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Posts for October, 2010

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

Jim Burroway

October 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less than half of Nevadans oppose marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

August 14th, 2010

The Las Vegas Review-Journal commissioned a poll of Nevada’s voters:

QUESTION: Do you support or oppose legalizing gay marriage in Nevada?

35% – Support
46% – Oppose
19% – Undecided

Although only 35% support legalizing gay marriage, the large undecided block suggests political shift in the past few years.

Opposition to legalizing gay marriage in Nevada appears to have thawed somewhat in the years since voters approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

A 2002 poll showed 60 percent of Nevadans supported a ban on gay marriage and 36 percent opposed the ban. Also that year, two-thirds of Nevadans approved the Protection of Marriage constitutional amendment.

The large undecided block may also reflect the timing of the poll, which was taken after Judge Walker found Proposition 8 to be in violation of the US Constitution. Nevada has domestic partnerships which provide all of the state rights and obligations of marriage under a separate name, similar to California.

The poll also found that gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval, a pro-choice Hispanic Republican who supported the Domestic Partnership bill, has a significant lead over Rory Reid, the Democratic candidate for Governor. As best I can tell, neither support full marriage equality.

GOP Candidate Refuses To Accept Money from Companies That “Support Gay Rights”

Jim Burroway

August 9th, 2010

This is from Nevada tea-party favorite Sharron Angle, who is trying to unseat Sen. Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate:

Angle laid out this position in a candidate questionnaire that she filled out for the Washington-based Government is not God PAC.

In question 35A of the questionnaire, Angle was asked:

Would you refuse PAC money from those who are fundamentally opposed to your views on social issues?

Angle checked the Yes box. The questionnaire then asked:

In reference to question 35A, Intel Corporation supports “equal rights for gays” and offers benefits to “partners” of homosexual employees. Would you refuse funds from this corporate PAC?

Angle again checked the Yes box.

I wonder how she’s running a campaign while living up to that promise. After all, most of the largest corporations in America fit that definition of supporting “equal rights for gays,” including defense giants Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, and Raytheon. I wonder how many LGBT-friendly companies she has actually received contributions from?

Update: Steve Friess at The Daily Beast has delved into Angle’s financial disclosures. The results aren’t at all surprising.

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.

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?

Some observations on the Primary results

Timothy Kincaid

June 9th, 2010

I’ve not commented much about Democratic candidates in this primary election. For the most part, the major candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for various positions have been supportive of our community, so there were few races in which any particular outcome stood out in importance.

But this has been an interesting season for Republican politics, especially in my home state of California. And yesterday’s election held some moments of victory and some disappointments. Here are a few of my observations about the results.

CA Governor: As expected Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman will face each other in November. Whitman and her opponent Steve Poizner are both fairly moderate on social issues but as Poizner ran his campaign emphasizing that he was a “real conservative”, Meg is probably the better outcome.

Although Whitman has been pilloried in the gay press as “anti-gay”, her positions on gay issues would have her receiving awards for support just a few years ago. Although she voted for Proposition 8, she supports civil unions and her objections to marriage equality seem perfunctory rather than devout. She advocated allowing the 18,000 couples who married in the 2008 marriage window to remain recognized as married.

US Senate from CA: It was disappointing that Tom Campbell did not do well. With 25% of the vote, he fell well below Carly Fiorina’s 55%. This is an undisputed victory for the anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage, who had run television ads opposing Campbell.

The slight consolation is that Chuch Devore did even worse than Campbell. Devore was the homophobe’s dream candidate. And Fiorina is probably somewhat moderate on our issues, having established a domestic partnership registry why leading Hewlett Packard.

CA Attorney General: Steve Cooley, a friend of the community who supports marriage equality, swept to victory.

CA Lt. Governor: Democrats selected another community friend, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for their Lt. Governor nominee. Republicans selected Abel Maldenado, the only Republican to vote in the legislature for Harvey Milk Day.

NV Governor: Remember Jim Gibbons? He was the Nevada Governor who vetoed that state’s all-but-the-name domestic partner registry. Well, not only did the legislature overturn his veto last year, but he lost his party’s nomination for reelection to Brian Sandoval, a pro-choice Hispanic Republican who supported the DP bill.

IA Governor: In Iowa, all the Republican candidates are opposed to marriage equality and support “a vote of the people”. But there were degrees. While two of the candidates made wacky claims about what they would do, particularly Bob Vander Plaats who thought he could just issue a declaration and reverse the courts, former Governor Terry Branstad did not give the issue much emphasis in his campaign. Branstad won handily.

ME Governor: NOM is crowing that their choice Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, was selected as the Republican nominee for Governor. He will face Maine Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell. This is a particularly important race in November as Maine’s legislature will likely try again for marriage equality and LePage has promised to veto any marriage bills.

There are undoubtedly many other races of importance and as they come to my attention I may add them.

Nearly half of all Americans live where there is some recognition of same-sex couples

Timothy Kincaid

March 3rd, 2010

US Map

About 5.1% of Americans (15.5 million) live in areas in which same-sex marriages are legal and equal to opposite-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Another 58.4 million (19.2%) live in states which have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that offer all the rights and protections of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. To that we can add two more states (New York and Maryland) in which the local state government will honor marriage occurring elsewhere and we have a total of 32.6% of Americans living with the rights and responsibilities of marriage available to their family.

There are also five states which recognize same-sex couples and offer them limited itemized rights. They are Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, and Rhode Island and they add an additional 14.2 million Americans (4.7%).

But recognition does not stop there. There are dozens more counties and cities who provide what local recognition and benefits as they can, adding another 14.2 million local residents (4.7% of Americans) who can appreciate that their city officials see them as a couple. Local municipalities include the populations of Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Lewis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AK; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.

In total about 140 million Americans – about 46% of the nation’s population – live where there is some form of official notice of same-sex couples. So NOM can proclaim “victory” when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.

Some shady fellas at the Shady Lady

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2010

shadyladyWe told you last month about the Shady Lady Ranch in Beatty, NV. It’s a purveyor of the world’s oldest trade that is seeking to expand business by employing a few good men. Now proprietress Bobbi Davis is going to get her chance.

“I personally feel, as do the many other women who have made contact with me since I started this, that this is a service whose time has come,” Davis said in a letter to Nye County officials.

A county board’s vote Tuesday affirming that Davis could offer “shady men” to her clientele followed months of rancorous debate among the state’s legal brothel community. The industry, in its own peculiar way, is somewhat conservative: Considered an anachronism of bawdy mining camps by some Nevada newcomers, it often balks at change.

None of the locals showed up to object. Perhaps they figured that any employment in this economy was bound to benefit the town.

But that doesn’t mean that no one objected. The complaint came from the man employed to protect the industry.

georgeflint

George Flint, longtime lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Assn., has said that allowing male prostitutes could be the industry’s Pearl Harbor. He has hinted that brothels possibly offering gay sex — a choice each prostitute, as an independent contractor, would be free to make — might sour some legislators on the entire brothel system.

“This is the first time in the history of the world . . . that men have been licensed to sell sex,” Flint said Tuesday, his voice rising. “It’s never been done!”

Oh, I very much doubt that. And he needn’t worry so much about GAY SEX (eeeeek), as most of her business will probably come from women or couples.

Now that the licenses and approvals are in order, Bobbi is ready to select from the 100 or so applicants. If you rush, you can get your application in before she makes the cut.

Best Little Whorehouse in Nevada

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2009

shadyladyThe Shady Lady Ranch has made Nevada history. For years now, men have been excluded from marketing their wares in houses with brocade walls and velvet chairs due to public health restrictions. But that has all changed now.

Men were previously barred in Nevada from the oldest profession because codes specified that prostitutes must undergo “cervical” testing for sexually transmitted diseases, which ruled out men.

Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, a small brothel near Beatty, wanted to add male prostitutes to her stable of sex workers.

And while there have been plans for brothels to hire men in the past, Davis made the first-ever request to have the Nevada State Board of Health add urethral exams to the guidelines. That allows male sex workers to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

shadyparlorBeatty is a lovely little stretch of desolate desert outside of Death Valley National Park. It is small, it is dry, it is Republican, and it is home to at least two legal brothels. I am quite sure they are the fanciest, and probably the most profitable, establishments in town.

midnightcowboyAs for customers, the Shady Lady is egalatarian and all about individual determination.

Davis has said the men could start working at her five-bed brothel starting in the New Year. The male prostitutes will decide for themselves whether to accept male or female clients, she said, just as the female prostitutes do now.

If you would like to be a Shady Lady guy, here’s who they are looking for:

Between 21 and 40.
Have a Good Work Ethic.
Must be Service Oriented.
Have a Willingness to Please.
Have a Positive Attitude.

And, of course, be willing to undergo a weekly urethral exam.

I am not familiar with the Shady Lady, and I certainly don’t wish to suggest anything negative about the lovely gals working there, but I think the fellas might be a welcome addition.

Congratulations Nevadans

Timothy Kincaid

October 1st, 2009

Today the law goes into effect allowing same-sex couples to register with the State of Nevada as Domestic Partners and receive all the same state rights, obligations, and responsibilities as married couples.

Nevadans Can Pre-Apply for Domestic Partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

August 19th, 2009

Nevada’s everything-but-marriage Domestic Partnership law will go into effect on October 1st. But the Secretary of State is allowing couples to start preregistering on Monday so as to allow the state to issue certificates on the first day they are legal. (LV Review-Journal)

“Gauging on the inquiries we have received, we expect a very, very high volume,” Miller said. “That is why we are offering preregistration.”

Sen. David Parks, the author of the domestic partnership bill, notes that neighboring non-Nevadans may take advantage of the registration, even if their state does not recognize their relationship.

He said a couple from St. George, Utah, called him and expressed concern that they have nothing to show when they travel that they are a couple devoted to each other.

The certificate may also assist in applying for benefits from such employers as offer them.

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