There’s a lot of talk here recently over a proposed anti-gay death penalty law in Uganda. Activists and news organizations have linked the legislation’s Ugandan proponents to several high-profile American religious leaders and politicians.
The law, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, would make gay sex a crime punishable by death. The legislation has been endorsed by Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, a man invited to speak at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and “embraced warmly” by Warren and his wife.
Jeff Sharlet, author of an exposÃ© on the secretive American group, “The Family,” has linked the Ugandan legislation’s mastermind, David Bahati, back to the ultra-conservative group.
Author and activist Wayne Besen reports:
On National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross interviewed author Jeff Sharlet (pictured), whose book, “The Family”, is a groundbreaking expose on the clandestine group in charge of the National Prayer Breakfast. On the program, Sharlet revealed a “smoking gun”, tying The Family directly to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, which threatens liberty and life for all GLBT people living in Uganda. Here is the key part of the transcript:
GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed [Uganda anti-gay hate] legislation by following the money?
SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.
GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You’ve described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.
SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family’s 990s, where they’re moving their money to – into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, “invisible family binding together world leaders,” and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads – graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO’s through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media – David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
Although the U.S. Embassy in Uganda has condemned the proposed legislation, hundreds of world leaders and U.S. House and Senate members will likely attend The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 10, 2010.
Besen is calling on leaders and pols to disavow the breakfast and refuse to attend. Although that would be a nice, first step, U.S. elected officials are obligated to do more.
Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should issue strong statements condemning the proposed gay sex=death law. Further, should the Ugandan bill pass and be written into law, the U.S. should immediately suspend all aid and assistance to the Ugandan government and prohibit any future aid or assistance until the law is repealed and replaced by a fully-inclusive human rights statute protecting the lives and liberties of all Ugandans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender-identity.
On the religious front, anti-gay spiritual leaders in the U.S., including Warren, should come out full force against the law. Their reluctance to speak on the possibility of death sentences for LGBT people serves only to show their true colors — that while they pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow or ignore, they’ve chosen to continue a belief in Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Continued legislation, whether proposed as in Uganda or already on the books as in many Middle Eastern nations, criminalizing LGBT people are an international disgrace, an affront to the very rights protected in the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights and a massive miscarriage of justice.
Update: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a strong statement against international homophobia on Nov. 30:
On the eve of World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday made the strongest statement yet by an administration official that the United States will not tolerate efforts to criminalize homosexuality among countries that receive U.S. funding to combat HIV/AIDS.
“Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it but also to combat discrimination more broadly,” she said during a press conference in which officials also announced that the XIX International AIDS Conference, set for 2012, will be held in United States — the first time the conference has been held here since 1990. “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.”