The Daily Agenda for Thursday, February 2
February 2nd, 2012
Ninth Court of Appeals To Rule On Prop 8 Tapes: San Francisco, CA. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has announced that they will issue their ruling this morning regarding the public release of the video tapes that were made during trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which ultimately led to the court’s ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Anti-gay supporters of Prop 8 have been fighting to keep the video tapes out of public view over embarrassment over the very poor performance of their star witnesses. The ruling will be released at 10:00 a.m. PST.
GetEQUAL to Protest National Prayer Breakfast: Washington, D.C. According to a press release from GetEQUAL:
“On Thursday, Feb. 2, GetEQUAL will protest “The Family” and their agenda of persecuting LGBT people around the world by demonstrating outside the National Prayer Breakfast. The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual event hosted and attended by members of Congress, business leaders and international heads of state. It is organized by a secretive, shadowy religious group called “The Family” (also known as “The Fellowship Foundation”), which pursues a viciously homophobic agenda in the United States and around the world. GetEQUAL will make the point that attendance at this event helps prop up this fringe group, and implies an endorsement of the anti-LGBT agenda of “The Family.”
The protest will take place from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. EST outside of the Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC.
Havelock Ellis: 1859.When it came time to chose a career, he chose an unorthodox one for a Victorian Englishman: that of a sexologist. To prepare, he studied to be a physician. When he joined the Fellowship of the New Life, a social group influenced by Emerson and Thoreau, he met Edward Carpenter, whose unabashed homosexuality must surely have been a great influence on him. Another influence: his wife, women’s rights activist Edith Lees, who was openly lesbian, and who insisted on an open marriage, an arrangement to which he readily agreed although he himself was impotent until the age of 60. When in 1896 he co-authored the first installment of his six-volume Studies on the Psychology of Sex, that volume, titled Sexual Inversionbecame the first English medical textbook on homosexuality. He originally published it in German, and then translated it into English in 1897 in a bid to avoid British censors. German scholars, by then, had already written several influential works on homosexuality, making German the de facto language of sexology. It was thought that by translating a German work, censors might look the other way. They didn’t. A bookseller was prosecuted for stocking Sexual Inversion, but the charges were eventually thrown out.
Ellis can claim several firsts. He was the first to study what we today recognize as transgender identities as a distinct phenomenon from homosexuality. He is also credited for creating the ideas of narcissism and autoeroticism, concepts which were later adopted by psychoanalysis. He is also often credited for introducing the word “homosexual” into the English language, but in fact he hated the word. Made up of a mixture of Greek and Latin roots, he complained, “‘Homosexual’ is a barbarously hybrid word, and I claim no responsibility for it.” He wrote instead about “sexual inversion,” and in ways that no major English writer had done before: as an objective field of study without characterizing it as a disease, immorality or a crime.
If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
New Yorker Whitewashes “The Family’s” Involvement In Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Bill
September 7th, 2010
[Update: In an earlier version of this story, I incorrectly identified the New Yorker’s author as Peter Boyle. His name is Peter Boyer. My apologies for the error.]
We noted previously that Jeff Sharlet’s upcoming book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, will explore, among many things, the specific connections between the secretive American evangelical movement known as the Fellowship or “The Family” and the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was introduced into Uganda’s Parliament last year. A key chapter of that book has already been published in the September issue of Harper’s, and another modified excerpt was posted online at The Advocate. Now it appears that the Family has decided to react, and they are in full PR mode with the help of Peter Boyle Boyer at The New Yorker.
By all accounts from those who have met the reclusive Doug Coe who heads the group, Coe is an very quiet and charming man. With this New Yorker article, it is evident that Boyer has fallen for Coe’s charms. Boyer describes The Family as little more than a “frat house”, composed in equal parts of Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Jews. In fact, he appears to have fully bought the line about The Family not being a Christian organization at all, but merely a group of people whose sole mission is to influence powerful political and business leaders “to follow Jesus.” One wonders exactly how one is supposed to define Christianity better than that, particularly when one is talking about a group that seeks to impose its understanding of Christianity’s tenets, if not its theology, from the top. Boyer’s description of events in Uganda are equally naïve.
When Uganda’s Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, [“Family” member Bob] Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure’s defeat. [Uganda President Yoweri] Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.
One wonders how Boyer managed the dexterity to write those two lonely sentences with his hands over his ears while singing “lalalala” to drown out the noise.
Nowhere does he mention that it was MP David Bahati, a key “Family” man in Uganda — a guy who organizes Uganda’s version of the National Prayer Breakfast that the Family is best known for in the U.S. — who proposed the bill, stands by it, and still insists that the bill must be passed in it entirety so that they can begin “to kill every last gay person.” Boyer would have you believe that the Family was responsible for the bill being dead when in fact the bill, while stalled, is still very much alive. It is currently in committee, and MP Bahati and other Ugandan Family members continue to push for its full enactment. Others however recommend that the bill be dismembered with different provisions attached to other bills with less flag-waving titles, and passed surreptitiously.
As for the Family’s assertion that they had “the standing” to urge the measure’s defeat, that completely ignores the international outrage that the bill engendered. Sweden threatened to withdraw its foreign aid if the bill passed, and Germany reportedly made similar noises. Meanwhile, when Uganda president Yoweri Museveni announced a special commission to study the bill, he cited phone calls from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Museveni, Clinton had him on the phone for 45-minutes talking about the bill. I think we all know Sec. Clinton well enough to understand that this conversation was probably very uncomfortable for Museveni.
To be sure, The Family was not united behind the bill. Bob Hunter, who was put forward as the Family’s main American connection to Uganda, appeared on American and international media outlets denouncing the bill. But Sharlet noted that the bill caused a split within the Family, and for quite a few months it was unclear whether MP Bahati or other prominent backers of the bill would travel to Washington to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. In the end, he didn’t come, but according to Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, who did attend the Breakfast, many Family members of the Uganda delegation who were there at the Family’s invitation fully supported the bill.
When Jeff Sharlet learned that the New Yorker was preparing to publish a piece on The Family, he offered five predictions pointing to a whitewash. He was right on all five counts. The Family’s PR campaign is in full swing.
Ugandan MP Confirms “The Family’s” Connection to Anti-Homosexuality Bill
August 24th, 2010
This confirms the reporting that Jeff Sharlet has recently done. Speaking to a reporter from Uganda’s The Independent, MP David Bahati, sponsor of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, confirmed the role of the secretive U.S.-based evangelical group known as The Fellowship or The Family:
In an interview with The Independent, MP David Bahati cited his membership in a Ugandan chapter of “The Fellowship” or “The Family”, a U.S.-based Christian political organization, as the key impetus behind the new bill. Every Thursday the members of the local division of The Fellowship, which include a close circle of Ugandan MPs and religious leaders (led by Ssempa), meet to discuss “how to use godly principles to influence public policy.” About a year and a half ago, Bahati reveals, it was decided in one such meeting that the legal framework as it stands was incapable of addressing the urgency of the problem of homosexuality in Uganda. Bahati was chosen and happily volunteered to be at the forefront of developing new legislation.
This matches what Sharlet wrote for the September issue of The Advocate:
When I asked Bahati if there was any connection between the Family in Uganda (where it’s called the Fellowship) and his antigay legislation, he seemed puzzled by the question. “I do not know what you mean, ‘connection,’ ” he said. “There is no ‘connection.’ They are the same thing. The bill is the Fellowship. It was our idea.”
…When [Family member Bob] Hunter told me his theory of advocacy — reaching out to “the little group around the president” instead of the dictator himself, “the nail on the wall” instead of the man in the presidential portrait, I thought he meant Bahati’s Parliament Fellowship group, which meets on Thursdays. No, Hunter said; “the Friday group is really the power group.” Bahati’s group includes some 60 legislators, and it’s responsible for much of the “morality” legislation that comes out of the Ugandan parliament, but to Hunter it’s secondary. The Friday group, just three or four influential people, “they are the ones we’d go to if we really needed something done.” The leader, he said, is an American named Tim Kreutter, the head of a network of youth homes, schools, and a leadership academy, one replicated in several other countries and designed to create a new generation of African leaders. Bahati, who calls Kreutter his mentor, is one of them.
Bahati also told Sharlet that many American evangelicals secretly support his draconian legislation even when they condemn it publicly. He repeated that assertion to The Independent’s reporter as well:
Even foreign governments like Canada, which have been very active in expressing criticism of the bill, secretly support it, claims Bahati: “Deep in their hearts, [Canadians] don’t support homosexuality.”
A man identified as a gay rights activist in Uganda, Major Rubaramira Ruranga, offers this interesting explanation of why homophobia has caught on so widely:
Major Ruranga argues that, in contrast to Western society, Ugandan society places intense value on communal attachment, even when this comes at the expense of individual expression. As a result, he says, “religion has become more of a culture than a faith.” Instead of promoting sincere belief, the religious establishment promotes outward conformity to standards adhered to by the larger group. In the case of Uganda’s Christian community, Ruranga suggests, the hatred of gays has become one of these unquestioned group standards.
But it was not always so. According to Ruranga, the anti-gay movement in Uganda only gained traction in the 1990s in large part as a reaction to a perceivable rise in gay pride, activism, and the unprecedented occurrence of public disclosures of homosexuality in the Ugandan media. The religious establishment decided this was dangerous and instigated a backlash.
It is not clear how much of a role the U.S. based Fellowship had in fomenting that backlash, but what is certain is that it is now fully supportive of it. According to Bahati, one American Pentecostal friend recently lamented to him that “I wish we [in the U.S.] had done what you are doing thirty years ago; we would be much better off.”
“Family” Leader Reportedly Confirms Opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Gay BIll
February 6th, 2010
That’s according to Warren Throckmorton, who spoke with Doug Coe at the National Prayer Breakfast. Coe is the leader of the secretive Evangelical organization known as the Fellowship, or the Family.
Mr. Coe told me in the interview that he believes Jesus loves all people regardless of sexual orientation. He and other Fellowship leaders told me that imposing the death penalty and criminalization of homosexuality is contrary to the principles of love and compassion that Jesus taught and lived and upon whose life and teachings the Fellowship is based. Furthermore, the National Prayer Breakfast movement’s mission is to build bridges of understanding between all people, religions and beliefs.
While I think Warren is a trustworthy source on this, I reserve a great deal of caution about the depth of Coe’s opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. How committed is he in his opposition? Instead of relying on intermediaries, why hasn’t he made a public appearance or released a statement under his own name to that affect? Is he willing to put at risk his ties to the powerful Ugandan political establishment, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself, to press his opposition? Or will he moderate his message to something considerably milder — perhaps even with a wink — in order to preserve his ties to Uganda’s powerful elite?
When one asks, “What would Jesus do?” in this Jesus-plus-nothing paradigm that is the heart of Coe’s teaching, the answer should be obvious. Jesus put his entire life at risk when he overturned the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple, and they weren’t even thinking about killing anyone. They were just exercising the free market. But right now, it’s Ugandan citizens who have everything at risk, while Coe and the Fellowship have ventured little. I would however be very thrilled to post whatever direct response Doug Coe would like to give.
Obama Calls Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill “Odious”
February 4th, 2010
Update: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also denounced the bill. See below.
President Barack Obama, speaking today at the National Prayer Breakfast, denounced the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is currently before Uganda’s Parliament as “odious.” In prepared remarks, in which Obama talked about the essential role of civility in a functioning democracy, Obama said:
We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are — whether it’s here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.
Uganda’s proposed anti-gay law is sponsored by MP David Bahati, who has ties with the secretive Evangelical group known as the Family, the same group that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast. Since those connections to Bahati became known, the Family has been scrambling to distance itself from the legislation.
Update: One feature of the National Prayer Breakfast is that the main speakers are always the President of the United States and an unannounced surprise keynote speaker. This year, that keynote speaker was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She also used that platform to denounce Uganda’s proposed legislation:
Every time I travel, I raise the plight of girls and women, and make it clear that we expect to see changes. And I recently called President Museveni, who I have known through the Prayer Breakfast, and expressed the strongest concerns about a law being considered in the Parliament of Uganda.
Think Progress has posted video excerpts from C-SPAN Obama’s and Clinton’s remarks:
Bahati Won’t Attend the National Prayer Breakfast, But Others From Uganda Will
January 28th, 2010
The Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa television program this week featured a discussion of the secretive evangelical group known as the Family or the Fellowship and its connections to Uganda. Appearing on the program were Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and Bob Hunter of the Family.
Hunter explained that Ugandan MP David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, had been invited earlier this year to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. That invitation was extended before Bahati introduced the draconian bill into Parliament. Hunter said that Bahati had not accepted the invitation, and was surprised to see Bahati’s boast in Uganda’s Daily Monitor that he would be there. Then, during the program, Bahati himself called in briefly to the program and confirmed that he will not attend the Family’s National Prayer Breakfast “because of a prior engagement.”
But here’s an interesting detail. Hunter reiterated that Bahati’s invitation had been to be a “volunteer” rather than to attend the event itself. (Hunter had also described Bahati’s invitation the same way when he first confirmed that Bahati wasn’t going to attend the Breakfast.) But on the VOA program, Hunter offered a few more details. As he described it, if someone is invited to attend the National Prayer Breakfast for a second time, the invitation is to serve as a volunteer to accompany a larger delegation — in this case, a delegation from Uganda — but not to attend the Breakfast itself. In other words, Bahati has attended the Prayer Breakfast before, but this time he was asked to facilitate the attendance of a delegation from Uganda at the Breakfast.
So who’s coming? We don’t know. But just because Bahati can’t attend due to a “prior engagement,” that doesn’t mean the rest of the Uganda delegation won’t be there.
If I were to put together a “watch list” of Ugandans associated with this bill, I think it would include:
- President Yoweri Museveni
- First Lady and State Minister for Karamoja Janet Museveni.
- Attorney General Khidu Makubuya. He is heading the Cabinet subcommittee examining so-called “compromises” to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and is believed to be a supporter of the bill.
- Regional Affairs State Minister Isaac Musumba is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position on the bill.
- Education Minister Namirembe Bitamazire is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position in the bill.
- Gender Minister Gabriel Opiyo is on the subcommittee. I don’t know his position on the bill.
- Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo is on the subcommittee, has been a very strong supporter from the very beginning.
- Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi has urged passage of the bill.
- Deputy Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga also appears to be a strong supporter.
And, of course, Pastors Martin Ssempa, Steven Langa, David Kiganda, Henry Mina, and Julius Oyett should also be on the watch list.
Update: Bob Hunter of the Family left a comment below to say that these people are not coming to the Prayer Breakfast. That leaves open the question of who is coming and whether they are supporters of the bill or not.
[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]
Prayer Breakfast Spokesperson: Bahati’s Not Coming
January 19th, 2010
Warren Throckmorton posted this extremely short statement from Ambassador Richard Swett, who Warren identifies as National Prayer Breakfast spokesperson. Since neither the Family nor the National Prayer Breakfast has a web site where these things could be verified, I’ll have to take his word for it. The statement says that Uganda’s MP David Bahati, the guy behind the proposal to lock up Uganda’s gays and throw away the key (the ones he doesn’t want killed, at least), is not coming to the Family-sponsored event on February 4th:
Ambassador Richard Swett, a longtime associate of the Fellowship Foundation since his days in Congress in the early ‘90s, confirmed the accuracy of Mr. Hunter’s report to Warren Throckmorton. He went on to state, “The National Prayer Breakfast is an organization that builds bridges of understanding between all peoples, religions and beliefs and has never advocated the sentiments expressed in Mr. Bahati’s legislation.”
For more information, contact Bob Hunter at email@example.com.
That’s a very good start. Now how about sending this statement to Ugandan media? And what about Sen. Inhofe, who is identified as the Family’s point man with Ugandan president Yoweri Miseveni?
Update: I was called away and neglected to finish my thought on Sen. Inhofe. He’s the guy who was been identified as the point man for Uganda. He has met recently with leaders on the region about the insurgency by the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, so we know he is currently active in the region to put a stop to those violations of human rights.
But going back to the broader questions I raised this morning, there is another egregious threat to human rights that we have yet to see any aubstantive action. I really hope I’m wrong, but there hasn’t even been a hint to suggest this is even on his radar. I hope the Family’s opposition to this bill extends to their point man in Uganda, and not just statements for domestic consumption at home.
Is Uganda’s “Kill-the-Gays” Bill Author Coming to Washington or Not?
January 19th, 2010
Frankly, my ability to take anyone at their word is very strained right now. Ugandan MP David Bahati, the guy who can’t wait to begin killing gay people or throwing them into a Ugandan prison for the rest of their lives (is there really a difference?), says he’s coming to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 4. Bob Hunter and others connected with the secretive Evangelical group known as The Family have told Warren Throckmorton that Bahati’s not invited and he won’t be allowed in. That’s fine, I guess, if I could trust this information. We’ve heard directly from Bahati; why can’t we hear directly from Doug Coe, the head of the Family?
The Fellowship’s obsession with secrecy means that nobody with recognized authority within the Family has said anything about Bahati, let alone the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament and which appears to have strong support among people associated with the Family. Bob Hunter, a Family member who has deep ties in Uganda, has appeared on NPR and Rachel Maddow to say that the Family doesn’t like the bill, but read the transcript again. Is he authorized to speak definitively on behalf of the Family?
MADDOW: Have you had to get permission to do this interview? Are you here with The Fellowship‘s blessing?
HUNTER: No, I didn‘t. I first went on National Public Radio, because I felt like I was scandalized on National Public Radio by name. And that‘s why I started talking out.
Okay, so Hunter is speaking because he felt scandalized, not because he’s speaking on behalf of the Family. That is most certainly his prerogative. But he was so intent on defending himself that he forgot what he wanted to do on Maddow’s show. According to Jeff Sharlet:
He said he’d planned to talk about Senator Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay politician who is listed in Family documents as the “U.S. leader” responsible for working with Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Bob said he wants to see Inhofe take a bolder stand against this awful bill. But he got sidetracked.
Sidetracked is right. I’m glad he spoke against the bill. I’m also glad to hear him say that he knows others within the Fellowship who are against it. The last thing I want to do is throw cold water on that.
But I’m going to anyway. Because, you see, I know a lot of devout Catholics who worked to try to defeat anti-marriage amendments. Fortunately, they rarely do it by going on the offensive against Episcopalians who also want to defeat the amendments. But that aside, we all know that it’s what the leaders are doing that matters, and Catholic leaders have no qualms about letting everyone know where they stand. That’s why it’s impossible for anyone to claim that the Catholic Church opposes what they clearly support: anti-marriage amendments everywhere. There is no ambiguity about where the organization stands, whatever some members of it may believe personally.
But we have yet to hear from anyone in authority from the Family say anything about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and that leaves a truckload of ambiguity to deal with. Call me paranoid, but I think that this is exactly what they want. You see, the way things stand right now, Bahati can say whatever he wants — he can say he’s going to the National Prayer Breakfast even if he’s really not going. True or not, he can use that to build up his own political capital in Uganda with nary a contradictory whiff from the Family. Meanwhile, the Family’s silence means that Bahati isn’t embarrassed, nor are any other Family members like, say, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. Bahati’s (and possibly Museveni’s) cherished dream goes forward, and the Family’s ties to Uganda’s political establishment remain intact. Everybody’s happy, except of course gay people in Uganda.
But on the other hand, maybe Bahati really is going to the National Prayer Breakfast. And maybe key members of the Fellowship — not Hunter, not people he knows, but others — support the kill-the-gays bills or its practically-equivalent effort, or at least are willing to look the other way. Meanwhile, those who are passing their assurances on the Warren Throckmorton may not be quite as in-the-know as they honestly think they are. How are we to know? And given the gravity of the situation, why should we go on their word while the Fellowship’s leaders maintain their useful silence? We shouldn’t, and more importantly we can’t afford to.
So, are Mr. Bahati or any other Ugandan political leaders going to Washington? I don’t know. Bahati says he is; Hunter says no. Does the Family support or oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill? Hunter says they oppose, but Sharlet says the group is divided and Hunter would appear to agree, especially if it’s true that Hunter went on Maddow to pressure Sen. Inhofe into taking a bolder stand (and failed). Only Doug Coe can answer all of this definitively, and pretty easily too. For the sake of all that is decent and humane, it’s time for Coe’s yes to be yes, and his no to be no. Silence is not an answer and time has almost run out.
So unless I hear it from Coe or another recognized senior leader who is officially authorized to speak on behalf of the Family, I’m sticking with the only first-person account I’ve seen so far. If trust is in short supply around here, it’s because the people who really matter have not lifted a finger to try to earn it.
Uganda’s “Kill-The-Gays” Bill Author Coming to National Prayer Breakfast
January 16th, 2010
That’s according to a feature story in Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, The Sunday Monitor:
In February, David Bahati, the mover of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to attend a prayer breakfast in the American capital of DC.
Mr Bahati, according to reports, may speak at the event where President Barack Obama – a gays-tolerant liberal president, is also expected to attend. On Friday, Mr Bahati said he would attend. The event is organised by The Fellowship- a conservative Christian organisation, which has deep political connections and counts several high-ranking conservative politicians in its membership.
“I intend to attend the prayer breakfast,” said Mr Bahati – himself a part organiser of the Ugandan equivalent of the national prayer breakfast. This week, citing international pressure, President Yoweri Museveni advised his party’s National Executive Committee, his cabinet and the NRM parliamentary caucus to “go slow” on the Bill.
MP David Bahati is the sponsor of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Uganda’s Parliament. He is also a member of the secretive American evangelical group known as the Family, which founded and organizes the National Prayer Breakfast held on the first Thursday in February, typically at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue N.W. The Monitor reports that the Family has invited Bahati to the prayer breakfast.
Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, another is also said to be planning on attending the National Prayer Breakfast as well.
I find it absolutely incredible that secretive Family would risk this kind of attention at their premiere event. Did the Family actually extend an invitation to Bahati, as he has told The Monitor? If they did, will they honor that invitation or will they publicly repudiate their connections with Bahati and Buturo as had been suggested?
Also, every U.S. President since Eisenhower has attended and spoken at the breakfast. Will President Obama agree to share the same room with these two would-be murderers?
I think it’s a good time to convene a special session of the rainbow welcoming committee.
Jeff Sharlet Responds: “We Agree On Central Points… Ugandan Bill Is Wrong and Must Be Stopped.”
January 10th, 2010
Continuing in our quest to to understand the role of American religious conservatives in African politics, we posted yesterday a comment by Bob Hunter, an associate with the heretofore secretive religious group known as The Family. In that comment, Hunter provided a brief excerpt from a transcript which he says supports his statements made on Rachel Maddow’s program earlier last week, and which were contested a few days later by Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
Late last night, Sharlet left this comment answering some of Hunter’s points.
I spoke to Bob Hunter this evening after this went up on Box Turtle. The bottom line is that we’re in agreement on some central points: The bill, proposed and supported by men in relationship with the Family — David Bahati, James Nsaba Buturo, and Yoweri Museveni — is wrong and must be stopped; the Family has been too secretive, which has hindered its ability to take a stand; and Hunter is doing the right thing by going public in order to make that stand.
My use of the phrase “Jesus footing” was not derogatory. It was, as I told Bob tonight, in recognition of the Family’s long stated goal of a “God-led government.” The particular document I had in mind — related to Senator Jim Inhofe’s extensive work in Uganda on behalf of the Family — describes one aspect of the Africa work thusly:
“2. THE EXECUTION OF THE VISION
A. A congressman and/or Senator from the United States will befriend the leader of another country and tell him/her how Jesus and His teachings will help his country and its poor.
B. U.S. leader and foreign leader will select 5 men (mentors) from the foreign country to commit to learn about Jesus and how He will help themselves, their country and the poor.
“… We will teach the mentors to confess their sins (known or unknown) and to ask the Holy Spirit of Christ to live in them, and to teach them how to live, what to think and what to say.”
Bob says he’s unfamiliar with this document. I believe him. There’s a lot of paperwork in the Family. And, to be fair, Bob’s pretty busy doing consumer advocacy work.
We also agreed that a there’s no point in us having a pissing match here in America while Uganda burns, so to speak. So, in that spirit, I’m going to take Bob’s word that he was simply trying to clarify the record; accept his apology for saying that I’ve disowned my book (a misunderstanding, he says); and leave the transcript above to speak for itself. It was an on the record conversation. “Bait” is “bait,” the use of a big name to bring people to the table behind the scenes. Whether that’s a good approach is in the eye of the beholder. I think it’s fair to say — and that Bob would at least in part agree – that in the case of Jim Inhofe, the fiercely anti-gay senator identified by a 2003-4 budget as responsible for maintaining relationships with leaders of 11 African nations, including Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi — the “bait” may have brought his own baggage.
But Hunter, thank God, is cut from a different cloth. The point is that Bob is trying to bring peace and human rights to Uganda. We can disagree about how to do that, we can even disagree about what constitutes “peace,” but right now, on the brink of murder, our disagreements don’t matter as much as our common cause.
“Family” Member Defends Statements Made To Rachel Maddow, Provides Transcript of Conversation With Sharlet
January 9th, 2010
In the context of understanding the role of American religious conservatives in African politics, particularly in Uganda, there has been a back-and-forth between Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power., and Bob Hunter, an organizer affiliated with the Family working in Uganda.
On the 7th, Sharlet appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show. He asserted that statements by Hunter on a previous episode were inconsistent with his conversation with Hunter and that both he and Hunter had a copy of the transcript of that conversation.
Hunter also included a letter he sent to Rachel Maddow, reinforcing his contention that he did not know Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo personally, and “had not even heard of him until this story broke, even from my Uganda friends.” But, as with the rest of us, he has learned of him since then in connection with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The following comment was made to the thread of our posting about that appearance:
Hi, Bob Hunter here.
I thought you might like to see the transcript of the interview Jeff Sharlet and I had, where I make clear that the reason a Senator and a former UN Ambassador were willing to be “bait” was not about a “Jesus footing”, whatever that is (I have never used the phrase) but about trying to bring peace to Uganda. It worked, eventually helping create a few friends from various political perspectives, meeting around the teachings of Jesus about loving enemies and turning cheeks. Here is the transcript that makes this clear:
“Family” Member Speaks About Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
January 6th, 2010
Bob Hunter appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show last night on behalf of the secretive conservative Christian group known as The Family, to talk about The Family’s role in the Ugandan proposal to legislate LGBT people out of existence. Most of his statements on Rachel Maddow were a repeat of what he had said earlieron NPR’s Fresh Air on December 22. He claimed that The Family never involved themselves in politics — he was particularly combative on that point on Maddow’s show — and that The Family was working to try to get the Anti-Homosexuality Bill withdrawn. You can see the videos from Rachel Maddow’s show here and here.
As I said, Hunter was particularly combative in insisting that The Family is just a bunch of small groups of people who gather for prayer and Bible study, and doesn’t get involved with politics. He also vigorously slammed Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, particularly its cover highlighting “Fundamentalism” at the heart of American power. After the show aired, Sharlet tweeted, “It’s true — I don’t like the cover of The Family. Much of the rest of what Hunter said on Maddow was plain wrong.” Sharlet expanded on what was “plain wrong” in a comment he posted on Warren Throckmorton’s web site:
With respect for Bob’s good intentions in opposing the bill and bringing a smidgeon of transparency to an organization that has been defined by secrecy for 75 years, there’s much in his statement on Maddow — which I helped arrange — that is inaccurate. I’ll have more on this later today, but the most significant point is that the Family/Fellowship has functioned as a political organization ever since it was first formed in the 1930s to elect Arthur Langlie to the office of the Washington governor’s office. It was political when it threw its muscle behind the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act that undid much of the New Deal … it was political when it sent Senator Chuck Grassley to Somalia (and Uganda) in the early 80s to build U.S. support for the genocidal regime of dictator Siad Barre; and it’s political now, as it struggles to do damage control over the Uganda issue. Sending someone like Senator Jim Inhofe to meet with foreign leaders — readers should know that goes through the State Department — on the taxpayer’s tab is political. ..There is a religious function, too; but let’s lay all the cards on the table.
“The Family” Opposes Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill
December 16th, 2009
Jeff Sharlet, of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, wrote a guest post on Warren Throckmorton’s web site which updates his November appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air where he revealed ties between the secretive Evangelical movement known as “The Family” and Uganda’s politicians behind the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In this latest guest post, Sharlet says that The Family opposes the bill and key members are working behind the scenes to stop it from becoming law.
In Sharlet’s book, he identified Bob Hunter as a key organizer for The Family in Uganda during the 1980’s becoming friends with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and helping him establish the Ugandan Prayer Breakfast. Sharlet was finally able to get in contact with Hunter and spent an afternoon detailing the events in Uganda. Sharlet writes:
We agreed that the first step was a statement making clear Bob’s opposition to the bill. Moreover, Bob adds “I know of no one involved in Uganda with the Fellowship here in America, including the most conservative among them, that supports such things as killing homosexuals or draconian reporting requirements, much less has gone over to Uganda to push such positions.”
That’s very, very good news. The Fellowship prefers to avoid the limelight; Bob has forsaken that to make clear his position and that of his American associates: The Fellowship, AKA the Family, opposes the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. [Emphases in the original.]
In his book, Sharlet pointed out that while the Family has a strongly conservative bent, they do not exclude liberals or moderates from their ranks. Hunter had previously served in the Ford and Carter administrations, and had a strong background in consumer advocacy. Sharlet continues:
Over the course of the afternoon he [Hunter] shared with me his experience working with the Fellowship in Burundi, Rwanda, and South Africa. While I may take issue with the Fellowship’s behind-the-scenes approach, there’s no denying that in each of these cases Bob and his associates were working toward extremely admirable ends, and that in the case of Burundi Bob’s efforts helped make the difference that brought a truce to that country’s warring factions. Bob did what he did with the best of intentions, and, in several instances, achieved the best of outcomes.
While Sharlet exonerates Hunter’s role in the development of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and further says that no American Family member has played a direct role in it’s promotion, he notes the religious revival that has taken place in Uganda since the 1980’s and the prominent role Americans, including Family members, have played in shaping the rhetorical nature of that revival including its anti-gay aspects. And he believes that those Family members have a special responsibility, which many of them are not living up to:
I’d add that through the Fellowship, a number of anti-gay American politicians have involved themselves with Ugandan affairs, most notably Senator James Inhofe, who has spoken of having “adopted” Uganda and who has been a guest at multiple Ugandan National Prayer Breakfasts. I don’t believe James Inhofe told David Bahati to push this legislation. I believe Inhofe when he says – under pressure – that he’s opposed to it. But the fact is, these powerful politicians, representatives of the most powerful nation on the world and its foreign aid generosity, are clear and candid in their opposition to homosexuality. That’s their right. But I believe they should therefore be even more clear and candid in their opposition to its criminalization. Theirs is a personal, religious position. They should extra precautions to make clear that these positions are in absolutely no way linked to the relationships between the United States and foreign aid recipients. Not only have they not done that, they resisted even condemning the bill.
Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill Sparks Schism Inside The Family; U.S. Sens. Remain Silent
December 10th, 2009
Rachel Maddow had author Jeff Sharlet on her program last night. Sharlet is the author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, and has been following the connections of The Family to the current attempt in Uganda to legislate LGBT people out of existence through its draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. That proposed Act is now reportedly being modified to drop the death penalty but add forced conversions. If true, that would provide even more evidence that the anti-gay conference last March by three American ex-gay proponents was a major factor in propelling this bill to where we are today.
Sharlet had earlier identified Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s Parliament, as a “rising star” and member of The Family. It is The Family that organizes the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and Bahati has played a role in organizing the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast for some time.
While the March anti-gay conference in Kampala played a huge role in providing impetus for the proposed legislation, Sharlet reports that the idea for the draconian bill predates that conference. According to Sharlet, Bahati got the idea for the Anti-Homosexuality Act at the October 2008 Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast where he floated the idea during a private meeting. Sharlet reports that other Family members tried to dissuade Bahati from his plans, but in the end they work a balance “between access and accountability” and the decided that access to Ugandan political figures was more important than holding them accountable for the lives of a reviled minority.
Sharlet reports that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) may have attended this particular prayer breakfast, although he’s still trying to get confirmation of that. He has been very active in Ugandan Prayer breakfasts in the past and travels to Uganda about twice a year. Ugandan Family members credit Inhofe for making the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast a success.
Sharlet reports that the bill has caused something of a schism between the Ugandan and American branches of The Family. While several American members of The Family are quietly trying to put a stop to the bill, Sens. Inhofe and Sam Brownback (R-KS) have refused to step up, characterizing the bill as an internal Ugandan matter that they don’t want to “interfere” with — despite the fact that they’ve had no reluctance to “interfere” in Ugandan matters where condom distribution to fight AIDS is concerned.
David Bahati and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo plan to come to the American National Prayer Breakfast in February 2009. Sharlet reports that the Ugandans pushing for this bill may be dis-invited to the Prayer Breakfast.
This is important news to help place the line of events into context. While it appears that the anti-gay conference put on by three American ex-gay proponents wasn’t the source for the idea of outlawing LGBT people, it certainly played a major role in making this proposal a reality by putting a public face on the “pressure” for the legislation. That conference served as a launching pad for a public campaign demanding that “something be done” — a campaign that included further meetings and demonstrations, culminating in an orgy of public outings and denunciations as part of a national vigilante campaign. Throughout the campaign, the words and writings of the three American activists were used as fuel to propel the hysteria further. All of this breathed new life into a germ of an idea hatched five months earlier.
Rachel Maddow: Should US Politicians Try To Stop The “Kill Gays” Bill?
December 5th, 2009
Rachel Maddow last night reviewed the role that Rick Warren has played in Uganda, including his siding with the Ugandan Anglican Church against the U.S. Episcopal Church over the ordination of gay clergy and bishops even though Warren’s background is Baptist.
Maddow also reviewed the role that several U.S. politicians — specifically Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) — in their own meddling in Uganda’s political affairs, mostly in changing Uganda’s previously successful fight against AIDS by insisting on abstinence only education. These politicians, it should be noted, are also all members of the secretive Evangelical group The Family, which seeks to “take over” (in Family leader Doug Coe’s words) the political, business and other power spheres around the world in a sort of “trickle down” national salvation plan, as opposed to focusing on individual salvation that is at the core of orthodox Christianity.
Rachel’s panel last night consisted of Congressman Anthony Wiener (D-NY); Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University; and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. She asked them a very pertinent question:
“Is it reasonable to expect that American politicians who have been, frankly, pretty interventionist in Uganda in the past, should be trying to stop the ‘kill the gays’ bill there?”