Remembering Doug Coe

With the advent of The Family documentary mini-series (based on a book by Jeff Sharlet) on Netflix starting next Wednesday August 9, there will be renewed interest in Doug Coe. Coe was the leader of the Fellowship Foundation for many years before his death in 2017. Although he wasn’t the founder, he did as much as anyone to shape the Fellowship into the organization it is today.

In 2009, I emerged as a vocal opponent of the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill and more broadly criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. Author Jeff Sharlet initially made the connection between the bill and the Fellowship. Because Ugandan members of the Fellowship and Prayer Breakfast movement were the main supporters of the bill in Uganda, the Fellowship leaders in the U.S. had to decide whether to take a public position on the matter.

Although there were many U.S. influences on the Ugandan legislators, the Fellowship leaders were divided about how to oppose the bill. Some wanted to quietly persuade the Ugandan people to withdraw, while others favored a more active, vocal opposition. However, taking a public position meant increasing public awareness of the organization. This went against the organization’s historical pattern.

For awhile, those favoring more transparency won out and I was invited to interview several Fellowship members including Ambassador Andrew Young, Representative Tony Hall, and Coe.  My write up of the Coe 2010 prayer breakfast interview where he condemned the bill and criminalization was published by Christianity Today.

David Bahati, the parliamentarian who co-introduced the Ugandan bill, later said that the American leaders betrayed him and really wanted the bill to succeed. I think Bahati interpreted the initial silence of some Fellowship leaders as support. However, I believe Doug Coe and other Fellowship leaders were sincere when they spoke with me at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast.

The series begins next Wednesday August 9. Over the five episodes, I will post more information I have about the Fellowship including links to speeches of Coe’s which he allowed to upload to my Youtube account which had not been previously posted.  The trailer for the series is below.

The Family: A Documentary Series on the Fellowship Foundation Starts August 9 on Netflix

On August 9, Netflix will roll out a documentary series based on Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. I was interviewed for this series and will appear in one of the episodes. My part of the picture relates to my work against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill from 2009 to 2015. You can watch a trailer of the series below:

As part of my efforts against the Ugandan legislation, I attended the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast at the invitation of The Family (Fellowship Foundation). While there, I conducted one of four interviews with Fellowship Foundation leader, the late Douglas Coe. It was published in 2010 in Christianity Today.

Coe died last year and there has been some struggle for leadership. The Fellowship has been in the news  to due to their connection Russian agent Maria Butina. I will add  on the series as it progresses.

Prior articles on the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill can be viewed here. 

More recent articles on the Fellowship Foundation, including the case of Russian agent Maria Butina can be viewed here and here.

Uganda: Members of Parliament Call for Another Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday members of Uganda’s Parliament called for legislation akin to the failed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. Beginning in 2009, Uganda had the world’s attention as the nation’s Parliament debated a bill which would have implemented the death penalty for repeat instances of same-sex behavior between consenting adults. A slightly modified bill finally passed in 2013 only to be struck down by a Ugandan court in 2014.
In protest, nations around the globe cut off aid to Uganda and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the bill at the 2010 prayer breakfast. Evangelicals were divided over the bill with some giving quiet support to the evangelical parliamentarians in Uganda. Others, like Rick Warren, criticized the bill and urged Ugandan pastors to come out against it. See the end of this post for more reading on the issue. I wrote scores of articles about the bill and came out strongly against it.

A New Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

After speaking out against same-sex marriage at the March Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, members of Parliament passed a commendation of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.


Here is Kadaga at the IPU meeting:

The recognition of Kadaga Wednesday led to other members of Parliament making statements about a need for a new law against homosexuality.


That homosexuality spreads “like a wild fire” is just one of many misconceptions which members of Parliament use to generate support for their efforts. As a response to a request from President Museveni for scientific information relating to homosexuality, Jack Drescher and I wrote a scientific consensus letter in 2014 which was signed by over 200 scholars and sex researchers. I would like to think it helped but he signed the bill anyway. Furthermore, when I read these statements from the Parliament, I can see we have more work to do.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement
History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals  – Daily Beast
My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill
Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers
The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic
All posts about Uganda
 

Meeting Minutes from Uganda's Ministry of Health Task Force Debate on Homosexuality

Although Yoweri Museveni has not yet signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, he has signaled his intent to do so based on information presented to him from a task force set up by Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Museveni passed the buck to that committee and claims to be taking steps in line with their recommendations. I posted the committee’s report here last week.
Apparently, the task force only met two times prior to presenting their findings. According to minutes of those two meetings which I present here, the entire process seemed to be thrown together at the last minute.
Minutes for the first meeting:

Minutes of the 1st task force on the homosexuality debate held at the Ministry of Health on 3rd February 2014

Members Present
Dr. Isaac Ezati                                     Chair, Director Planning, Ministry of Health
Dr. Sylvester Onzivua                     Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital
Dr. Misaki Wayengera                    Geneticist, Makerere University
Prof. Seggane Musisi                      Psychiatrist, Makerere University
Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi                 Head, Mental Health Desk, Ministry of Health
Dr. Paul Bangirana                           Psychologist, Makerere University
Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda    Psychiatrist, Makerere University
Dr David Basangwa                          Director, Butabika Hospital
Min 1: The Chair briefed members that the President needs an opinion from experts whether homosexuality is abnormal.
Min 2: The team agreed to answer the following questions;
a)      Is there a scientific basis for homosexuality, if yes what is it?
b)      Is it a disease (disease process) or not?
c)       Is it an abnormality. What drives it? Include the social, psychological and religious causes.
Min 3: They also noted the need to mention the following in the report;
a)      The protection of families and that the act needs to be regulated i.e. no recruiting, public displays so as to protect children and families.
b)      The controversies of the literature. No literature in Uganda about homosexuality, most studies done in the West. There is need to balance between the evidence from the west and protecting our culture.
c)       Studies are needed to study homosexuality/sexuality in Uganda.
Min 4: To meet again on Wednesday at 6pm with answers to the question, is there a scientific basis for this?

Minutes for the second meeting:

Minutes of the 2nd task force on the homosexuality debate held at the Ministry of Health on 5th February 2014

Members Present

  1. Dr. Isaac Ezati                                     Chair, Director Planning, Ministry of Health
  2. Dr. Sylvester Onzivua                     Senior Pathologist, Mulago Hospital
  3. Dr. Misaki Wayengera                    Geneticist, Makerere University
  4. Prof. Seggane Musisi                      Psychiatrist, Makerere University
  5. Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi                 Head, Mental Health Desk, Ministry of Health
  6. Dr. Paul Bangirana                           Psychologist, Makerere University
  7. Dr Jacinto Amandua                        Commissioner, Ministry of Health

Absent with apology

  1. Assoc. Prof. Eugene Kinyanda    Psychiatrist, Makerere University
  2. Dr David Basangwa                          Director, Butabika Hospital

Min 1: Dr Ezati nominated Prof Seggane to Chair the scientific arm of the task force. He reiterated the question the Minister wanted answered; what is the scientific or genetic basis of homosexuality and can it be learned or unlearned.
Min 2: Prof Seggane presented his report. He gave a background on sexuality and overview of the biological basis. He concluded that homosexuality is not an abnormality nor a habit but a normal biological variant of sexuality. It needs to be regulated as was in the traditional African society.
Min 3: Dr Bangirana presented evidence showing that that the hypothalamus in both homosexual men and heterosexual women was activated by androgen containing odours. All brains of the three groups processed other odours similarly. These findings imply that homosexual men have a different brain response to male odours compared to heterosexual men but they respond to other odours like heterosexuals. It is not clear whether this differing physiological response exists at birth or developed after homosexual experience later in life.
Min 4: Dr Onzivua made his presentation. He mentioned that there is no biological basis for homosexuality. There is no biological basis to promote homosexuality, different body parts are adapted for their functions, eg pinna to collect sound waves etc.  The anatomy of the human being is not designed homosexuality. There are no conclusive studies on the genetics of homosexuality. However the environmental influence can not be ignored.
Min 5: Dr Wayengera presented his report. There are statistical correlations between the behaviour and structural and genetic factors. The current based on the dearth of genetic studies imply that it is a learned behaviour (social influence). Chromosomal studies have not produced consistent results when replicated. Animal studies have shown a genetic basis of homosexuality (in Drosophila and mice) but have not replicated in humans. Evolutionary biology where the main role for sex is procreation implies there is no structural basis for homosexuality.
Min 6: A discussion followed these presentations. It was suggested that simple explanations are needed to explain homosexuality since the lay public will not understand the science presented above. Need to look at it from all angles i.e. biological, psychological and social.
Min 7: Conclusions:
a)      There is no definitive gene for homosexuality
b)      Homosexuality is not a disease
c)       Homosexuality is not an abnormality
d)      In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies
e)      It can be influenced by environmental factors (e.g. culture, information, permissiveness)
f)       The practise needs regulation like any other behaviour

It is stunning to think that a decision as important as whether to endorse the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could be decided in this manner. Clearly this committee did not consider all of the evidence and ignored some that was presented. At least as reported here, the committee did not reflect on the inappropriate use of science requested by the president, and even discussed simplifying the complexity of the issues for public consumption. There is something very wrong about this process; the right to exist should not depend on research studies.
 

Report on Homosexuality by Uganda's Ministry of Health

I have secured a copy of the report of the ministry of health on genetics and homosexuality. According to media reports and those close to the situation, this report was referred to by President Museveni as a reason to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Each page of the report can be read by clicking the thumbnails below. First, I am including the press release describing the report and Museveni’s response to it at the NRM caucus meeting. Museveni refers in the report to a letter from “USA scientists.” I don’t know if he is referring to our letter or another one. Several were sent to the caucus meeting.
While there are several problems with the report, one glaring issue is the way the new genetics study was handled by the committee. On page 7, the report states:

More recently, a group from the American Societies of Human Genetics have used a genome-wide study to replicate Hamer’s Xq28 in animal model studies…

I know of no efforts like this using animal models. I feel sure they are referring to the study that found two regions of linkage between over 400 pairs of gay brothers. This study, along with other evidence, should have influenced the committee to come to a different conclusion.
Much of the report was reasonable (e.g., efforts to change have not been successful) but the conclusions the committee came to were not.
Committee press release PDF

The Republic of Uganda
STATE HOUSE Department of Press and Public Relations. News. Information. Communication
Telephone 0414 231900/0414343308; Fax: 0414 235462
Email: Press@statehouse.go.ug
P.O. Box 25497 Kampala, Uganda
Press Release
President to sign anti-gay bill after experts prove there is no connection between biology and being gay
February 15,  2014
President Yoweri Museveni has stressed that there is no debate regarding the promotion of homosexuality, those who are homosexuals for mercenary reasons and the promotion of exhibitionalism saying these should not only be dealt with by law but also harshly. “In my role as a strategist and a responsible leader for our country, there is no debate regarding the promotion of homosexuality. That one I totally agree with everybody that anybody who is promoting homosexuality we must stop him… this must be stopped by law and harshly. Secondly I do not accept those who become homosexuals for mercenary reasons, thirdly, I cannot accept exhibitionalism of homosexual behavior that must be stopped and stopped harshly. The only question which I raised was, are there those who are born as homosexuals? He said amidst ululations and clapping by NRM members of parliament currently attending a retreat at the National Leadership institute in Kyankwanzi. “That is why therefore am very happy. What is important for us is the authoritative statement of those who are charged with the medical affairs of Uganda at this time because they are the ones who are historically responsible. The question I put to them was, are there people born like this? Now they are saying they are no such people. And if they put it in writing… because this is a historical document…that the one who was running Uganda at that time got worried, asked the experts what did they say about this and this is what they said….then my work is finished,” he said attracting more cheering from celebrating legislators.
The President emphasized that this is a job for the scientists before reading out a letter from USA scientist about the same debate. (Letter from US scientists to be sent to the media ASAP) “The authorities are these ones, the University Medical School and medical authorities. And since they have put this in writing…me my job is finished. The most important thing is on the three where there is no debate. On the promotion/recruitment of homosexuals no debate; mercenary homosexuals no debate and exhibitionism not debate. Leadership is not a joke. Don’t just sit there because somebody is calling you Your Excellency, Honourable and you think you are a God. You are just a servant and a servant does his best to do the right thing. That is why I want a scientific answer not a political answer. Let the scientists answer this. And according to the way they have answered it, if they mislead us they are the ones who are responsible,” he said.
Dr. C. Ibingira the head of School of biomedical sciences at Makerere University as according to the data they have presented there is no single gene associated with homosexuality. (Paper will be sent to media ASAP) “Am speaking at the point from where we stand in space time of science..the evidence we have shows that there is no gene associated with homosexuality,” Ibingira said. The Presidential Advisor on Science Richard Tushemereirwe said it was wrong to try and use genetic link to justify homosexuality saying they may as well justify drug addiction or abuse. “Whether there is a link or no link to genes, there is no justification for this, it is a wastage of time for us to debate about this. The only science that I find relevant to the science of homosexuality is not genetic but public health citing India were homosexuality has been reinstated as a crime under their constitution. He said diseases that were initially confined to the genitalia like gonorrhea have now migrated to the mouth and throat like gonorrhea. Infections like HPV have found their way in mouth and throat from genetalia. “Homosexual person danger to himself and the public” he said. END

The report of the Ministry of Health: (Jim Burroway also posted this pdf of all 12 pages)

 

Over 200 Scientists and Mental Health Professionals Respond to President Museveni Regarding Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill

In a February 3 letter to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, over 200 researchers and mental health professionals from around the world joined together to provide a statement of scientific consensus regarding sexual orientation. The letter was in response to Museveni’s call for evidence regarding choice of sexual orientation as he deliberates about his response to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The letter was distributed for comment and signature among various professional and academic listservs during a 3 day window of time. Many more wanted to sign the letter but because we wanted to get the letter to President Museveni in time for his political party retreat, we were unable to add all that asked to sign on.  However, those wanting to add their support may do so in the comments section or via email (see the letter).
Click the link to read the letter.

Sen Jim Inhofe Heading To Uganda; Will He Speak Against The Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

According to a tweet from Maria Burnett at Human Rights Watch Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is heading to Uganda. From sources I trust, I have learned that Inhofe and a Congressional delegation will be in Uganda next week.
 

 
Inhofe (@jiminhofe) has stated in the U.S. that he opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but will he bring up his opposition when he meets with Uganda’s president Museveni? My guess is that regional security issues will dominate the meetings but I hope Inhofe and his delegation will communicate that yhey oppose the human rights disaster in the making in Uganda.
I will add information here as I get it.
 

Top Ten Posts – 2011

To reflect on 2011, I have listed here the ten most popular posts in terms of visits this year. Two of the posts were written in prior years but were visited frequently this year. In addition to being popular, I think they are representative of the stories and issues which I wrote about this year.

1. The Trail of Tears remembered

2. Uganda update: Anti-Homosexuality Bill on tomorrow’s agenda

3. Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered

4. What would dominionists do with gays?

5. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited (2009)

6. NARTH is not primarily composed of mental health professionals

7. Only the gay die young: Examining the claims of shorter life expectancy for homosexuals (2007)

8. The evangelical blackout of research on sexual orientation

9. William Penn founded the Quakers and other tall tales from David Barton

10. Was the Jefferson Bible an evangelism tool?

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Is the death penalty off the table or not?

Earlier today, I received a report from a source in Uganda which appears to be the report from the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee on the AHB. I did not write about it because I could not confirm that the report was indeed a final report from that committee. Given the time in Kampala, I won’t be able to confirm it until tomorrow. However, if the report is the committee’s final report then the death penalty may not be off the table. Let me add that the report looks like other committee reports I have seen and matches up with what I have heard it contains with the exception of the claims about the death penalty.
For now, I am going to focus on section three of the report which is where the death penalty can be found. Here is section 3 from the bill:

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.

Note especially #2 above and then read the recommendation for section three in the committee report:

1.   Clause 3 (2) is amended by substituting for the words “…suffer death’’ with words “…the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act”.

The justification for this change is given as follows:

Justification
To harmonise the provision with the penalty under the Penal Code Act

Now at issue is “the penalty provided for aggravated defilement under Section 129 of the Penal Code Act.” What is it? Here is Section 129 of the Penal Code Act. Read this and find the penalty:

Defilement of persons under eighteen years of age
129. (1) Any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years, commits a felony known as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.
(2) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years commits an offence and is on conviction, liable to imprisonment not exceeding eighteen years.
(3) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (4) commits a felony called aggravated defilement and is, on conviction by the High Court, liable to suffer death.
(4) The circumstances referred to in subsection (3) are as follows—
(a) where the person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of fourteen years;
(b) where the offender to his or her knowledge, is infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS);
(c) where the offender is a parent or guardian of or a person in authority over, the person against whom the offence is committed; or
(d) where the offender is a serial offender.
(5) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person below the age of eighteen years in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (4), commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
(6) In this section unless the context otherwise requires—
“serial offender” means a person who has a previous conviction for the offence of defilement or aggravated defilement;
“sexual act” means penetration of the vagina, mouth, or anus, however slight, of any person by a sexual organ or the use of any object or organ by a person on another person’s sexual organ
“sexual organ” includes a vagina or penis.

Note that the penalty for “aggravated defilement” (underlined in bold above) is death. Now note that the AHB only refers to the penalty for aggravated defilement and not any of the offenses. The recommendation does not seem to be a substitution of defilement laws (which by the way covers both boys and girls), but rather is simply another way of wording the death penalty.
Those who are saying the death penalty has been removed have some explaining to do. No one should accept those claims after reviewing this report.