church was supporting one of the leaders of the anti-gay movement, Pastor Martin Ssempa, who’s also received US federal dollars, PEPFAR money. He has testified before our Congress. He’s held up as a champion in the fight against AIDS. His method has boiled down to “kill them.” The Canyon Ridge Church, there’s been a lot of pressure put on it, and I should say, by the way, by some evangelical activists. There’s a man named Warren Throckmorton, a professor at a Christian college, who’s been leading the fight to get Canyon Ridge to be accountable for the fact that they are financing part of this campaign. But, you know, even that is just one piece of this equation.

Warren Throckmorton has learned that the Las Vegas Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign met with Canyon Ridge more than a month ago. Throckmorton writes:

And I continue to wonder why the Human Rights Campaign of Las Vegas, who met with Canyon Ridge leaders over a month ago, have said nothing about a church in their community which indirectly supports a bill which is terrorizing GLBT people in Uganda.

This is beyond troubling. Supporters of the bill have disseminated tons of misinformation about what the bill would do if enacted (falsely claiming that it only affects pedophiles and rapists) and about its current status (falsely claiming that the bill has been withdrawn or shelved.) Both of those claims have been widely as fact by the mainstream press, and some of them have even entered into the LGBT press and held among advocates. This might help explain HRC-LV’s silence on their meeting with Canyon Ridge. If HRC officials were misinformed and accepted Canyon Ridge’s assurances, would anyone in the gay community be surprised?

I think it’s time for the HRC-LV to come forward with what they know about Canyon Ridge and join the effort to hold Canyon Ridge accountable. Failure to do so is not much different from collaboration. Surely the HRC can be a fierce advocate for something, can’t they?

New Yorker Whitewashes “The Family’s” Involvement In Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

September 7th, 2010

[Update: In an earlier version of this story, I incorrectly identified the New Yorker's author as Peter Boyle. His name is Peter Boyer. My apologies for the error.]

We noted previously that Jeff Sharlet’s upcoming book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, will explore, among many things, the specific connections between the secretive American evangelical movement known as the Fellowship or “The Family” and the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was introduced into Uganda’s Parliament last year. A key chapter of that book has already been published in the September issue of Harper’s, and another modified excerpt was posted online at The Advocate. Now it appears that the Family has decided to react, and they are in full PR mode with the help of Peter Boyle Boyer at The New Yorker.

By all accounts from those who have met the reclusive Doug Coe who heads the group, Coe is an very quiet and charming man. With this New Yorker article, it is evident that Boyer has fallen for Coe’s charms. Boyer describes The Family as little more than a “frat house”, composed in equal parts of Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Jews. In fact, he appears to have fully bought the line about The Family not being a Christian organization at all, but merely a group of people whose sole mission is to influence powerful political and business leaders “to follow Jesus.” One wonders exactly how one is supposed to define Christianity better than that, particularly when one is talking about a group that seeks to impose its understanding of Christianity’s tenets, if not its theology, from the top. Boyer’s description of events in Uganda are equally naïve.

When Uganda’s Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, ["Family" member Bob] Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure’s defeat. [Uganda President Yoweri] Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.

One wonders how Boyer managed the dexterity to write those two lonely sentences with his hands over his ears while singing “lalalala” to drown out the noise.

Nowhere does he mention that it was MP David Bahati, a key “Family” man in Uganda — a guy who organizes Uganda’s version of the National Prayer Breakfast that the Family is best known for in the U.S. — who proposed the bill, stands by it, and still insists that the bill must be passed in it entirety so that they can begin “to kill every last gay person.” Boyer would have you believe that the Family was responsible for the bill being dead when in fact the bill, while stalled, is still very much alive. It is currently in committee, and MP Bahati and other Ugandan Family members continue to push for its full enactment. Others however recommend that the bill be dismembered with different provisions attached to other bills with less flag-waving titles, and passed surreptitiously.

As for the Family’s assertion that they had “the standing” to urge the measure’s defeat, that completely ignores the international outrage that the bill engendered. Sweden threatened to withdraw its foreign aid if the bill passed, and Germany reportedly made similar noises. Meanwhile, when Uganda president Yoweri Museveni announced a special commission to study the bill, he cited phone calls from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Museveni, Clinton had him on the phone for 45-minutes talking about the bill. I think we all know Sec. Clinton well enough to understand that this conversation was probably very uncomfortable for Museveni.

To be sure, The Family was not united behind the bill. Bob Hunter, who was put forward as the Family’s main American connection to Uganda, appeared on American and international media outlets denouncing the bill. But Sharlet noted that the bill caused a split within the Family, and for quite a few months it was unclear whether MP Bahati or other prominent backers of the bill would travel to Washington to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. In the end, he didn’t come, but according to Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, who did attend the Breakfast, many Family members of the Uganda delegation who were there at the Family’s invitation fully supported the bill.

When Jeff Sharlet learned that the New Yorker was preparing to publish a piece on The Family, he offered five predictions pointing to a whitewash. He was right on all five counts. The Family’s PR campaign is in full swing.

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.”

The Connections Between American Fundamentalism and African Homophobia

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2010

For the past year and a half, we have been carefully documenting the link between American anti-gay fundamentalism and evangelicalism and the wave of anti-gay hatred that has been sweeping across the African continent, particularly in Uganda. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, has a new book coming out in late September, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, in which he details the extensive network operating between American fundamentalists and Ugandan politicians. Excerpts from that forthcoming book are the basis for two articles out in September. The first one is available on newsstands now. It’s “Straight man’s burden: The American roots of Uganda’s anti-gay persecutions,” which is in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine. The second article is in next month’s The Advocate, and it is available online:

“Spiritual war” is a theological term, but in Uganda — ground zero for an explosion in violent homophobia across Africa — it’s taking increasingly concrete form. For the Ugandan government, that’s a pragmatic strategy as much as a spiritual one. Since 1986, Uganda has been ruled by an autocrat, Yoweri Museveni, who correctly guessed that American evangelicals eager to do good works and to save the heathen could be a big source of income for his regime.

“We have a primary, a secondary, and a high school,” Tommy said of Faithful Servants International Ministries. “Four hundred and fifty children, two meals a day, and we go into two hospitals and three prisons. We can’t do all that ourselves of course, so we have nine ministers. And our own seminary!”

Sharlet asked them what they thought of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would add the death sentence for those convicted of homosexuality under certain circumstances, would outlaw all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people, would make criminals of anyone who tried to offer services for or rent housing to gay people, and would penalize teachers and family members who failed to report gay people to police. Tommy replied:

“Well, I’m totally against killing them. Because some of them can be saved, and changed. But the thing is, you can’t force them to stop. It’s been tried! But it don’t work.” He shook his head over the problem on all sides — the homosexuals, themselves, and his Ugandan friends, so on fire for the gospel that they’d gone too far in an antigay crusade. That’s how it is with Ugandans, he explained. They’re a bighearted people, but they get ahead of themselves sometimes. That’s where Americans could help.

“What they need,” Tommy proposed, “is a special place, like, for people doing homosexual things to learn different. A camp, like.”

“Keep them all in one place?” I asked.

“Yes. I think that’s what we have to try,” he said. “Because the thing is, the Bible says we can’t kill them. And we can’t put them in prison because that’d be like putting a normal fella in a whorehouse!” Teresa chuckled with her husband. A camp in which to concentrate the offenders — that was the compassionate solution.

MP David Bahati, sponsor of the odious legislation, told Jeff Sharlet that based on his Bible, he is willing to kill every gay person in Africa. Sharlet’s article weaves together all the major players that we’ve been covering piecemeal, post by post, (David Bahati, Julius Oyet , James Nsaba Buturo, Lou Engle, Scott Lively and others) and synthesizes it all together with lots of added information drawn from his travels in Uganda and meeting with the major movers and shakers behind the bill.

But, he writes, “it’s American evangelicals, through naïveté in some cases and hate in others, who have done the most damage.” And he makes a very strong case for it, observing that now that American evangelicals are losing the anti-gay battle here at home, they have established a new tradition, “the practice of exporting a religious battle you’re losing somewhere far out on the edges and then declaring victory there as a precedent for revival back home.”

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.

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.

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.

Jeff Sharlet Responds: “We Agree On Central Points… Ugandan Bill Is Wrong and Must Be Stopped.”

Jim Burroway

January 10th, 2010

Continuing in our quest to to understand the role of American religious conservatives in African politics, we posted yesterday a comment by Bob Hunter, an associate with the heretofore secretive religious group known as The Family. In that comment, Hunter provided a brief excerpt from a transcript which he says supports his statements made on Rachel Maddow’s program earlier last week, and which were contested a few days later by Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Late last night, Sharlet left this comment answering some of Hunter’s points.

I spoke to Bob Hunter this evening after this went up on Box Turtle. The bottom line is that we’re in agreement on some central points: The bill, proposed and supported by men in relationship with the Family — David Bahati, James Nsaba Buturo, and Yoweri Museveni — is wrong and must be stopped; the Family has been too secretive, which has hindered its ability to take a stand; and Hunter is doing the right thing by going public in order to make that stand.

My use of the phrase “Jesus footing” was not derogatory. It was, as I told Bob tonight, in recognition of the Family’s long stated goal of a “God-led government.” The particular document I had in mind — related to Senator Jim Inhofe’s extensive work in Uganda on behalf of the Family — describes one aspect of the Africa work thusly:

“2. THE EXECUTION OF THE VISION
A. A congressman and/or Senator from the United States will befriend the leader of another country and tell him/her how Jesus and His teachings will help his country and its poor.
B. U.S. leader and foreign leader will select 5 men (mentors) from the foreign country to commit to learn about Jesus and how He will help themselves, their country and the poor.

“… We will teach the mentors to confess their sins (known or unknown) and to ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to live in them, and to teach them how to live, what to think and what to say.”

Bob says he’s unfamiliar with this document. I believe him. There’s a lot of paperwork in the Family. And, to be fair, Bob’s pretty busy doing consumer advocacy work.

We also agreed that a there’s no point in us having a pissing match here in America while Uganda burns, so to speak. So, in that spirit, I’m going to take Bob’s word that he was simply trying to clarify the record; accept his apology for saying that I’ve disowned my book (a misunderstanding, he says); and leave the transcript above to speak for itself. It was an on the record conversation. “Bait” is “bait,” the use of a big name to bring people to the table behind the scenes. Whether that’s a good approach is in the eye of the beholder. I think it’s fair to say — and that Bob would at least in part agree – that in the case of Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay senator identified by a 2003-4 budget as responsible for maintaining relationships with leaders of 11 African nations, including Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi — the “bait” may have brought his own baggage.

But Hunter, thank God, is cut from a different cloth. The point is that Bob is trying to bring peace and human rights to Uganda. We can disagree about how to do that, we can even disagree about what constitutes “peace,” but right now, on the brink of murder, our disagreements don’t matter as much as our common cause.

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

“Family” Member Defends Statements Made To Rachel Maddow, Provides Transcript of Conversation With Sharlet

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2010

In the context of understanding the role of American religious conservatives in African politics, particularly in Uganda, there has been a back-and-forth between Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power., and Bob Hunter, an organizer affiliated with the Family working in Uganda.

On the 7th, Sharlet appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show. He asserted that statements by Hunter on a previous episode were inconsistent with his conversation with Hunter and that both he and Hunter had a copy of the transcript of that conversation.

Hunter also included a letter he sent to Rachel Maddow, reinforcing his contention that he did not know Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo personally, and “had not even heard of him until this story broke, even from my Uganda friends.” But, as with the rest of us, he has learned of him since then in connection with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The following comment was made to the thread of our posting about that appearance:

Hi, Bob Hunter here.

I thought you might like to see the transcript of the interview Jeff Sharlet and I had, where I make clear that the reason a Senator and a former UN Ambassador were willing to be “bait” was not about a “Jesus footing”, whatever that is (I have never used the phrase) but about trying to bring peace to Uganda. It worked, eventually helping create a few friends from various political perspectives, meeting around the teachings of Jesus about loving enemies and turning cheeks. Here is the transcript that makes this clear:

Hunter’s transcript of this interview is available after the jump.

Sharlet on Maddow: US Government “At the Beck and Call” of the Family

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2010

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show tonight to counter some of the claims made by “The Family” member Bob Hunter on Tuesday’s show. Hunter had claimed that Sharlet disavowed much of his own book, that The Family was not involved in politics, and that Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the prime supporters of Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was not a member of the Family.

Sharlet revealed that just this week he had obtained a budget for The Family’s work in Africa “identifying (Sen.) Jim Inhofe (R-OK) as the designated point man selected to work with eleven African leaders, most of them Presidents including the President of Uganda Museveni, President of Rwanda Kagame and to work with them to help set their nations on a sort of a Jesus footing. … There’s a budget, there’s money, there is a support staff, it’s a very formal effort that he’s undertaking.”

Sharlet also said that the Senators use their status as U.S. Senators to open doors for the Family in Africa. Sharlet said of Hunter:

He explained to me that those senators who were traveling with The Family… I had made the mistake of saying that Mr. Hunter travels at the behest of the U.S. government. He corrected me. He said ‘No, Senators travel at the behest of me. I use them as bait; I use them as tools to reach those in power, and then we can go about trying to get them on this Jesus footing.

Rachel clarified that it is not the Family that is at the beck and call of the U.S. government, but that the U.S. government is at the beck and call of the Family.

Hunter had denied knowing Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, implying that Buturo was not a member of The Family. Sharlet said he was puzzled by that, saying that Hunter had told him that establishing the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity had been created for The Family, and that Buturo “inherited” that position, along with his position in the Family. Buturo has since traveled overseas representing Uganda at Family events.


Oh yeah, we got a shout-out from Rachel as well. You can find the Scott Lively videos here.

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

“Family” Member Speaks About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

January 6th, 2010

Bob Hunter appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show last night on behalf of the secretive conservative Christian group known as The Family, to talk about The Family’s role in the Ugandan proposal to legislate LGBT people out of existence. Most of his statements on Rachel Maddow were a repeat of what he had said earlieron NPR’s Fresh Air on December 22. He claimed that The Family never involved themselves in politics — he was particularly combative on that point on Maddow’s show — and that The Family was working to try to get the Anti-Homosexuality Bill withdrawn. You can see the videos from Rachel Maddow’s show here and here.

As I said, Hunter was particularly combative in insisting that The Family is just a bunch of small groups of people who gather for prayer and Bible study, and doesn’t get involved with politics. He also vigorously slammed Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, particularly its cover highlighting “Fundamentalism” at the heart of American power. After the show aired, Sharlet tweeted, “It’s true — I don’t like the cover of The Family. Much of the rest of what Hunter said on Maddow was plain wrong.” Sharlet expanded on what was “plain wrong” in a comment he posted on Warren Throckmorton’s web site:

With respect for Bob’s good intentions in opposing the bill and bringing a smidgeon of transparency to an organization that has been defined by secrecy for 75 years, there’s much in his statement on Maddow — which I helped arrange — that is inaccurate. I’ll have more on this later today, but the most significant point is that the Family/Fellowship has functioned as a political organization ever since it was first formed in the 1930s to elect Arthur Langlie to the office of the Washington governor’s office. It was political when it threw its muscle behind the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act that undid much of the New Deal … it was political when it sent Senator Chuck Grassley to Somalia (and Uganda) in the early 80s to build U.S. support for the genocidal regime of dictator Siad Barre; and it’s political now, as it struggles to do damage control over the Uganda issue. Sending someone like Senator Jim Inhofe to meet with foreign leaders — readers should know that goes through the State Department — on the taxpayer’s tab is political. ..There is a religious function, too; but let’s lay all the cards on the table.

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

Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill Sparks Schism Inside The Family; U.S. Sens. Remain Silent

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2009

Rachel Maddow had author Jeff Sharlet on her program last night. Sharlet is the author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and has been following the connections of The Family to the current attempt in Uganda to legislate LGBT people out of existence through its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. That proposed Act is now reportedly being modified to drop the death penalty but add forced conversions. If true, that would provide even more evidence that the anti-gay conference last March by three American ex-gay proponents was a major factor in propelling this bill to where we are today.

Sharlet had earlier identified Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s Parliament, as a “rising star” and member of The Family. It is The Family that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and Bahati has played a role in organizing the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast for some time.

While the March anti-gay conference in Kampala played a huge role in providing impetus for the proposed legislation, Sharlet reports that the idea for the draconian bill predates that conference. According to Sharlet, Bahati got the idea for the Anti-Homosexuality Act at the October 2008 Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast where he floated the idea during a private meeting. Sharlet reports that other Family members tried to dissuade Bahati from his plans, but in the end they work a balance “between access and accountability” and the decided that access to Ugandan political figures was more important than holding them accountable for the lives of a reviled minority.

Sharlet reports that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) may have attended this particular prayer breakfast, although he’s still trying to get confirmation of that. He has been very active in Ugandan Prayer breakfasts in the past and travels to Uganda about twice a year. Ugandan Family members credit Inhofe for making the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast a success.

Sharlet reports that the bill has caused something of a schism between the Ugandan and American branches of The Family. While several American members of The Family are quietly trying to put a stop to the bill, Sens. Inhofe and Sam Brownback (R-KS) have refused to step up, characterizing the bill as an internal Ugandan matter that they don’t want to “interfere” with — despite the fact that they’ve had no reluctance to “interfere” in Ugandan matters where condom distribution to fight AIDS is concerned.

David Bahati and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo plan to come to the American National Prayer Breakfast in February 2009. Sharlet reports that the Ugandans pushing for this bill may be dis-invited to the Prayer Breakfast.

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.

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.

This is important news to help place the line of events into context. While it appears that the anti-gay conference put on by three American ex-gay proponents wasn’t the source for the idea of outlawing LGBT people, it certainly played a major role in making this proposal a reality by putting a public face on the “pressure” for the legislation. That conference served as a launching pad for a public campaign demanding that “something be done” — a campaign that included further meetings and demonstrations, culminating in an orgy of public outings and denunciations as part of a national vigilante campaign. Throughout the campaign, the words and writings of the three American activists were used as fuel to propel the hysteria further. All of this breathed new life into a germ of an idea hatched five months earlier.

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

Follow The Money: The American Connection to Uganda’s Death Sentence For Gays

Jim Burroway

November 25th, 2009

Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he laid out yesterday for the first time the pipeline of money and support for those behind the Anti-Homosexuality Act which is now before Uganda’s Parliament.

Before investigating that particular connection, a bit of background on the American secretive group, The Family, is in order. The Family (sometimes known as The Fellowship) was founded in 1935 by Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant preacher who said that God came to him one night and said that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people: the poor and the suffering. According to Vereide, God commanded him to become a missionary to the rich and powerful, so that they could unleash blessings to the rest of society through the exercise of theocratic principles that would, in effect, “trickle down” to the masses.

Immediately, Vereide set out to recruit a group of “Key Men” in Seattle, where his new theology was put to the test. Key Men are said to be those who are identified as having been chosen by God to be in positions of power and influence — that they are in those positions not because of their own hard work or fortune, but because they were chosen by God to be there. And in their positions, they are to exercise their power and influence in order to bring out a New Order throughout the world. To give you an idea of some of the influence The Family has in American politics today, Jeff Sharlet told Terry Gross:

And in particular – Joe Pitts has been in the news because of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment – was one of the guys who really helped to bring abortion to the forefront to the group, starting in the late ’70s, and that’s become a concern of a lot of members. And, as you expand outwards over the last couple decades, and you look at the concerns of politicians like Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Tom Coburn, all these guys who are very involved members — you see homosexuality, you see all the culture-war issues taking a place alongside biblical capitalism and this foreign affairs expansionism, and, in fact, merging in The Family’s view into one sort of united world view.

Other key members of The Family that has made news lately are Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R). But it’s not just Republicans. The Family also has key players in the Democratic Party as well, including Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Stupak. (D-MI). Senator Mark Pryor (D-AK) told Sharlet that Jesus didn’t come to take sides, but to take over.

Now on to the Ugandan connection. In his book, Sharlet identifies Uganda President Yoweri Museveni as “The Family’s man in Africa,” who came into The Family when he rose to power in 1986 following a civil war, and he has been a key player in Africa on behalf of The Family ever since.

But the connection between The Family and the currently proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act doesn’t end with that relationship. It goes much deeper. Here is the key part of Sharlet’s interview yesterday, detailing for the first time the specific role that The Family is playing in the proposal to add the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances and to bring an end to all public advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens in that country:

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn’t been signed into law. So it’s not in effect and it might never be in effect. But it’s on the table. It’s before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You’ve described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.

Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family’s 990s, where they’re moving their money to – into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, “invisible family binding together world leaders,” and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads – graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO’s through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media – which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Those behind this bill claim that it is necessary because, they charge, wealthy foreign homosexuals are pouring money into the country to turn everyone gay. But as is typical in cases like this, these people are denouncing ghosts which are reflections of their own reality. It is, in fact, wealth, powerful and influential Americans at all levels who are making this literal death sentence possible.

The entire interview is an eye-opener, and provides an excellent introductory view of The Family. Sharlet’s book is required reading for every American who cares about the future of not just this country but the entire world.

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

The Guardians Of Marriage

Jim Burroway

July 10th, 2009

Sens. John Ensign, Tom Coburn, the secretive Christian cult known alternately as The Family or The Fellowship, and the House on C Street:

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I used the term “cult” to describe The Fellowship. How else does one describe an outfit founded by a man who had a special visitation from Jesus who told him that Christianity got it wrong for the past two thousand years?

Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power examines this strange organization in greater detail.