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Posts for December, 2011

Ugandan Pastors Face Gay Libel Charges

Jim Burroway

December 15th, 2011

One of the more immediate fallouts of the infamous March 2009 conference put on by three American anti-gay activists in Kampala, besides the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a long and fearsome anti-gay vigilante campaign waged by the tabloids and on television and radio. During the anti-gay hysteria that swept Uganda, several powerful pastors took the opportunity to launch wild accusations against rival pastors in a bid to increase their own power base and financial clout. Three preeminent Ugandan pastors, Martin Seempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze, were charged with conspiracy to falsely defame a rival pastor by accusing him of sodomy.

Today, the African news blog Behind the Mask reports that a Ugandan magistrate has ruled that Ssempa, Male and Kyazze have “case to answer.” In other words, the magistrate ruled that there is ample evidence that a crime may have taken place and that it is now up to the defendants to put on a defense:

Magistrate John Patrick Wekesa ruled this morning in Kampala that the three Christian preachers, Martin Sempa, Solomon Male and Bob Kyazze should start defending themselves against charges of involvement in conspiracy to damage (Pastor Robert) Kayanja’s name by way of a homophobic smear campaign.

The court has set December 19, as the date for the pastors to defend themselves.

The accused pastors, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo (agents of the accused) face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation. The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

The defendants face up to five years imprisonment if convicted. Twenty-one prosecution witnesses have testified in court so far this year. The for earlier sodomy charges that had been filed against Kayanja by the three pastors and their lawyers have been closed for lack of evidence.

Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male have been outspoken supporters of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a wide-ranging piece of legislation which would have imposed the death penalty against gay people under certain circumstances, lifetime imprisonment for the rest, and harsh criminal penalties for virtually anyone else who knew them or provided services to them. Ssempa had enjoyed support from several American Evangelical pastors, churches and organizations, including Saddleback pastor Rick Warren and Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Warren finally denounced Ssempa and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009 after weeks of pressure, and Canyon Ridge reluctantly cut ties with Ssempa after defending him for several months.

UPDATE: Daily Monitor is out with its article, naming four pastors being tried:

The quartet, Solomon Male of Arising for Christ, Martin Sempa of Makerere Christian Centre, Robert Kayiira and Michael Kyazze of Omega Healing Ministries are jointly charged with Ms Dorothy Kyomuhendo, former State House aide, and artiste David Mukalazi.

A Bachmann Staffer’s Dominionist Worldview, Gun-Running Charges, and Ties To Ugandan “Kill-The-Gays” Pastor

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2011

"The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments": Peter E. Waldron

A close associate of Rep. Michele Bachmann who believes that the Congresswoman is fighting for the presidency with “the anointing of God upon her,” has come under scrutiny for his 2006 arrest in Uganda on gun-running charges, and for his close relationship with Ugandan pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa, a prominent advocate for that nation’s “Kill the Gays” Bill.

Peter E. Waldron, the staffer for Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign responsible for her faith-based outreach in Iowa and South Carolina, had been arrested in Uganda in 2006 on charges of running illegal guns and ammunition. Garance Franke-Ruta’s profile at The Atlantic resurrected the details. He had been arrested for possession of assault rifles and ammunition just days before Uganda’s first nominally multi-party elections in 20 years. The charges were dropped after Waldron spent more than a month in 2006 in the notorious Luriza Prison outside of Kampala. He was freed, he says, after pressure from the Bush administration. Of course, when it comes to Ugandan police work, the charges should be seen with some measure of skepticism, although newspaper reports (via archive.org) in Kampala at the time are quite detailed. Waldron himself isn’t helpful in clearing up matters. On the one hand, he says that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni operates death squads, and then calls Uganda’s leadership born-again Christians and good friends.

Particularly worrying is the company Waldron keeps. Richard Bartholomew had written about the 2006 arrest, and in the process recalled a 2004 story from The New Republic by Andrew Rice in which Rice describes Waldron as speaking at Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa’s church:

The Sunday I attended Ssempa’s church, after he finished his sermon, the pastor told his audience that he had a special guest to introduce, a visitor from the United States. All eyes fixed on a stocky white man with a thick moustache who wore a gray safari suit. He introduced himself as Dr. Peter Waldron of Wyoming. Waldron told the congregation that he had once been a military man and that he used to travel around Africa a lot in the 1960s. He was vague about the nature of his work. (“I’m not at liberty to say,” he later told me.) But he claimed that, on one occasion, it resulted in some good people getting executed by a firing squad. After that, he contemplated suicide, he told the audience. Then he found Jesus. “When you were born again, you became a new person. You left your tribe,” Waldron said. Now, he said, they were all bound together by their common love of God. The audience reacted enthusiastically, warmly welcoming Waldron’s speech. When Waldron launched into a story about how he’d recently been invited to the real White House in the company of religious rapper MC Hammer, the audience was wowed.

Several days later, I met Waldron at a Kampala hotel. He told me more of his story. At different times in his career, he said, he’d been a syndicated talk-radio host, a lobbyist, and a Republican political consultant. More recently, he had run sports programs for underprivileged youths in Tampa, Florida. Now, he was in Uganda, trying to sell computer software to government ministries while preaching on the weekends. “They embrace Americans here,” he said enthusiastically. Indeed, as we sat together, a steady stream of young admirers who had seen Waldron in church came up to greet him. They made complicated handshakes, the way Ugandans do, and Waldron boasted to me that he had met privately with President Museveni and his born-again wife. It struck me that, for many Americans of faith, Uganda–a country where homosexuality and abortion are outlawed, where politicians freely mix church and state, and where outward displays of religious devotion are the norm–represents a kind of haven. The United States may have a born-again president, but it is far too diverse to ever fully be, as conservatives call it, “a Christian nation.” But Uganda is on its way to becoming one.

Ssempa, of course, was the prominent supporter of Uganda’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty for LGBT people under certain circumstances. While Ssempa’s theology clearly defends such a practice, it is unclear whether Waldron agrees with Ssempa’s position. But an examination of Waldron’s particular theology isn’t encouraging. Richard Bartholomew also pointed to this 36-page document (via archive.org) which had been stored on Waldron’s web site and was dated 2004, explaining the guiding theology of Waldron’s Cities of Faith Ministries. Waldron’s theology mirrors that of the father of Christian Reconstructionism, R.J. Rushdooney, whom Waldron quoted in one passage. In the introduction, Walrdon wrote:

For generations Christians have wrongly divided all the affairs of their lives into secular matters and spiritual matters. Many of those secular-spiritual divisions and classifications are artificial divisions and heretical in its origins based on humanist philosophy rather than the historic Biblical teachings of the Church.

The modern Evangelical Christian is often a person who has made one’s life a huge set of pigeon holes in which every matter is classified as secular or spiritual. This obvious double-mindedness prevents the blessings of God to overtake one’s testimony – in the spirit, the soul, the body, and/or one’s material possessions.

The whole life of a Christian is spiritual, and everything he does which involves conduct, attitude or one’s role in society or, even, relationships has spiritual significance.

Waldron wrote that “the history of liberty is the history of Christian self-government” — and not just self-government in the sense that all individuals govern the course of their lives through the choices they make. No, Waldron’s concept of self-government is much broader:

A totalitarian form of governance arises when the Word of God is compromised, ignored or denied.  A person will self-destruct from abuse of spirit, soul and body.  A nation will collapse under a “hard” or “soft” form of dictatorship, abuse of public or elected office, and a general denial of human freedom – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – arises.  The source of one’s belief system dictates the conduct whether it be personal or national.   The same goes for the end result.

The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments in man (self-government), of families (family government), churches (church government), and for nations (civil government).

Waldron co-wrote a book with George Grant titled, Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness. Grant is well-known in Christian Reconstructionist circles. In 1987, Grant wrote The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action, in which he made his call for a theocratic overthrow explicit. “It is dominion we are after,” Grant wrote. “World conquest. …If Jesus Christ is indeed Lord, as the Bible says, and if our commission is to bring the land into subjection to His Lordship, as the Bible says, then all our activities, all our witnessing, all our preaching, all our craftsmanship, all our stewardship, and all our political action will aim at nothing short of that sacred purpose.”

Waldron is the second close associate to Rep. Bachmann whose theology may at least condone remaining silent against the killing of gay people. Bradlee Dean, of Minnesota-based You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministries, commended Muslims who call for the execution of gay people for being more righteous than Christians. “This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws,” Dean explained on a local Christian Radio talk show. “They know homosexuality is an abomination.”

Waldron’s “Cities of Faith” web site appears to be gone, but his facebook page is quite active. On August 7, he wrote of Bachmann’s quest for the presidency:

HOW CAN ANYONE STAND ON THE SIDELINE? I am simply amazed that some folks are waiting for Saul-like characters who look everything like a king while Michele fights with the anointing of God upon her. She is fearless, fierce in battle, and focused on winning the nomination and securing the White House. Thinking about running, waiting to throw their hat in the ring – foolishness. The battle rages now and Michele needs an army.

Four minutes later, he added:

JOIN THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE: I need 300 gallant Christians to stand with me to resist the works of the devil. We must stand like Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae – sheild to shield, shoulder to shoulder – Has not God got an army in the hour of His need? Arise, again I say, Arise lets stand like Christians once again for His glory and praise!

Following Bachmann’s winning of the Iowa Straw Poll, Waltron wrote:

BACHMANN WINS: All the praise and glory goes to the LORD for Michele’s extraordinary win. She was able to do in 5-weeks what other campaigns could not do in 1-year or 4-years. The Hand of the LORD is upon her. Thank you for your prayers. I leave for SC tomorrow. Blessings to all.

In an additional comment on that same thread, Waldron added some more detail. He clearly doesn’t like Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the race:

I will be in Columbia and travel the entire state extensively. From afar and during prayer I see a Saul and David scenario between Perry and Bachmann. One looks everything like a king while the other is anointed. One has a testimony that is almost 40 years old, walks the talk, and sees through a Biblical World View lens. This will be a true test of “salt” in the nation. I pray that a “Salt Brigade” will arise to affirim God’s blessing on America and to renew the Covenant made by our ancestors with Him in the 17th and 18th centuries.

[via Warren Throckmorton, and then it snowballed from there]

Hearings Continue In Uganda’s Parliament on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2011

[Update: Paul Canning alerted me to this 30-minute audio snippet from today's hearing. Beginning at the two-minute mark, the speaker describes how the bill is based upon false premises and is not supported by science:]

Warren Throckmorton has his ear to the ground on the rapidly developing situation in Uganda, where Parliament may be set to pass the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. He reported that  the Human Rights Commission, Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Coalition on Human Rights all testified against the bill during hearings today. The Associated Press reports that pastor Martin Ssempa testified again this morning, calling for the death penalty to be removed and replaced with seven year’s imprisonment. This is a remarkable backtracking from supporting lifetime imprisonment previously. Ssempa went on to call for the bill’s passage “because homosexuality is killing our society.”

LGBT Advocate and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo also testified against the bill. He warned the committee that the bill would not make gay people suddenly disappear, but would instead turn Uganda into a police state. He also warned that the bill would result in an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

The AP also reported on the bill’s future:

Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by Tuesday and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.

“Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill,” Tashobya said. “The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends.”

Parliament is due to end on May 11, although Parliament itself doesn’t constitutionally expire until the 18th. It’s not clear whether there is enough time for the bill to make it to the floor before the 11th, but Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda said that if Parliament does take up the bill, it will be almost certainly be passed. Warren Throckmorton, who is constantly updating this thread with new information as he finds it, comments on the bill’s prognosis:

Tashobya is quoted as saying he would have the report completed by tomorrow. However, he just told me a few minutes ago that he cannot promise to complete the report by tomorrow. He did say that he would complete the report before the end of Parliament which is the 18th of May. When I asked him how the Parliament could vote on a bill in this manner, he said that the Speaker (Edward Ssekandi) makes those decisions. Theoretically, the Speaker could call Parliament into session anytime before May 18 for a vote on any left over bills.

According to Tashobya, the Company bill did not pass today, and the Procurement bill was pushed to tomorrow, thus making it even more difficult for any new bills to come to the floor before Speaker Ssekandi’s end of official business date of May 11. The AHB coming to the floor appears to hinge on the completion of the committee report by Mr. Tashobya  sometime tomorrow and the Speaker’s willingness to bring it to the floor on Wednesday. If this does not happen, the Speaker would have to call the MPs together sometime during the festivities of the Presidential inauguration and the swearing in of the new Parliament on the 18th.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed in its current form, would impose the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender,” or whose partner is deemed “disabled” regardless of whether the relationship was consensual. It would also impose a lifetime sentence for other cases. Those provisions may be modified, although that still remains uncertain.

Even with those proposed modifications, the bill would still remain a potent threat to human rights. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.

There is an AllOut petition which is now at about 40,000 signatures with a goal of 100,000 signatures by tomorrow. This will be presented at Parliament by Bishop Senyonjo tomorrow.

Ugandan “Ex-Gay” Recants — Again

Jim Burroway

April 14th, 2011

George Oundo

Last week, we reported that George Oundo, the off-again, on-again Ugandan “ex-gay” poster boy under Pentecostal Pastor Martin Ssempa’s wing, was on-again, supporting Ssempa’s drive to re-open debate in the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill which is languishing in Uganda’s Parliament. Oundo stood before reporters and claimed that he had been a founding member of a group whose aim was the ““recruitment of the next generation of homosexuals.” He also accused  human rights groups, including the London-based Amnesty International, of financing the recruitment of young Ugandans into homosexual lifestyles. 

The New York Times finally decided to catch up with this week-old news today, reporting on Ssempa’s demand that Parliament begin debating the bill. But their report adds an interesting addendum to the story: Oundo recanted his story an hour after his public statement

But an hour later, in a quiet hotel, Mr. Oundo recanted much of what had been said at the meeting. 

“David Kato was murdered; it was a plot,” Mr. Oundo said. “I don’t support the bill.” 

As for being a “former homosexual,” that, too, was not true. 

“I’ve always been gay,” Mr. Oundo said, in a timid but growing voice. “I didn’t choose it.” 

“David Kato was the first one who taught me to protect my human right,” Mr. Oundo added. 

Mr. Oundo said that his presence alongside Mr. Ssempa at Parliament had been to “protect” himself and that he had been contacted only that morning by Mr. Kagaba about the meeting and offered about $42 to attend. He said Mr. Ssempa had offered him about $2,000 in 2009 to repent and switch sides in the debate, but later reneged. Either way, Mr. Oundo became a poster-child for Mr. Ssempa’s anti-homosexuality movement. 

Mr. Ssempa declined to comment on the allegations. 

Mr. Oundo admitted that he had picked up boyfriends at high schools and universities, what the antigay movement calls recruiting. But he said Uganda’s gay population was full of “natural-borns,” like himself. 

“If I live or die, I am gay, and if I am buried, bury me gay,” he said. 

It’s hard to know what to believe when it comes to Oundo. He was a key player in a series of vigilante campaigns in 2009, particularly in the campaigns which immediately followed the infamous March 2009 anti-gay conference put on by American activists Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge. Oundo himself appears to have a great deal of difficulty deciding which side he should be on. This story, which appears to show Oundo playing both sides of the fence on the very same afternoon, only adds to the confusion.

Ssempa, Oyett Press Uganda’s Parliament on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

April 6th, 2011

Pastor Martin Ssempa (pointing) and Julius Oyet at Uganda's Parliament House (VOA / M. Onyiego)

The Voice of American is reporting that Ugandan pastors Martin Ssempa and Julius Oyet led a group of anti-gay activists to demand that Parliament pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to VOA:

Lead by Pastor Martin Ssempa, a charismatic and vocal opponent of homosexuality in Uganda, the group asked Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Edward Kiwanuka to fight the emerging “homo-cracy” in Uganda and enter the bill for debate.

“We as religious leaders and civil society are distressed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is being deliberately killed largely by the undemocratic threats of western nations,” he said. “These same nations who promote democracy don’t want our representative to discuss laws to protect our children from the human trafficking of recruiting our children into homosexuality.”

Ssempa leads the Inter-Religious Taskforce Against Homosexuality. During the session with Speaker Kiwanuka, the Task Force presented a portion of over 2 million signatures it said were gathered from around Uganda in support of the bill.

The group trotted out Paul Kagaba, an “ex-gay” associate of Martin Ssempa who alleged that he had been “recruited” into homosexuality at the age of seventeen by murdered LGBT advocate David Kato. Kagaba has been implicate in at least two vigilante outing campaigns, the most recent of which is suspected of having been orchestrated by Ssempa himself.

George Oundo

Another putative ex-gay, George Oundo, re-appeared in this latest episode with his own allegations of foreign recruitment. Oundo has also participated in vigilante campaigns as well, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the infamous March 2009 anti-gay conference put on by American activists Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge. Oundo himself appears to have a great deal of difficulty deciding which side he should be on, but for now he appears to have cast his lot with Ssempa once again.

Julius Oyet’s appearance here is notable. Oyet and Ssema were present in the gallery when the Ugandan Parliament first considered the indroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Oyet, who is President of the Ugandan branch of the U.S.-based College of Prayer (which itself is a ministry of Rev. Fred Hartley’s Lilburn Alliance Church in Atlanta), was made a member of M.P. David Bahati’s staff to lobby Parliament for the bill’s passage. While Bahati is the bill’s author and sponsor, Oyet played a crucial role in its drafting. He repordtedly told a documentary filmmaker:

I was there. I have been part of the brains behind it. We worked on it. We planned who should propose it. It is the Ugandan’s bill. It is the culture of Uganda to keep purity. It is everybody’s voice. I worked with Bahati on this.

Two weeks ago, Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko spoke on behalf of President Yoweri Musevini’s government to announce that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would not be voted on by Parliament. Bahati however insists that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where the bill currently resides, will still hold hearings. The bill will automatically die if it does not come up for a final vote before the current Parliament ends on May 20.

Update: Daily Monitor picks up the story and adds a couple of interesting items. First, Daily Monitor quotes Parliament Speaker Edward Ssekandi:

“The mover of the Bill (David Bahati) is still a member of the 9th Parliament and even if the current Parliament doesn’t debate it, the new Parliament will do it,” Mr Ssekandi said.

This, I believe, indicates that he expects the bill to be reintroduced into the next Parliament after the current one ends.

And finally there’s this: a group of students from Makarere University had earlier met with Steven Tashobya, chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, and told him that ” recruitment of gays was rampant at the university campus“:

The students told Mr Tashobya that each of their colleagues who join homosexuals is paid a monthly salary of Shs800,000.

That’s about US$340, which is more than the average annual per-capita income in Uganda. Where’s my US$340? Nobody told me about this!

Martin Ssempa, 3 Others Plead Not Guilty To Conspiracy Charges

Jim Burroway

January 4th, 2011

The Ugandan pro-government newspaper New Vision reports that anti-gay pentecostal pastors Martin Ssempa, Solomon Male, Michael David Kyazze, and Robert Kayiira have entered not guilty pleas before Buganda Road Court Grade One Magistrate John Wekesa. According to New Vision, they are being charged with “conspiring to injure the reputation of Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre.

The four pastors are charged with falsely accusing Kayanja of sodomy. The charges stem from a retaliation campaign the four pastors waged against their rival last year. Such retaliation campaigns are commonplace in Uganda where pastors vie for attention, influence and power. Top megachurch leaders routinely find themselves accused of various crimes by rival pastors in the fierce competition for church members.

In a blog post on December 30, 2010, Ssempa denied that he was involved with a conspiracy to injure Kayanja’s reputation. That same day on the same blog, Ssempa posted an attack on Kayanja, accusing him of sodomy. Which means that on his very own blog, Ssempa commits the very offense that he denies being guilty of.

Ssempa, Other Ugandan Pastors Charged With Conspiracy

Jim Burroway

December 23rd, 2010

Pastor Male being arrested by Central Investigations Department (CID) officer yesterday

Christmas has come early for the LGBT community in Uganda. The Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, reports that two people are in custody and six others are being sought for conspiracy charges over last year’s pastor wars.

The two in custody include anti-gay pastor Solomon Male, along with lawyer Henry Ddungu. They are being charged in connection with a “conspiracy to injure the reputation of Pastor Robert Kayanja of Rubaga Miracle Centre Cathedral, Kampala,” according to Daily Monitor. Also charged are pastors Bob Robert Kayiira, Michael Kyazze and Martin Sempa, lawyer David Kaggwa, Deborah Kyomuhendo and David Mukalazi.

The eight are being charged with filing false accusations against Kayanja, in a bizarre conspiracy to accuse Kayanja of sodomy. As we reported last year, the conspiracy unfolded this way:

Other pastors are jumping onto the “outing” bandwagon to settle scores as well, and the rivalries are so complex that it takes some diagramming to keep it all straight. Here goes: Pastor Solomon Male of Arise for Christ Ministry accused Pastor Robert Kayanja of the Rubaga Miracle Center Cathedral of being a homosexual, along with “a group of other pastors.” Kayanja’s Rubaga Miracle Center is a very large and prosperous megachurch in Kampala. (Controversial American faith healer Benny Hinn will present a “Fire Conference” at that church on June 5th and 6th.) But an apparent friend of Kayanjka, Pastor Joseph Serwadda of the Victory Christian Centre, another megachurch in the Ndeeba section of Kampala which operates two FM stations, accused Male of of being an impostor, saying that he doesn’t even have a church.

Kayanja’s personal aide, Chris Muwonge, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by armed men and held for five days. His captors allegedly wanted him to make a video statement accusing Kayenja of molesting young boys. Kayanja accused his rival, Pastor Michael Kyazze of the Omega Healing Center of being behind the plot. Kyazze’s assistant, Pastor Robert Kayiira was arrested earlier for trying to sneak a laptop computer into Kayanja’s Miracle Center. His close friend? Pastor Solomon Male. Kayanja reportedly believes that Martin Ssempa is involved in the allegations against him as well.

Today, Daily Monitor provides more details into Ssempa’s role:

Meanwhile, Pastor Sempa is accused of hiring Robson Matovu to blackmail Pastor Kayanja. Court heard that Pastor Male reportedly gave Mr Matovu a signed and stamped affidavit implicating Pastor Kayanja while Samson Mukisa was reportedly promised necessities on condition that he would speak publicly on how Pastor Kayanja had sodomised him.

A police report indicates that complaints of sodomy against Pastor Kayanja did not reveal any evidence the offences. “In retracting their statements, the complainants said they had been mobilised to make false accusations against Pastor Kayanja in order to tarnish his name,” reads a report.

Male and Ddungu were taken into police custody, but were later released on bond. They were were slated to appear before Buganda Road Magistrate Court to enter a plea today.

Interestingly, the government-owned New Vision is also prominently reporting the arrests as well:

In a letter to the director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), principal state attorney Margaret Nakigudde said pastors Male, Martin Ssempa, Bob Kayira, Michael Kyazze, their lawyers, Henry Ddungu and David Kaggwa, together with David Mukalazi and Deborah Kyomuhendo face charges of conspiring to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation.

The two lawyers were included for allegedly commissioning false affidavits.

…Unconfirmed reports indicated that Police had earlier in the day been hunting for Pastor Ssempa, but he reportedly eluded them.

SIU head Grace Akullo said Male was arrested because he had failed to honour several Police summons.

Public charges of sodomy are a common way to settle political and other scores in Uganda. Should the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law with its death penalty and other heightened penalties for advocacy on behalf of LGBT people or failure to report gay people to police, such conspiracies will increase and carry far greater dangers. The bill will mean that no one will be safe, including straight people.

Ugandan Tabloid Resumes Anti-Gay Vigilante Campaign

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2010
November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid

November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone." (Click to enlarge. Photo obscured by BTB.)

After nearly a month’s hiatus due to its failure to register with government authorities, the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the venerable U.S. magazine by the same name) has resumed its promised anti-gay outing campaign against private LGBT citizens.

In the latest edition, Rolling Stone has apparently gone online to reproduce photos and other information from profiles of LGBT Ugandans posted on dating web sites. On the page two article titled, “More Homos’ Faces Exposed,” the so-called “investigative team” displayed a complete ignorance of default settings on profile pages, the clueless reporter writes, “The homosexuals say they intend to make love to interested men at least below the age if 99. This implies that even 90-year-old pensioners are welcome for sex.”

Page 2 of the November 1, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone." (Click to enlarge. Names and photo obscured by BTB.)

As amusing as this confusion may be, the real damage for LGBT Ugandans comes from the photos published on a two-and-a-half page spread following the main article. Unlike the previous edition however, there are relatively few names, addresses or places of employment published in this edition.

The so-called “investigative team” also has discovered the discredited American “researcher” Paul Cameron. Writing in their page-two article, the author writes:

According to Dr. Paul Cameron of a Colorado-based medical research institute, homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking as it reduces one’s lifespan by 24 years.”

Cameron has been censured numerous times for professional misconduct, most recently in 2007 by the Eastern Psychological Association when he falsely claimed to have presented a paper before the association’s annual convention. His so-called “Family Research Institute,” which he runs with family members out of his kitchen table, is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of only about a dozen anti-gay hate groups in the U.S.

The paper claims that gays in Uganda have a target “to recruit at least 1 million kids by 2012 — is your kid safe?” The paper also denies that they are seeking mob justice:

In fact we are sternly warning public not to attack homosexuals, though there is no such case on record, but to report them to police for action.

Editorial and photos from Page 4 of the November 1 edition of

Editorial and photos from Page 4 of the November 1 edition of "Rolling Stone." (Click to enlarge. Names and photos obscured by BTB.)

On a page four editorial, managing editor Giles Muhame takes great pride in the dangerous controversy he’s created. He denies that publishing the names, addresses, and photographs of private citizens is an invasion of privacy. Referring of the numerous interviews he gave to foreign news services, Muhame writes:

I explained that the story was in “public interest” since a cross section of homosexuals is seriously recruiting and brainwashing unsuspecting kids into gay circles. “For example if security learnt that one os assembling a bomb at his residence, would they fear to raid the place fearing ‘invasion or privacy?’” I asked a journalist who had come for an interview. In such extreme cases, especially where life is endangered, journalists are bound to forego “privacy” for the good of society.”

Muhame also denies that anyone was harmed as a result of last month’s outing campaign:

On inciting violence, the International Press Institute (IPI) was told lies that some homosexuals and lesbians had been attacked after the story. Amisingly, neither of them had photographs of their houses being pelted with stones or medical reports showing bodily injuries sustained from the attacks.

In fact, there are numerous reports of gays being attacked as a direct result of Rolling Stone’s earlier vigilante installment. This morning, LGBT advocates in Uganda have launched an official complaint against Rolling Stone before High Court in Kampala.

Pages 3 and 5 of the November 1 edition of

Pages 3 and 5 of the November 1 edition of "Rolling Stone." (Click to enlarge. Names and photos obscured by BTB.)

At only twelve pages, this edition of Rolling Stone is about half the size of previous editions. And the almost complete lack of advertising (there are only two ads) continues to raise questions about who is providing financial backing for the paper. In fact, in the page 4 editorial Muhame taunts, “I wish you knew who is behind us!! You would stop barking.” One clue over who is behind the vigilante campaign can be found in some of the rhetoric published in this edition. For example, in the page-two article, we find:

Homosexuality involves “fisting” where one puts a hand in the rectum and may end up destroying it, causing fatal injuries, inflammation and transmission of HIV. No wonder homosexuals usually seal the butts with tiny pillows — to save the shattered buttocks from pain if they were to sit on a wooden chair.

This passage contains striking parallels to the rhetoric of Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who was famously derided the world over for his “eat da poo-poo” appearance on the Current TV documentary “Missionaries of Hate.” The article also names an unnamed source saying that the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill,, which provides for the death penalty for homosexuality under certain circumstances, will be passed once Uganda becomes “an oil producer.” This, too, echoes the argument that Ssempa put forward on Uganda’s state broadcaster UBC last December.

Page 10 of the November 1, 2010 edition of "Rolling Stone." (Click to enlarge.)

But the largest clue — large enough to be a virtual smoking gun — is Ssempa’s photo splashed on an article on page 10, titled “Lesbians destroyed my life at age of 16 — Sandra.” The story consists of an interview by Ssempa with a so-called “ex-gay” by the name of Sandra Baggotte, who has been featured on Ssempa’s prior anti-gay rallies and media campaigns earlier this year. The interview also mentions Paul Kagaba, another so-called “ex-gay” associate of Ssempa’s who was behind a vigilante campaign waged by the rival Red Pepper tabloid last December.

Several clues from the October 2 edition of Rolling Stone also point to Ssempa’s active participation in this anti-gay media campaign as well.

[Update: Warren Throckmorton has learned from two independent sources that both both Giles Muhame and advertising manager Cliff Abenaitwe both attend Ssempa’s Makerere Community Church. Together with the other evidence before us, it is impossible to see this as anything other than a Ssempa-driven and directed campaign.]

There are additional reports that a similar outing campaign is currently taking place in at least one other tabloid Onion (also unrelated to the U.S. satirical paper by the same name). We also hear that Red Pepper may also have launched a campaign as well. We’ll post more information on those developments as we receive them.

Last week, Ugandan M.P. David Bahati, the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has promised that the bill would become law before Parliament disbands before the 2011 elections. Several otherwise reputable news outlets have falsely reported that the anti-gay bill had been “withdrawn.” But as we’ve been consistently reporting, the bill has instead been sitting quietly in committee where it could be brought before the floor of Parliament at any time. Two weeks ago, Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, another ardent supporter of the bill, promised that the bill would be passed “in due course.” Increasingly, it appears that this renewed media campaign is very likely intended to increase public pressure for the bill’s passage.

Las Vegas Church May Drop Support for Ugandan Anti-Gay Pastor

Jim Burroway

October 26th, 2010

Conservative Evangelical professor Warren Throckmorton, who has been a stalwart opponent to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that continues to linger in Uganda’s Parliament, received a message from Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church indicating that after several months’ delay and excuse-making, are considering dropping their financial support for Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, one of that country’s most ardent supporters of the proposed bill. The statement has also been posted on Canyon Ridge’s web site with a prominent link on the front page:

Because of the current controversy in Uganda over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and because of Pastor Ssempa’s involvement in the support of the bill, we have been in regular communication with him to clarify his positions and opinions. While we have come to understand that Pastor Ssempa advocates for an amended version of the Anti-Homosexuality bill that removes the death penalty and reduces other severe penalties, he is still supports passage of this bill.
 
We, however, do not support him in this effort.

We are in the process of determining how we can redirect our support in Uganda to activities specifically related to addressing HIV/AIDS issues.

It is still unclear exactly what this statement means. Will they continue to provide financial assistance for Ssempa’s work in “HIV/AIDS issues” while condemning the passage of the anti-gay bill? As I read it, that scenario could conceivably fit within the parameters of this statement. But it’s also worth noting that while Ssempa’s profile on Canyon Ridge’s web site is still accessible, the link to it from the Global Partners page has been removed and replaced with a link to the statement.

Are these Martin Ssempa’s Fingerprints on the Latest Anti-Gay Campaign?

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2010

I broached that question this morning after reading Warren Throckmorton’s blog. Throckmorton had obtained more complete scans of the article that appeared in Uganda’s tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) with the screaming headline, “Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids!!” In the larger scan, we have the following quote attributed to Martin Ssempa:

We shall fight on until we rescue our country from the hands of evil. A lot of money from gay organizations is filtering in to destroy the morals of our kids. The was has just started,” said Sempa in an exclusive interview at his office in Kampala last night.

Given the wholesale myth-making that made up the rest of the article, Throckmorton asked whether Ssempa actually was interviewed by Rolling Stone, saying “If Ssempa did not give this interview, then he should immediately offer a public statement that he no longer believes in these tactics and fulfill his word to his supporting church, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas.”

Martin Ssempa's email to governmental officials, as reproduced in Rolling Stone, Oct 2,2010.

Martin Ssempa's email to governmental officials, as reproduced in Rolling Stone, Oct 2,2010. (Click to enlarge)

Since that post this morning, a helpful reader in Uganda sent more scans from the same edition of Rolling Stone. Of particular interest is another article that appears on page six, immediately following the pictorial spread on pages 4 and 5 of LGBT Ugandans. That article by Giles Muhame, who is also identified elsewhere in the paper as Rolling Stone’s managing editor, is fully devoted to Ssempa’s demand that an audit of Uganda’s AIDS commission be made public.

I have no quarrel with Ssempa’s demand, as I haven’t been following this particular issue. In general, transparency is always critical to good governance and an important guard against corruption, and I hope HIV/AIDS NGO’s and doners are paying attention. But what is particularly interesting is that some five-sixths of this article consists of what is described as a “secret email” that Ssempa sent to Uganda’s Inspector General of Government and the Health Ministry. Rolling Stone reprints the entire email verbatim, including the email addresses.

There are only four email addresses listed in the reprinted email. The three “To” addresses are to the Ugandan government, which, according to Rolling Stone, is sitting on a “damning” audit report. The fourth email address, the “From” address is Ssempa’s gmail address, which happens to be the very same email account he used when he commented on BTB last March.

Given the circumstances of the controversy and the framing of it in Rolling Stone, there are only four sources where this email could have come from, and three of those sources would not benefit from its publication. Only one possible source benefits, and that is Martin Ssempa. On that basis, it appears almost certain that Ssempa fed Rolling Stone virtually the entire contents of the full-page article.

And if this is indicative of a close working relationship between Rolling Stone’s managing editor and Ssempa, then that helps to explain something else that is puzzling about the anti-gay vigilante expose published on page 2.

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge)

"Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids", published in the October 2, 2010 edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (Names, places and photo obscured by BTB. Click to enlarge.)

Our helpful reader sent a full-page scan of the article titled “Hang Them; They Are After Our Kids!!” It’s a more complete scan than I was provided yesterday. Again, I have obscured names and places, as well as the photo. Except I left one name unobscured, that of an American journalist by the name of Katherine Roubos. Her “outing” is located at the top of the leftmost column:

KATHERINE RUOBOS [sic]: She used to work for Daily Monitor. She was deported on Pastor Ssempa’s influence. He reportedly contacted government officials who pressured the newspaper to take action. Katherine used to ask only gay-related questions at press conferences. At one time, she asked FDC boss Col. Kizza Besigye whether he would give gays powers to recruit more kids in their groups.

Katherine Roubos is an American citizen and resident. In 2007 she was journalism intern assigned to Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest and most reputable independent newspaper. Her byline appeared on a handful of stories covering a range of topics, but the story that caught Ssempa’s ire was one she published on August 16, covering first ever press conference held by an LGBT advocacy group in Uganda. (The Monitor’s story is no longer online, but a copy is available here.)

Daily Montor photo of Sexual Minorities Uganda's press conference in 2007

Daily Monitor photo of Sexual Minorities Uganda's press conference in 2007.

The press conference was groundbreaking. Conducted by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), many of the leaders and attendees famously wore masks in order to hide their identities. The message of the conference was simple: “Let us live in peace,” as they discussed HIV/AIDS, discrimination, and police brutality.

This came as a dual shock to anti-gay activists in Uganda. Not only was the press conference itself an unprecedented act of boldness, but Roubos’ coverage of it was wholly balanced and completely devoid of the typical stereotypes and sneering attitudes commonly expressed toward gay people in the popular press.

Demostrators demanding "Catherine" Roubos' deportation.

Demonstrators demanding "Catherine" Roubos' deportation.

Coverage in the government-owned New Vision was, surprisingly, similarly balanced. But for whatever reason (Roubos’ nationality maybe?) it was Roubos’ article that attracted Ssempa’s attention. Just a few days later, he organized a mass rally at a rugby field in Kampala to denounce the press conference and demand Roubos’ deportation. Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo also spoke at that rally. As far as I am able to determine, Roubos has never been deported. (My attempts to contact her have been unsuccessful.) She stuck around at least long enough to finish another article co-written by LGBT advocate Val Kalende for Daily Monitor in late September, which documented a famous case of police misconduct and brutality — another landmark story in its own right.

That was more than three years ago. As far as I have been able to determine, she left the country when her three-month internship was up. I have no idea whether she’s been back or not. At any event, Ms. Roubos’ time in the Ugandan limelight is ancient history. But whoever contributed Roubos’ name to Rolling Stone certainly hasn’t forgotten her, and wants to make sure readers don’t forget that Ssempa was responsible for her “deportation.”

It’s very puzzling to see her name in these pages, considering that she is neither a Ugandan citizen nor resident, nor even relevant to Ugandans generally. Except, perhaps, for someone who still holds a grudge and never forgets a name. Even if he did spell her name wrong.

Was Martin Ssempa Behind The Latest Vigilante Campaign?

Jim Burroway

October 5th, 2010

Top: Canyon Ridge Community Church in Las Vegas. Bottom: Canyon Ridge's "dearly beloved family and friend."

Warren Throckmorton has some more scans of Monday’s edition of the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) which lends credence to suspicions that pastor Martin Ssempa has played a hand in the story’s creation. The additional scans contain this segment which includes, first, a quote from an un-named “radical church leader” followed by a statement attributed to Ssempa:

“Unless government takes a bold step by hanging dozens of homosexuals, the vice will continue eating up the moral fibre and culture of our great nation. Unless a strong action is taken, the country will soon go to the dogs,” said a radical church leader who preferred anonymity.

Renowned anti-gay pastor Martin Sempa (sic) vowed to continue anti-gay demonstrations in the country with the view of combating perpetrators of the vice that threatens human race.

“We shall fight on until we rescue our country from the hands of evil. A lot of money from gay organizations is filtering in to destroy the morals of our kids. The was has just started,” said Sempa in an exclusive interview at his office in Kampala last night.

The suspicious character I mentioned last night who is believed to have obtained photos from Facebook is known to have worked with Martin Ssempa in anti-gay campaigns in the past. Warren Throckmorton notes Ssempa’s financial ties with Las Vegas’ Canyon Ridge Christian Church and has asked the church to verify the quote.

If Ssempa did not give this interview, then he should immediately offer a public statement that he no longer believes in these tactics and fulfill his word to his supporting church, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas.

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.

Aid For AIDS Nevada FINALLY dumps Canyon Ridge Christian Church

Timothy Kincaid

August 25th, 2010

Top: Canyon Ridge Community Church in Las Vegas Bottom: Canyon Ridge's "dearly beloved family and friend" wants to kill you for being HIV-positive.

Although no one at Aid For AIDS Nevada has responded to (or even acknowledged receiving) my letter, they have finally responded to Dr. Warren Throckmorton in regards to their chumminess with Canyon Ridge Christian Church:

After evaluating Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s backing of Pastor Ssempa of Uganda and his support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we feel that it is in the best interest of our clients, supporters and staff to dissolve our relationship with the church immediately. Unfortunately, we will be unable to continue to work with the church, as long as they are associated with Pastor Ssempa. Since what he and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill represent violates the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans. Our mission is to provide client service programs that assist in enhancing the physical health and psychosocial wellness of the individuals living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in southern Nevada, while promoting dignity and improving the quality of their lives. We will further this mission without the support of Canyon Ridge Christian Church.

AFAN arrogantly dismisses concerns about CRCC

Timothy Kincaid

August 24th, 2010

There is nothing like public criticism to encourage a response. And after Change.org and the Red Ribbon Army and a number of others began to increase a call for explanation, Aid For AIDS Nevada has finally given the weakest of responses to Dr. Throckmorton for why they have not severed ties with Canyon Ridge Christian Church.

We do not partner with Canyon Ridge. In fact, we are simply a recipient of their donations in support of our lifesaving, essential programming for individuals surviving HIV/AIDS…we are not able to cease a partnership that does not exist.

Which still does not answer my questions: “please let me know whether you will continue to allow CRCC to participate in your organization and to display their organization’s name” and just why have you not responded to expressed concerns. And, especially, why have you deleted comments on your Facebook page from now half a dozen or so different activists who simply want answers.

The Red Ribbon Army is wondering something even more basic: “why Aid for AIDS of Nevada is unwilling to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

But maybe AFAN doesn’t really care what you think; they don’t really need to. Two-thirds of their funding is from governmental sources and only about 17% of their annual budget comes from the AIDS Walk – and the majority of that is from corporate sponsors.

Aid for AIDS Nevada ignores concerns about linkage to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill

Timothy Kincaid

August 24th, 2010

As we have previously discussed, Canyon Ridge Christian Church is a Las Vegas megachurch which has been providing financial support for Uganda’s “kill-the-gays bill” cheerleading pastor Martin Ssempa. And previous efforts to encourage the church to either disavow Ssempa or at least oppose the incarceration of gay people in Uganda have come to no avail.

Neither protests nor the public disassociation by the Southern Nevada Health District has dissuaded CRCC from financial and moral support for Ssempa. But it did lead the pastor, Kevin Odor, to obfuscate the nature of the bill in a special presentation to his church as well as to dismiss concerns by self-righteously reminding his flock of thousands that they care about people with AIDS, as evidenced by their participation in the local AIDS Walk.

And, indeed, it seems that 74 church members signed up and perhaps even put on CRCC t-shirts and walked in the AIDS Walk sponsored by Aid for AIDS Nevada. However, considering that only 12 actually raised a cent and that the total which went to AFAN was $1,385, it is rather difficult for me to believe that their primary motivation was the care and concern for people living with HIV/AIDS. Rather, it seems as though CRCC has found a very inexpensive way in which to appear to care about their community without actually having to exert much effort.

I commend those who raise money for HIV/AIDS issues. But I don’t have much use for those who use HIV/AIDS infected individuals as a platform to advance their own personal image. And it was with this in mind that I wrote the following letter to Aid for AIDS Nevada.

I have recently become aware that Canyon Ridge Christian Church sponsors a team during your AIDSwalk. I further understand that CRCC displays their church name and logo on the shirts worn by their team members.

I wish to caution you that this may be extremely offensive to other participants who either are gay or who believe that gay people should not be jailed and executed.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church is one of the most prominent sponsors of Ugandan minister Martin Ssempa. And Ssempa is the primary champion of a bill before the Ugandan legislature that would:

* make it illegal for gay people to congregate

* institute a lifetime sentence for engaging in “homosexual acts”, which include “crimes” so slight as holding hands

* institute a death sentence for certain gay people, including:
* * when one partner is HIV positive, regardless of consent or protection
* * “repeat offenders”, which would include any same-sex couples
* * when one partner is a minor, regardless of the age of the other partner

* make it a crime for family members not to turn over gay people to the police

For the full text, please see http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/10/15/15609
For a comprehensive understanding of the events leading to and contributing to this bill, please see http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/slouching-toward-kampala

Canyon Ridge has been made aware of the law. They consulted with Ssempa and were told that it only applied to pedophiles and those who intentionally spread HIV.

Ssempa has two messages, one for Uganda and one for their American sponsors. CRCC was provided with evidence of the language of the bill and that Ssempa was targeting gay people, not molesters. This information is readily available on the internet.

CRCC has refused to:

* Break ties with Ssempa
* Read the bill
* Condemn the bill
* Oppose the criminalization of homosexuality
* Oppose the incarceration of gay people

Instead they gave a lecture to their church (which was completely false), justifying their support for Ssempa and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 (which is still before the legislature).

I very much care about whether gay people in Uganda are executed for being gay. I am not alone.

Actually, many conservative evangelical Christians are concerned about this issue and several have renounced the bill and Ssempa’s involvement including Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of A Purpose Driven Life, and Joyce Meyer, author and international televangelist.

Of course, the condemnation is not restricted to conservative evangelicals. A number of mainline churches (the Episcopal Church, for example) and political leaders have weighed in. Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, have condemned this bill. The governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom have officially condemned the bill and warned about international sanctions.

In fact, virtually every decent person or organization that comes to know about the bill opposes it and its sponsors. Except for Canyon Ridge Christian Church.

So please understand that when your AIDSwalk includes CRCC, it is not their faith that is shocking. It is not that they are conservative.

Rather, it is that you have a participant in your event who stands virtually alone in refusing to condemn the incarceration and execution of people for being gay.

This is such an extreme position that the Southern Nevada Health District found it necessary to cease any outreach at the church. They found it not only offensive, but that their support for Ssempa served to endanger gay Ugandans and to harm and hinder the efforts to fight HIV in that country.

I understand that others have brought this situation to your attention, but have not been successful in determining your stance. As I am a writer for a website that has been successful in getting the information about the bill out to the public and which has a large readership and close connections to gay media, they’ve requested that we inquire about your intentions.

So please let me know whether you will continue to allow CRCC to participate in your organization and to display their organization’s name.

Jeniffer Morss, the Executive Director of Aid for AIDS Nevada, does not have her direct email listed on their website, so I directed my letter to:

Jared Hafen – Associate Director
Cira Jones – Director of Finance and Administration
Theresa Mayet – Development Coordinator
Blair Stirek – Development Coordinator

and requested that they “forward to the appropriate person and also please respond to let me know who will be addressing this issue.”

That was Thursday. As of today there has been no response. At all. Not even an acknowledgment of receipt of my letter.

But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. We are not alone in trying to get AFAN to look at the consequences of their relationship with the church funding a campaign to execute gay people. And their constant response has been silence and stonewalling.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton has also been trying to contact AFAN, and he describes his experience thusly:

When I [contacted AFAN], one staffer I spoke with declined to comment but forwarded my request to the director, Jennifer Morss. I then wrote Ms. Morss two additional emails asking for comment on the relationship with Canyon Ridge and the recent action of Southern Nevada Health to sever ties with the church.

To date, I have gotten no answer. Last week, I went on the Facebook group for AFAN and left a comment on their wall asking for a PR person from AFAN to contact me. Initially, that comment was answered with a recommendation that I contact Terri Maruca, Vice President at Kirvin Doak Communications. When I contacted Ms. Maruca, she replied that someone from the staff would contact me next (now this) week. In the mean time, Michael Bussee also left a request for public comment on the AFAN Facebook group wall. Sometime in mid-week last week, both of those comments were removed by the owner of the AFAN group. Currently, Mr. Bussee has another request for public comment on the AFAN wall.

That request for comment by Michael Bussee has now been removed.

Aid For AIDS Nevada may well have a very good reason for not wishing to confront CRCC (which may or may not have anything to do with their website’s need to assure us that most of their management is heterosexual). But they have no valid reason for ignoring and deleting questions.

We deserve an answer. AFAN owes us the courtesy of replying and letting us know exactly why it is that they are partnering with a church that is sponsoring murder.

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