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Posts for July, 2010

Nevada Health Officials Sever Ties with Megachurch Over Martin Ssempa

Jim Burroway

July 13th, 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.

As we reported over the past month, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, the Las Vegas megachurch which has been providing financial support for Uganda’s “kill-the-gays bill” cheerleading pastor Martin Ssempa, was found to be simultaneously attempting an outreach program to Las Vegas’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS constituencies by being a test site for National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

In other words, the Las Vegas church that wanted to test you for HIV, is the same church whose strategic partner and “dearly beloved friend and family” wants to put you to death if you are HIV-positive. Despite widespread condemnation for their conflicting stance, Canyon Ridge defended Ssempa, saying they “do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be.” We, who have been following Ssempa’s role closely through every twist and turn of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, have countered by skipping how Ssempa was portrayed in the media, and instead reminded viewers of how Ssempa portrayed himself directly. That appears to have made no impression on Canyon Ridge’s leaders.

Southern Nevada Health District, which partnered with Canyon Ridge for National HIV Testing Day, however has announced that they are severing ties with Canyon Ridge. According to a letter from the health district posted on Warren Throckmorton’s blog:

Pastor Ssempa’s support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would criminally penalize homosexuals, is in direct conflict with the overarching public health goals of the health district. It is with regret that I feel compelled to dissolve the health district’s relationship with your church as long as you continue this partnership.

One of the central tenets of public health is to provide services without judgment. We also apply this principle in working with our various partners. However, we are profoundly concerned about your partnership with Pastor Ssempa as it contradicts this central tenet in that it amounts to tacit approval of activities that violate the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans.

Canyon Ridge continues to stand behind Ssempa. That same day Canyon Ridge was notified that the health district was severing ties with them, Teri McCoy, Executive Assistant to pastors Kevin Odor and Doug Parks, sent the following response to a BTB reader:

Martin has given us some documentation to clarify his position as he has represented it to us. We also have included this link to a radio interview where he discusses his position. (http://lineoffireradio.askdrbrown.org/?s=ssempa)

Because of the documents he has given us and our interactions with him, we do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be. He has, with other pastors in Uganda, publicly expressed objection to the death penalty in the Anti-Homosexuality bill and made recommendations to Parliament to remove the death penalty from the bill and reduce the severity of other penalties in it. (Please see attached documents.)

We have worked with Martin for several years, making trips to Uganda to see his ministry first hand. He has welcomed and ministered to homosexual people in his church. He has championed the cause of abstinence, sexual purity and faithfulness in marriage that has been instrumental in pushing back the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. This work has now become a model for other African nations in stemming the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on that continent. This work of saving lives in Africa was the genesis of our partnership in Uganda.

As you know, we have, through recent face to face (March 11, 2010) and video phone conversations, questioned Martin about the controversial issues and asked him to provide additional video and written statements that further clarify his positions. He has asked for and graciously received our counsel and correction and committed to continue pursuing balanced teaching of the grace and truth of God.

However, since March 11, we have diligently recorded several instances in which Ssempa has continued to support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without modifications, while publicly displaying hard core pornography in a campaign to vilify LGBT people. Ssempa continues to insist that the bill does not target gay people with the death penalty — a lie that Canyon Ridge repeated when they defended Ssempa to a local newspaper — and a lie that he attempted to repeat on Michael Brown’s radio program that Canyon Ridge referred the BTB reader to. While BTB has repeatedly posted the official text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and referred to the actual text of the bill to test Ssempa’s claims of what it would do, Ssempa and his supporters have refused to do the same despite repeated calls to do so.

It’s hard to imaging a church turning a blind eye to a truly disturbed man pushing an evil agenda. One can only speculate what Canyon Ridge’s true motivation might be to ignore the mountain of evidence that is available to them.

South African DJ’s reportedly suspended for playing Ssempa tapes

Timothy Kincaid

July 7th, 2010

YFM is a youth oriented Johannesburg radio station which predominantly plays Hip-Hop, house, kwaito, and R&B music, with about 20% of airtime is dedicated to talk formats on topics of interest to young South Africans.

The Sunday Times (of Johannesburg) is reporting that two disc jockeys have been suspended for playing recordings of Uganda’s Martin Ssempa’s homophobic ranting.

YFM will have to face a tribunal of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission tomorrow because a listener has complained about the “hate speech” that Mukwevho – best known as MacG – was “promoting” when he played the recording on his MacG Unleashed show.

After playing the clip, Mukwevho poked fun at a gay colleague on air, repeating some of Ssempa’s bizarre and unprintable statements.

The unnamed listener wrote that Mukwevho was “laughing hysterically”.

Also under scrutiny is DJ Mpho Maboi, who played the clip previously.

It is difficult to say at this time and distance if the DJ’s were behaving in a homophobic way or if they were mocking Ssempa’s assertions in a manner similar to the Eat Da Poo Poo satire. They will answer to a tribunal on Friday.

UPDATE: From MambaOnline

On Tuesday, Mukwevho apologised for the furore on Twitter: “I’d like to profusely apologise to everyone I offended during my show last month when I made reference to homosexuality. Sincere apologies,” said the DJ.

Rags To Riches In Africa: Become a Pastor

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2010

Dan Savage was tipped to a Ugandan Pastor that is speaking at a Seattle-area church, and asked me if I knew who he was. I hadn’t heard of him, and neither had any of my Ugandan contacts. So I responded:

I’m afraid I’ve never heard of this guy. Uganda is crawling with evangelical pastors. All it takes is a white shirt and a tin-roof shack somewhere and suddenly you’re a pastor. And in some cases you don’t even need a shack. Just a street corner will do. And if one of them can finagle a trip to the US where Ugandan pastors are very fashionable, they’ve hit the motherlode.

I have no idea whether this Frank Butyai is legitimate. But the larger point stands: becoming a pastor in a desperately poor country has been a proven pathway to riches, so says The Economist:

Ms Wanjiru’s own church, Jesus Is Alive Ministries, is a good example of the new genre. She can draw 100,000 worshippers to a meeting. Add in a visiting televangelist and the number can rise to as many as 500,000. Ms Wanjiru has lived the Pentecostal dream. She is from a poor family of casual labourers and eked out a life as a housemaid and toilet cleaner before working her way up to a marketing job. She then experienced a vision from God calling on her to save Africa. These days videos, CDs and other accessories can be bought from her website using credit cards or phone credit. She makes good use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media. She is not afraid to court controversy, last year baptising the boss of the Mungiki organised-crime outfit, Maina Njenga. Mr Njenga’s gang had been involved in extortion and had a history of hacking off the heads of its enemies.

But the business of owner-operated churches is competitive. A few dud sermons and the crowd thins. That is one reason why they are so upbeat and aspirational. …However, there is also plenty of hucksterism. You will be blessed with health and wealth by God, congregants are told, especially if you give generously. As in other parts of the world, the new churches in Kenya and Uganda provide a place for the ambitious poor to get ahead….

Pastor Samuel "Kiwedde" Muwanguzi's Humvee, complete with vanity plate.

Get ahead, indeed. The sight of Ugandan pastors driving Humvees and other expensive SUV’s is not uncommon. And of course, you can’t talk about Evangelical pastors in Africa without mentioning Martin Ssempa:

A Ugandan Pentecostal preacher, Martin Ssempa, for instance, has mined a rich seam of homophobia in Uganda to help build up his standing. He and other Pentecostals pushed for the tabling of an anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan parliament, which advocates spying on gays and proscribes imprisonment for sodomy. Earlier versions of the law called for the death penalty in some instances. [Editor's note: This is incorrect. Despite reports like this to the contrary, the bill has never been officially modified to remove the death penalty.] Mr Ssempa has in the past had ties with a prominent American evangelical, Rick Warren (who has condemned the anti-gay law), and with Uganda’s born-again first lady, Janet Museveni. “In Africa sodomy is an abomination,” he says. Some of his actions, such as screening gay pornography to his congregants, look clownish and self-publicising, but Mr Ssempa has been astute in targeting students at Makere, Uganda’s best university.

One of Ssempa’s most reliable backers in America continues to be Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church, which remains a member in good standing of the Willow Creek Association.

Willow Creek Association’s Ties To Martin Ssempa Revealed While Las Vegas Church Continues to Hold Its Ground

Jim Burroway

July 2nd, 2010

In an article appearing on Salon this morning, Dr. Warren Throckmorton explored the close working relationship between Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church and Ugandan “Kill-the-gays” Pastor Martin Ssempa. And in pulling on that thread, Throckmorton discovered a much larger relationship between the Willow Creek Association and their East African hero:

Just consider the case of the Willow Creek Association, which bills itself as “the most influential ministry to evangelical pastors in the U.S.” and boasts “more than 11,000 Member Churches in 35 countries,” is now distancing itself from Ssempa. (Canyon Ridge is part of the WCA network.)

WCA’s signature leadership training events are conducted in “more than 250 cities in 50 countries each year” — including Uganda, where the group partnered with Ssempa in November 2009. In other words, as [Saddleback Church pastor Rick] Warren was publicly severing his ties with Ssempa, the WCA was strengthening theirs. In 2007, for example, the WCA bestowed its award on Ssempa’s church for its work in AIDS prevention.

The Willow Creek Association is a huge group of 11,000 contemporary Evangelical churches in 35 countries that are affiliated with the pioneering namesake megachurch near Chicago. Throckmorton reports that as of Thursday, WCA had apparently just discovered that Ssempa has been openly advocating the killing of LGBT people in Uganda, and so they decided to quietly step back a little:

On Thursday, Steve Bell, the organization’s executive vice president, told me that Ssempa is no longer affiliated with their leadership summit in Uganda. Regarding the 2007 award, Bell wrote:

Willow Creek Association (WCA) was unaware of Martin Ssempa’s views regarding the criminalization of homosexuality when the honorable mention award was presented to him at the 2007 Global Leadership Summit. Had his views been known, particularly his prior support of the death penalty related to the AHB [Anti-Homosexuality Bill], he would not have been considered as a candidate for the award.

And yet, through WCA member Canyon Ridge Christian Church, WCA continues to maintain an arms-length relationship with Ssempa. Throckmorton reports that WCA has no plans to sever its ties with Canyon Ridge, despite the financial assistance Canyon Ridge pays to Ssempa to staff his church in Kampala. And as we learned yesterday, Canyon Ridge is not only standing by their man, but they are also abetting his cause by actively propagating Ssempa’s intentionally false description of what is actually in the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Canyon Ridge and Ssempa insist that the death penalty applies only to those who rape the handicapped and child molestation, but we conclusively demonstrated yesterday that the bill still includes the death penalty for LGBT people with AIDS, who have a consensual relationship with a disabled person, or who is a “serial offender” — a category which, on close examination, can include just about anyone.

This is an important point to keep in mind. Over the past year, we have seen the Evangelical world divide itself neatly into two camps: Those who vigorously oppose the bill and call it evil, and those who attempt to justify it and call it good. Ministries and leaders like Andrew Wommack, WorldNetDaily’s Molotov Mitchell, and Cliff Kincaid have staunchly defended the bill and have included this very same misrepresentation of the bill’s death penalty provision as part of their defense. Others, who see the bill as “unjust, extreme and un-Christian” include Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, televangelist Joyce Meyers and, belatedly, Exodus International president Alan Chambers, have clearly read the text of the bill itself and are shocked at its horror. Reading it creates a clear line in the sand: either you condemn the killing of gay people, or you are for it. There is no middle ground. Yet Willow Creek appears to be trying to have it both ways.

But Canyon Ridge, following the path of the former group, has decided to cling fast to their man. And Canyon Ridge Pastors Mitch Harrison and Kevin Odor further insisted to Throckmorton that they “do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be.”

Okay. Let’s ignore how “the media and others” have portrayed him for the moment. What about the ways in which Ssempa has portrayed himself directly to the public?

Here he is on December 22, speaking at a meeting in Parliament and demanding passage of the bill, including its death penalty:

YouTube Preview Image

On December 23, Ssempa appeared on state-owned UBC television alongside the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati. In it, Ssempa is seen lying about the death penalty provisions that are included in the proposed bill:

YouTube Preview Image

On December 28, Ssempa posted a YouTube video addressed to Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren complaining about Warren’s unequivocal condemnation of the anti-gay bill. In this video, once again, Ssempa claimed that the death penalty only applies to child molesters, a claim that is demonstrably false with a simple reading of the bill itself. He also claimed that Uganda’s law currently doesn’t cover child sexual abuse in a manner that would include male children. Again, that claim was exposed to be completely false:

YouTube Preview Image

In the second part of his video message to Rick Warren, Ssempa continued to protest that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, despite its name and description of the new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” which calls for the death sentence, and despite what the text of the bill actually says — despite all that, he claims, with a serious face, that the bill would not result in the arrest and execution of gay people:

YouTube Preview Image

In the next video, we see a rally that Ssempa held in the city of Jinja in February, in which he again falsely claimed that the death penalty only applied to child molesters. And in this video it appears evident that Ssempa fully supports the death penalty:

YouTube Preview Image

And, of course, Current TV’s documentary “Missionaries of Hate” contains extensive footage of Martin Ssempa showing hardcore porn in churches, prayer meetings, news conferences and meetings with political leaders while calling for the bill’s swift passage in its current form. Here is some video taken from that documentary:

YouTube Preview Image

None of this is a misrepresentations on the part of the media. This is Ssempa putting himself out there for all the world to see.

Canyon Ridge may very well decide to pretend they don’t see all of this and continue to financially support Ssempa. If they do, then they fully deserve the bright glare from his spotlight and all of the attention that brings. And as long as Canyon Ridge remains a part of Willow Creek Association while simultaneously supporting a Ugandan pastor who wants to kill gay people, WCA, too, remains culpable for their failure to denounce evil when it is plainly in front of them. They can’t, on one hand, pretend to distance themselves from Ssempa while embracing a church that is providing for his financial needs. As Throckmorton concluded, “you can’t preach one thing here and support something else around the world.” He’s right. Integrity just doesn’t work that way.

Las Vegas Church Stands By Martin Ssempa

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2010

That’s the upshot of this report by Jason Whited that appeared in today’s edition of Las Vegas CityLife, the city’s weekly alternative paper. Whited reported on Canyon Ridge Christin Church’s support for Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, an ardent campaigner for that country’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Controversy over the church’s support for Ssempa has simmered for several months, but bubbled over when it was learned that the same church which supported Uganda’s efforts to kill and/or imprison gay people would also play host to free HIV testing on June 27 as part of National HIV Testing Day.

Whited spoke to Mitch Harrison, executive pastor at Canyon Ridge, who defended their support for Ssempa:

Church leaders said they support Ssempa financially, but they refused to say how much they give to his ministry. Mitch Harrison, an executive pastor at Canyon Ridge, said activists have it all wrong. He said Ssempa actually opposes the more disturbing aspects of the Ugandan legislation that demands the death penalty for homosexuals who molest children or rape the handicapped.

We have gone over this dozens of times before. But every time I see someone misrepresent the bill, I feel compelled to go over it again. Harrison is either misinformed or completely lying about the bill, the text of which we’ve posted online numerous times. For the sake of transparency, here is the relevant portion once again:

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

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

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

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

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

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

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

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

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

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

As you can see, the provisions concerning child sexual abuse and “raping the handicapped” are a red herring. The provision against having sex with a disabled person doesn’t take consent into account. And other provisions of Ugandan law already prohibit sex with a minor, regardless of gender. The death penalty is clearly aimed at gay people, particularly those who are HIV-positive or “serially” gay — which pretty much opens the death penalty up to just about anyone. Despite claims to the contrary, the bill has not been officially modified nor has the death penalty been dropped. It’s very disappointing that the enterprising reporter didn’t catch the good pastor on that bit of misrepresentation.

Pastor Harrison continues:

“This year, we’ve had discussions with Martin about [the legislation], and I can tell you what’s being reported about him in the American media is wrong,” Harrison said. “He’s repeatedly said he wants the death penalty [provision] removed and that he’s not in favor of death for [homosexuals].”

Despite the hysteria among some left-leaning talking heads, official documents back up Harrison’s claim. In letters to his supporters and in official policy statements, Ssempa — who heads up a Ugandan AIDS eradication effort funded by both the U.S. government and popular evangelicals such as Rick Warren — walked back some of his earlier support for the Ugandan bill.

Longtime BTB readers will be interested to learn that we are among the hysterical “left-leaning talking heads.” It appears that the reporter relied rather heavily in a couple of pieces of paper provided by Canyon Ridge instead of the extensively documented words taken directly from Ssempa himself.  Ssempa’s active campaign on behalf of the bill can be traced all the way back to a march he led in April, 2009, some six months before the bill was introduced in Parliament. That’s when he and a handful of others garnered local media attention by “storming Parliament” and demanding that Uganda’s already tough laws against homosexuality be strengthened. Depending on which statute the individual is prosecuted under, he could be liable for twenty years or lifetime imprisonment under current laws. There is, in fact, little room to strengthen the law except to add the death penalty and change the definitions of the law to make prosecution much easier. Which, in fact, is only part of of what the final bill would actually do.

But Ssempa’s campaign on behalf of the “kill-the-gays” bill picked up in earnest in October 2009, shortly after the bill was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament. That’s when he made a statement to Dr. Warren Throckmorton, saying “I am in total support of the bill and would be most grateful if it did pass.” That bill, of course, famously included (and still includes) the death penalty provisions I’ve quoted above.

Since the bill’s introduction, Ssempa has repeatedly pushed for the bill’s immediate passage without delay or modification. In exclusive video provided to BTB on Dec 23, Ssempa is seen in local news reports attending a meeting with Ugandan Parliament leaders urging fast-tracking of the bill. He also denounced President Barack Obama’s statement against the proposed legislation, accusing the White House of “preach[ing] a gospel of sodomy.” On Dec 27, Ssempa appeared on state-owned UBC television alongside the bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, where the two of them repeated the false claim that the death penalty applied only to rape or child sexual abuse, despite the very clear and plain English of the bill itself. And ever since then, Ssempa has made it his habit to repeatedly try to explain away the death penalty as though it didn’t actually apply to gay people — the same misrepresentation made by Canyon Ridge’s pastor. It appears that they are both reading from the same fraudulent paper.

Back to Ssempa. On December 30, he called for a massive rally to push for the bill’s passage by Easter. The following day, Ssempa released a video statement addressed to his former supporter, Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, in which Ssempa again falsely claimed that the death penalty would apply only to rape or child sexual abuse. On Feb 16, Ssempa led his promised rally in the city of Jinja, again calling for the bill’s immediate passage, death penalty and all. On March 8, Ssempa had the chutzpah to once again repeat those very same lies about the bill’s death penalty provisions right here on Box Turtle Bulletin. By then, we were regularly challenging him to quote from the text of the bill itself and openly taunting his refusal to do so. It wasn’t until March 12 that Ssempa relented and decided that he would not support the death penalty.

But despite the fact that the bill still has not been modified, Ssempa still — still! — continues to defend the bill and call for its passage, death penalty and all.

As for Pastor Harrison’s claim that Ssempa has “said he wants the death penalty [provision] removed,” well there is evidence that he has called for it once or twice. Maybe that qualifies as “repeatedly,” but it hardly stacks up against the many more times he has called for the bill’s swift passage in its current form and lied about what that current form is — a lie repeated, knowingly or unknownly, by Harrison himself.

After all the close scrutiny we’ve given developments in Uganda and the literally hundreds of stories we’ve written on the subject, it is very disheartening to see a paper which sees itself as a heavy-hitting investigative news outlet give defenders of imprisoning and killing gay people such a soft ride. It’s as if that one sheath of paper from Ssempa dated March 12 somehow obliterated the active campaigning Ssempa has done for the unmodified bill, both before and since then. One sheet of paper makes him less odious and his critics “hysterical.” But when that paper is accompanied by the same blatant misrepresentation of what the plain English of the bill actually says, there is ought not be any credibility lent to either the paper nor the softly-spoken words accompanying them.

But such is the state of reporting these days. Pretty amazing.

But there is a silver lining out of all this. Whited reports that the Southern Nevada Health District will re-evaluate its working relationship with Canyon Ridge in future HIV testing events:

Stephanie Bethel, health district spokeswoman, said until recently she was unaware of Canyon Ridge’s partnership with Ssempa.

“We just found out about it. We were completely unaware of their partnership with the pastor. We disagree with [Ssempa's] theory on homosexuality, and we are now re-evaluating our partnership with Canyon Ridge.”

S. Nevada Health reconsidering connections to Ssempa-supporting church

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2010

Top: Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas. Bottom: Canyon Ridge's "strategic partner" showing hard-core porn at a press conference.

Several of us contacted the South Nevada Health District or signed a petition to express our concern about their partnering with Canyon Ridge Christian Church. This church has a global partnership with Martin Ssempa, the primary religious supporter of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, a legislative effort to execute HIV positive gay people and to incarcerate HIV negative gay people for life.

Michael Bussee, onetime founder of Exodus International and friend of Box Turtle Bulletin, has received a response.

Dear Mr. Bussee:

Thank you for bringing this matter to the attention of the Southern Nevada Health District. We were completely unaware of Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s partnership with Pastor Martin Ssempa or his stance on criminalizing homosexuality. The health district is absolutely opposed to the stated efforts of Pastor Ssempa and plans to evaluate and strongly consider any future partnership with Canyon Ridge based on this new information.

However, due to the timing of the testing event, and the outreach efforts that have already occurred related to this testing site, we do not feel we can cancel this venue for next week’s event. We do not condone the church’s continued partnership with Pastor Ssempa; however, we feel the immediate risk of canceling this venue just days before the scheduled event takes precedent at this time. If just one person shows up at a canceled event and decides to delay getting tested, that will be one person too many.

We share your concerns regarding this issue and remain committed to promoting testing in an environment that is comfortable for our clients. Thank you again for your input and for bringing this important issue to our attention.

Stephanie Bethel
Southern Nevada Health District

This appears to me to be a reasonable and responsible approach. Thanks to all of you who helped raise this issue with the SNHD.

Las Vegas Church Which Supports Ugandan “Kill-The-Gays” Pastor Wants To Test You for HIV

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2010

 

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

A Las Vegas church wants to test you for HIV. That church’s strategic partner and “dearly beloved friend and family” wants to put you to death if you are HIV-positive.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church, which lists Uganda pastor Martin “Eat Da Poo Poo” Ssempa as an international “strategic partner,” will host for National HIV Testing Day on June 27, 2010. According to a notice on the church’s web site:

Because of Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s commitment to “be a show of compassion” to our community and an instrumental force in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, we will be offering FREE HIV testing from 10 AM – 4 PM provided by the Southern Nevada Health District (fingerprick test with results in 15 minutes).

That compassion to the community also apparently extends to providing continued support for on of Africa’s most virulently homophobic pastors. Canyon Ridge has defended their partnership with Ssempa despite his avid support for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which adds the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances. Ironically, one of those circumstances which call for the death penalty is simply being HIV-positive. Here is the bill’s text for that section:

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

…(b) offender is a person living with HIV; …

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

It doesn’t end there. The bill also mandates that those who are accused of homosexuality be tested for HIV, presumably to determine their eligibility for the death penalty:

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

The bill would also criminalize employers, family members and medical professionals who fail to report LBBT people to the police within 24 hours. The bill would further jeopardize HIV/AIDS prevention efforts by imposing criminal penalties on anyone who “aids and abets” homosexuality or provides accurate information on safe sex practices for the prevention if HIV infection.

That Canyon Ridge — or indeed any American Church — would continue to defend its association with Ssempa is, frankly unimaginable. But that is precisely the case here. In a post to Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, Canyon Ridge pastor Mitch Harrison not only refused to disassociate from Ssempa, he said that Ssempa was among his “dearly beloved friends and family.”

This dearly beloved friend has been the public face for the “Kill-The-Gays” movement in Uganda. He eagerly embraced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill since its inception. Ssempa has been the instigator behind several forced outing campaigns, and he has hurled accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors in an attempt to improve his own standing. Since the draconian bill’s introduction in Parliament last fall, Ssempa responded to international criticism by blatantly lying about the bill’s contents on several occasions. Those same distortions have been picked up by several leading American backers of the bill as well. More recently, Ssempa has resorted to showing hard-core graphic pornography in churches and press conferences in order to stir up hatred and revulsion toward gay people.

And Canyon Ridge is providing material support for all of this activity, while simultaneously generating positive press in Las Vegas for their “outreach” to the gay community. It’s time for the LGBT community in Las Vegas to make their presence known.

[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]

Update: Change.org has a petition urging the Southern Nevada Health District to demand that Canyon Ridge condemn Ssempa’s work in Uganda. The form automatically sends an email directly to the Southern Nevada Health District. You can sign the petition using the widget below:

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Why Does This Las Vegas Church Still Support Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Pastor?

Jim Burroway

June 11th, 2010

Top: Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas. Bottom: Canyon Ridge's "strategic partner" showing hard-core porn at a press conference.

Uganda pastor Martin Ssempa has become the public face of the “Kill-The-Gays” movement in Uganda, having eagerly embraced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill since its inception. Ssempa has been the instigator behind several forced outing campaigns, and he has hurled accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors in an attempt to improve his own standing. Since the draconian bill’s introduction in Parliament last fall, Ssempa responded to international criticism by blatantly lying about the bill’s contents on several occasions. Those same distortions have been picked up by several leading American backers of the bill as well. More recently, Ssempa has resorted to showing hard-core graphic pornography in churches and press conferences in order to stir up hatred and revulsion toward gay people.

Ssempa had previously enjoyed backing from several American conservative Christian leaders and organizations, but one by one, they have mostly dropped him, either in embarrassment over his latest antics or in revulsion over his relentless support for proposals to kill gay people under certain circumstances. Most notably, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, who had previously been identified as having had ties to Ssempa, “vigorously condemned” the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December and disclosed that he had cut ties with Ssempa in 2007 over his “beliefs and actions.”

Another American backer, the Evergreen, Colorado-based abstinence advocacy group WAIT Training, announced that “[r]ecent developments in Uganda and around the world associated with Ssempa have caused us to sever all former associations with him.” WAIT Training is so adamant about it that this notice appears on the front page of WAIT’s web site (Note: A video automatically plays when the page is loaded). Philadelphia Bible University, which had previously granted Ssempa an honorary doctorate degree in 2006, denounced Ssempa’s activities and “categorically condemn[ed] any position that calls for violence against human beings created in the image and likeness of God.”

Not so with Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church. They continue to list Ssempa as a Global Outreach Strategic Partner. Last February, Grove City College professor and Evangelical Christian Warren Throckmorton contacted the church to ask about their association with Ssempa. Executive Pastor Mitch Harrison responded:

With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.

That was in February, and Canyon Ridge hasn’t bothered to life a finger “for the good of the people of Uganda” since then.  Meanwhile, Ssempa led a march in Jinja calling for swift passage of the proposed death penalty for HIV-positive gay people and “repeat offenders”. He has also  appeared on ABC’s Nightline, in which he was shown displaying gay porn in his church. He also called homosexuality a form of “sexual terrorism.” More recently, Ssempa was featured on Current TV’s Vanguard episode, “Missionaries of Hate,” again displaying porn at churches, news conferences, and virtually everywhere else he can think of.

And still, Canyon Ridge dithers. In response to the Vanguard documentary, Canyon Ridge sent the following message to Warren Throckmorton:

The mission partners of Canyon Ridge Christian Church are more than just names on a bulletin board or a web site, they are our dearly loved friends and family. Because of this, we take seriously our commitment to them. When accusations or ill reports come to us about one of our partners and their ministry activities, we’re committed to do what the Bible instructs us to do; we go to our partners (when possible, going to see them face to face) and work through the issues with them personally. We don’t make public statements about our partners until we have worked through issues with them personally and brought those issues to resolution. We have been and are currently in conversation with Martin Ssempa and others regarding the controversy in Uganda and his activities in addressing it.

One has to wonder how long Canyon Ridge can dither while Uganda burns. More importantly, one wonders what Canyon Ridge stands to gain by being publicly associated with a man who wants to either kill gay people or imprison them for the rest of their lives. Or who wants to imprison the friends and families of gay people who refuse to turn them over to police. These issues aren’t something new that Canyon Ridge has only now discovered. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled before Parliament last October, but Ssempa’s public outing campaigns were going on in the Spring of 2009. And those weren’t the first for him either. He also participated in public vigilante and outing campaigns in several successive years prior to 2009.

Given Ssempa’s egregious and dangerous activities, it is critical to know exactly what kind of support Canyon Ridge provides to further his cause. How much money does Canyon Ridge supply to Ssempa? What other resources have they provided and continue to provide? In what ways exactly are Canyon Ridge facilitating Ssempa’s campaign to literally legislate gay people out of existence?

And for how much longer will they continue to provide that support?

AutoTune “Eat Da Poo Poo!” And More

Jim Burroway

June 4th, 2010

It’s Friday night and time to party with Ssempa. His “Eat Da Poo Poo!” has inspired several of YouTube remixes. This one goes the more hardcore route:

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And then there’s the auto-tune version (also available in a ringtone.):

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I suspect you’ll find more remixes show up here. The Jake Benson’s original remix that started it all is here.

And before we go, there’s one more. This one’s not a music remix, but it’s still a great Martin Ssempa / Bill Cosby mashup:

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Let me know what else you find in the comments.

Eat Da Poo-Poo! — The Martin Ssempa Remix

Jim Burroway

June 2nd, 2010

This Martin Ssempa, one of Uganda’s most hard-over supporting for putting gay people to death, has been pressing his point by showing gay porn in his church and news conferences. Ssempa’s porn-fixation got remixed and it just might become the latest gay dance circuit hit. Move over Lady Gaga. NSFW.

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Scott Lively Initiates Renewed Push to Pass Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2010

After laying low for a while amid news reports that Ugandan leaders may quietly drop the draconian Anti-Homosexuality BIll, it appears that Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively has decided become a pitchman for the bill’s passage, albeit in a slightly altered form.

Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton discovered via an email sent to supporters that Scott Lively has decided to “get off defense and counter-attack the false witnesses with hard facts about Uganda.” Toward that aim, Lively yesterday posted a letter on his web site dated March, 2010,  addressed to Edward Ssekandi, the speaker of Uganda’s Parliament. In that letter, Lively urges the prompt passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with some minor modifications. Lively suggests that the death penalty be dropped from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but as Dr. Throckmorton notes, Lively’s position “sound(s) pragmatic rather than principled.” Lively writes:

First and foremost, the inclusion of capital punishment for what you have classed as “aggravated homosexuality” is, in my view, a disproportionately harsh penalty. You may not be aware that capital punishment has been banned in numerous countries, even for the most extreme cases of aggravated murder. This is held as such an important policy that these nations will often refuse to extradite criminals to their home countries (including the United States) if there is any possibility that they will be subject to capital punishment there. Advocating the “death penalty” for “mere” sexual crimes evokes such a severe negative reaction in most Western nations that all other aspects of the law, and the rationale for drafting it is ignored, and very “gay” movement we seek to oppose is strengthened by public sympathy they would not otherwise enjoy.

Conversely, if the “death penalty” provision were removed, it would take the wind out of the sails of their current campaign against the bill. With so much of the international opposition rooted in the idea that this is a “Kill the Gays” law, the removal of this provision would represent enough of a concession on your part that a great many of the people who are now siding with the homosexual movement out of sympathy would consider the matter resolved. The “gay” activists and their political allies will, of course, continue to attack the bill, but from a much weaker position.

Lively also argues that the provision requiring individuals to report gay people to police should be dropped as well. “it is too vague,” he writes, “and because it targets people who may live as homosexuals in their private lives, but who do not seek to recruit others or legitimize their lifestyle in the larger society.” He argues instead that they should enact a “provision along the lines of child abuse reporting requirements in the U.S.”, but with the cut-off age for reporting being extended to the age of twenty-five, which is well into adulthood:

I believe you could easily adapt this model to your purposes by imposing this same reporting requirement on anyone with knowledge of homosexuals who involve themselves with anyone under a certain age. If, for example, you encompassed all youths under the age of twenty-five within this shield of protection, you would stop virtually all “gay” recruitment in your country, since normal young men and women are usually firmly set in their heterosexual identity by their mid-twenties.

Lively also argues that the bill should encourage “rehabilitation,” which, given the already draconian lifetime imprisonment penalties under current Ugandan law for homosexuality, would amount to coercing LGBT people into unproven and harmful conversion therapies.

Individual leaders at Exodus International, North America’s largest ex-gay organization whose board member, Don Schmierer, spoke the March 5-7, 2010 conference in Kampala alongside Scott Lively prior to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, have come out against forced therapy schemes, although to date we are still unable to find an official Exodus International position statement on its web site.

Officials with The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the so-called “secular” arm of the ex-gay movement, have also come out against coerced therapy schemes, although at this time I also cannot find a position to that effect on NARTH’s web site either. Because Lively refers to both organizations as “experts” in ex-gay matters, I believe, once again, that it is essential for Exodus and NARTH to place such statements on their web sites, since this is most certainly not the first time this issue has arisen.

Lively’s letter to Speaker Ssekandi does not appear to have reached the speaker directly, and the only reply that Lively posts on his web site comes from MP Charles Tuhaise, who received a copy of Lively’s letter via Ugandan pentecostal pastor Martin Ssempa. Tuhaise says that dropping the death penalty may be considered, but rejects Lively’s other suggestions, labelling them as part of the same failed strategy which allowed pornography to “[break] barriers in Western society and became insidious.” Tuhaise continues, “It’s like the proverbial ‘Camel and herdsman story’. Today it is a foot in the hut, tomorrow it is a leg in the hut, next day its the head in the hut; before long, the herdsman is tossed out of the hut.”

Tuhaise says, “Ultimately, I see no way out in taking a stand and paying the price,” and comments Luively for having “stood up to homosexual intimidation for so long as a lone voice.”

Martin Ssempa Denounced by Alma Mater

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2010

Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who has been an ardent supporter of Uganda’s attempts to legislate gay people out of existence, has been denounced by his Alma Mater.

In an undated statement placed on the web site of Philadelphia Bible University, the administration announced:

Recently, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa made statements concerning public policy regarding homosexuals in that nation. Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) categorically condemns any position that calls for violence against human beings created in the image and likeness of God, or violent solutions to socially controversial issues. While PBU holds to a biblically defined position regarding human sexuality, to call for such action clearly violates the teaching of the Bible, and the principles and practices taught at PBU. Ssempa did earn a graduate degree from PBU in 1994. Ssempa also received an honorary degree from PBU in 2006 for his ministry of compassion to HIV/AIDS victims in his native land. The University was not aware at that time of Ssempa’s recently expressed views. His present publicly stated position in no way represents or reflects the views of the University, its administration, or its faculty. It is our sincere hope that Christians would hold their convictions regarding homosexuality with a spirit of grace and compassion toward all human beings.

Ssempa often signs his name with Ph.D. based on the honorary degree conferred by PBU.

[Hat tip: GayUganda]

The Lies of Martin Ssempa, Part II

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2010
George Oundo

George Oundo

Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa’s latest tirade includes a “testimony” by George Ooundo, a deeply disturbed man who was an important ex-gay “success story” for a short while. A very short while. Last we heard, he is now ex-ex-gay and seeking forgiveness in the LGBT community for being part of a massive anti-gay vigilante campaign. I don’t know what demons Oundo is wrestling with, and for the sake of compassion for this obviously troubled young man, the less said the better. But Ssempa’s account of Oundo’s “story of transformation” somehow avoids one critically important element: Oundo hasn’t changed at all.

It looks like we may have the beginnings of an ongoing series.

Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Bill To Be Featured on ABC’s Nightline Tonight

Jim Burroway

March 10th, 2010

The story that we have been following for more than a year will be the main focus of tonight’s Nightline on ABC at 11:35 EST. A Nightline producer tells me that a shorter segment will also appear on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer at 6:30 EST. Check your local listings.

It looks like it will be well worth watching (or recording, if you can’t stay up for it). Martin Ssempa is already upset that the Nightline crew didn’t fall for his easily-disproven lies. Journalists see a lot of crazy and corrupt megalomaniacs  in their line of work, and madmen like Ssempa can be spotted from miles away.

Martin Ssempa Lies Again, This Time On BTB

Jim Burroway

March 8th, 2010

We sometimes make mistakes — nobody’s perfect — but for the most part, they are rare, relatively minor, and corrected when we become aware of them. That was the basis for this post this morning.

But what we will not do is knowingly commit fraud. Unlike Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the main supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill — and yes, we do call it the “Kill the Gays Bill” for a very good reason — who left this bald-faced lie in a comment on our web site this afternoon:

This is one of the many errors that have been made concerning this whole issue of the anti homosexuality bill.

There is too much panic reporting and little double checking of the facts. One hour back I just asked facebook to shut down a false Martin Ssempa who was linked with photos of murders.

You have called this the “kill the gays bill” but it is really about capital punishment for “paedophiles and rapists”. The more we have states this, the more you dont want to hear us.

There’s some debate in the comments whether this particular comment is genuine, but the record shows that this comment is entirely consistent with similar lies that we know Ssempa has repeatedly told elsewhere. I believe the comment is genuine, and it’s that lie which has been repeated numerous times that I want to address.

There is a reason we don’t take the word of liars like Martin Ssempa at face value. The man of “the Word” willfully misrepresents the very words of the “Kill the Gays Bill” — yes, I said it again — and what they really mean. That’s why we have the full text of the bill posted here (PDF: 847KB/16 pages), straight from the official governmental Uganda Gazette in which all bills are published before being voted on. We posted the full text of the bill for a very simple reason — so that you can see for yourself exactly what the bill says.

Ssempa, on the other hand, is too cowardly to post the text of the bill on any of his web sites. And the truth is he can’t, because if he did those very words would show Ssempa’s followers exactly what a compulsive liar he really is. He cannot post the bill, and he desperately hopes that nobody else reads it to learn what it actually says.

But the truth sets you free, and that’s why, with the truth firmly on my side, I enjoy the total freedom of posting the plain and unadulterated text of the bill on this web site to point out Ssempa’s prevarications. Unlike Ssempa, I have nothing to hide and the real truth leaves me free as a bird. And so here are the death penalty provisions, in the plainest of English:

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

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

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

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

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

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

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

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

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

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

True enough, parts 1a and 1c deal with child molestation, as Ssempa says. And whatever Ssempa or anyone else would want to with child molesters is of little concern to me. Sections 1d and 1g deal with rape. Again, while the death  penalty is harsh (and I’m against the death penalty on general principles), I have no quarrel here.

However, I would expect that these four provisions apply to everyone, and not just gay people. But they don’t, do they? They only provide the death sentence when it involves people of the same gender. Where are the death sentences for the same crimes when they are committed by people of the opposite gender? Rape and molestation are equal-opportunity offenses. Why are these provisions in an Anti-Homosexuality bill when neither provision has anything specifically to do with homosexuality? Why aren’t these provisions part of anti-rape or anti-child exploitation bills instead?

I’ll tell you why. They are there to serve as a red herring, and to allow liars like Ssempa to divert attention from the rest of the bill. Sections 1b, 1e and 1f have nothing to do with rape or child abuse (and neither do sections 2 through 19, which you can see here). As Ssempa knows very well but is too cowardly to reveal, there is only one target for these other “aggravated homosexuality” provisions: gay people. Anyone with the smallest smidgen of comprehension of the English language can see that as plain as day. It takes a fraud like Ssempa to claim that the words somehow say something other than what they actually say. So much for a man of “the Word” when he won’t read the very words in front of him.

Of one couple that I know, one man has perfect hearing but the other man is profoundly deaf — “a person with disability” as section 1e puts it. They have been happily together for I don’t know how many years, but one would die (the hearing one) and one would live (the deaf man) under this bill. While Ssempa claims that this is only about rape or exploitation, there is no mention of consent in this provision where one has a disability and the other does not.

Closer to home, my partner is HIV-positive; I’m HIV-negative. If we were in Uganda living under this law, I would be imprisoned for life, but my partner would be sentenced to death by hanging. Disclosure, consent — none of that matters. My partner is hanged and I’m imprisoned. Aren’t I the lucky one? Well, knowing the conditions of Ugandan prisons, a man or woman sentenced to a life sentence for homosexuality would be, for all practical purposes, not particularly “lucky.” A lifetime sentence under these circumstances is merely a more torturous and drawn-out death than the one Ssempa would demand for my partner under this law.

But wait! It turns out I’m not exactly saved from the gallows anyway. It’s that “serial offender” provision that would still get me. The “Kill The Gays Bill” — because now we know that this is exactly what this bill does — defines a serial offender this way:

“serial offender” means a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences;

Get that? Homosexuality or related offenses. I have violated — and it is my solemn promise to you that I will continue to violate — the following related offenses:

  • Section 7 — “Aiding and abetting homosexuality” through my private and public efforts to help gay people who are being persecuted, wherever they may be.
  • Section 12 — procuring a same-sex marriage, when it become available.
  • Section 13 — “promoting homosexuality,” because that is what this blog would be accused of doing under this bill, and I won’t stop defending gay people wherever they are in the world.
  • Section 14 — “failure to disclose the offense,” because I absolutely refuse to turn in other people for the so-called crime of merely loving one another.

So there you have it; upon a second conviction I will have committed “aggravated homosexuality,” and I too can join my partner at the gallows.

So I have one message for Ssempa:  I will not stand by while you post a lie on this web site, and use that lie to accuse me of lying. I publicly dare you to post the text of the bill on your own web site, and refer to it when you try to explain your lies. Failure to take this dare reveals your cowardice and guile. Your acceptance of this dare exposes your guilt as a liar and a fool. What do you choose? Either way, with the entire world and your God as my witness, I call you out.

Ssempa’s lies are no mere “mistake” like the one I corrected yesterday. His are deliberate attempts to deceive, deceits by a unrepentant serial liar. Ssempa claims to be a man of God, but he is a fraud and a serial falsifier. He claims to bring light and truth, but he instead spreads darkness and hatred borne by blatant and clearly demonstrable distortions in order to turn neighbor against neighbor and wreck havoc on God’s creation. Whatever Ssempa accomplishes or fails to accomplish in this life, we can be assured that there will be a very special place in hell set aside for him in the next.

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

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