Christianity Today’s website contradicts Timothy Shah’s CT conspiracy article

Since October, 2009, there have been a number of flawed articles about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but none more flawed than the one currently up on the website of Christianity Today, by Timothy Shah. I have written here and here to demonstrate just a few of the problems, but I want to address some of them again with more information.

First, in reference again to this Shah authored statement:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Instead, a major reason for the attention focused on the bill is that many believe it is the fruit of American evangelical homophobia.

I asked to write a rebuttal but CT declined. About an hour ago, I posted this comment:

I encourage readers of Timothy Shah’s article to read the articles provided by Christianity Today on page three. Although incomplete, these articles accurately contradict several of the claims made by Shah. For instance, Shah says that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill repelled “virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders…” However, on CT’s website, Ugandan Bishop David Zac Niringiye told Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

How are Ugandan Christians generally responding to this legislation?

This is not just a Christian response. I can certainly say the objectives of the bill have the total support of most of Uganda, not just Christians, but also Muslims and Roman Catholics. It would not be right to talk about how Christians feel. They’re all agreed on the objectives. There will be a difference of opinion on the details of the bill. Space does not permit a detailed fact-based rebuttal which is why CT should allow one.

Bishop Niringiye’s response is linked after the Shah article and can be read here. He adds as if to make the point clear (but not clear enough for Timothy Shah):

Bailey: Do you know how Christians are responding to the penalties in this bill?

Niringiye: The point I’m making is that Christians in the country, including other people in the culture, really support the objectives of the bill. When it comes to the issue of the death penalty, there is as much debate over the death penalty as there are different Christian persuasions. The discussion on the death penalty [in this bill] needs to be separated from, Is the death penalty [ever] an acceptable sentence? I am sure there are American Christians or others in the world who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say no, the death penalty is not an acceptable sentence for any offense.

The CT website also has articles which demonstrate the division among American Christians over the issues raised by the AHB. For instance, this one by Sarah Pulliam Bailey notes that American Christians were troubled by the bill and took various positions on criminalization. Shah reduces the narrative to a left versus Christian conflict, ignoring the opposition among Christians around the world to what most Ugandan leaders were supporting in the name of Jesus.

Shah completely ignores that David Bahati told the media that he did indeed have evangelical supporters in the US. He declined to name them but I named a few here. Moreover, Lou Engle went to Uganda in May, 2010 and told the Ugandans alongside religious and political leaders that Uganda was “ground zero” in the culture war. He later acknowledged favoring the criminalization of homosexuality. Bahati, Nsaba Buturo and Julius Oyet all felt supported by Engle’s visit. The left did not make that up.

Shah’s vision is woefully inadequate to suggest that  American opposition was triggered solely by perceptions of “American homophobia.” What completes the picture is to understand that the American opposition was not exclusively from the New York Times (which actually came late to the issue) and the left, but also with vigor from American evangelicals contending with Ugandan and other American evangelicals that the AHB was wrong.

Shah mentions the Fellowship, the evangelical group which David Bahati aligns with in Uganda, but fails to examine the significance of the fact that the Fellowship’s American leadership condemned the AHB. The platform used by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to condemn the AHB was the National Prayer Breakfast in February, 2010. The National Prayer Breakfast is organized by the Fellowship.

I was in the African Suite at the Washington Hilton watching the speeches by Obama and Clinton. After the NPB ceremonies were done, a spirited discussion broke out in the room involving myself and the Ugandan delegation. Only one Ugandan spoke against the bill, while three were vigorous in their support for it.

In his attempt to make a case for a conspiracy, Shah comes too close to engaging in one. He clearly wants to beat up on Jeff Sharlet, who incidentally helped get the Fellowship’s Bob Hunter on the Rachel Maddow Show to condemn the AHB, but makes an irresponsible claim to do so. Shah writes:

He [Sharlet] further suggests that American “fundamentalists” such as Rick Warren harbor a genocidal “motive” because they aim at the “eradication of homosexuality” and so countenance the murder of open homosexuals such as David Kato.

I have the book C-Street and also asked Sharlet if he has ever suggested that “fundamentalists such as Rick Warren…countenance the murder of open homosexuals.” It is not in the book and Sharlet tells me that he has never linked fundamentalists with the murder of David Kato. In his book, Sharlet says Bahati and Warren both believe homosexuality is wrong, and in that sense favor the eradication of homosexuality, but he notes that Warren’s approach is religious and curative while Bahati’s bill proposes darker ends. Sharlet does not say Warren wants gays killed and it is irresponsible to suggest it.

There is much more to say, but a read of the CT website on Uganda will quickly reveal how problematic it is. I will pick this up in another post soon…

David Bahati intervenes in UK asylum case

This in from Lezgetreal.com:

Brenda Namigadde left Uganda 8 years ago, in 2003. She lived together with her partner, a Canadian woman Janet, but they were threatened, and both left the country, first Janet back to Canada, then Brenda went to the UK:

“Our relationship led us to be sworn at, threatened. Even the house where we were living was hurt, so we had to live in hiding for a month. Janet had to go back to Canada, the last time I saw here was in 2003. I’ve been in the U.K. for 8 years, applied for asylum last year for human protection.”

“I’ll be tortured, or killed, if I’m sent back to Uganda. They’ve put people like me to death there.”

“Yes I was involved in the protest at Trafalgar Square, we wanted to speak out against the law in Uganda. It’s not right how they treat gay people there. In Uganda, I have nobody there, it’s very dangerous for me. If I can stay here in the UK I can continue my studies, live my life freely, openly, without fear.”

This is the woman who faces deportation back to Uganda on January 28th. International Activists have worked in unity to effect a campaign to save Brenda from certain harm.

Brenda is presently detained at Yarlswood Immigrtaion Removal Centre. She has another removal date set for 28th January 2011 to Entebbe Uganda in Flight VS671 & KQ412 via Nairobi, Kenya at 21.20 hrs.

I am supporting asylum for this woman as it appears to me that she could well face threat in Uganda. The case took an interesting and unexpected turn yesterday when Anti-Homosexuality Bill author called Melanie Nathan, the author of the Lezgetreal blog, to comment on the Namigadde case:

Bahati said he read the piece about Brenda  Namigadde where I quoted him and that he was calling to tell me to give Brenda a message. The author of the anti-gay legislation said that the legislation will be presented to the Ugandan Parliament in the next few weeks. Homosexuality Including men and women is considered a crime in Uganda as being against the order of nature. The new Bill by Bahati seeks to affirm its criminalization and also calls for the death penalty in certain circumstances.

He told me that Brenda should stop bad mouthing Uganda; that she would be welcome back to Uganda if she renounced her homosexuality and if she “repented.”   I asked him if he based this ideal upon religious beliefs and he said “yes” that he did. I asked what if Brenda did not have the same belief as he did?  I asked what if she did not believe that she could repent?  He affirmed then she would be tried as a criminal.

After speaking to Mr. Bahati, I realize that he believes that Ms. Namigadde is indeed a lesbian. This serves only to enhance the danger she is in and flies in the face of the UK assertion that she may not have proved that she is a lesbian. She is indeed in danger.

Although the campaign is in full swing in Uganda, Mr. Bahati faces no opposition and must have some time on his hands.

Change.org and Paul Canning have efforts going to alert the UK authorities about what would be good for Ms. Namigadde.

More on this situation from the UK Guardian.

Uganda round up: Ssempa summoned to court, Rolling Stone hearing slated for Dec. 31

According the Daily Monitor, Martin Ssempa and a group of cohorts have been summoned to court over charges they conspired to injure the reputation of Robert Kayanja. According to authorities, the bunch paid people off to say Kayanja engaged in homosexual behavior.  According to the Monitor:

The Buganda Road Court yesterday summoned pastors Solomon Male, Michael KyazzeMartin Ssempa and Robert Kayiira to appear in court on January 4 to answer charges of conspiracy to injure Pastor Robert Kayanja’s reputation. Also summoned is David Mukalazi, a musician, and Anita Kyomuhendo, a State House employee.

The summonses followed a decision by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to sanction charges of conspiracy to injure Pastor Kayanja’s reputation. Pastor Male of Arise for Christ Ministry was last week briefly detained over the allegation. They are accused of mobilising youths to accuse Pastor Kayanja of sodomising them.

Pastor Ssempa is accused of hiring Robson Matovu to blackmail Pastor Kayanja. It is alleged that Matovu, together with the alleged victims of sodomy, were medically examined but no evidence of anal penetration was found.

Pastor Male is accused of giving Matovu a signed affidavit implicating Pastor Kayanja, while Mukisa was reportedly promised necessities to testify against Pastor Kayanja. Pastors Kazze and Kayiira of Omega Healing Centre also face similar charges before the Grade 11 Magistrate’s Court.

I have asked for comment from Rev. Ssempa but he has not replied. We have some readers who attend Rev. Ssempa’s church. Perhaps they could let us know how this is being received there.

Regarding the Rolling Stone trial, the court again moved the hearing to Dec. 31.

Buturo censors human rights documentary

In Uganda, Nsaba Buturo is serving out his term as Minister of Ethics and Integrity. He lost his bid for re-election and will presumably not be back in that role. However, even as a lame duck, he is making waves. According to the Monitor:

Human rights defenders yesterday gathered in Kampala to voice their distress following Monday’s incident where Ethics minister blocked the viewing of a movie chronicling their experiences.

Led by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) chairperson Medi Kaggwa, the rights defenders in a joint statement said Mr Nsaba Buturo’s move was unconstitutional.

“The documentary was one of the series of activities aligned in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on December 10 and its aim was to highlight the work of Human Rights Defenders and the challenges they face,” read the statement delivered by Mr. Kaggwa.

In Uganda, the UHRC spearheaded the activities to mark the day in partnership with the UN Office of the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Network –Uganda, the Human Rights Centre and other organisations who work as rights defenders.

But while justifying his action, Mr Buturo said the organisers wanted to indoctrinate the youth on homosexuality.

Mr Buturo told Daily Monitor that the organisers refused to delete the homosexual content in the documentary.

The article then describes the nature of the censored content.

Mr Kaggwa said the film only contains interviews of human rights defenders on their experiences and challenges in performing their work as well as recommendations for promotion of human rights especially among the minority groups such as women and people with disabilities.

In the documentary that was shown to journalists at UHRC headquarters, Mr Kikonyogo Kivumbi comments on the rights of the homosexuals to health services and cites the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that allows medical practitioners to report gay patients to police.

“We are giving a very strong voice to Parliament not to pass the Bill because it will discriminate against minority groups like the homosexuals. Uganda is committed to fighting HIV and Aids and when minorities are threatened with arrest, they will fear to go for medication and yet it is their right,” Mr Kivumbi says in the documentary.

This is what seems to have aroused Mr Buturo’s disquiet in the documentary, leading to blocking of its viewing at the National Theatre.  Mr Buturo was not available for comment yesterday as his known mobile number remained unanswered.

If true, this would be more indication that the purpose of the AHB and other initiatives in Uganda is not to protect children, as proponents of the AHB claim, but to punish and eliminate an unpopular minority. There really is little doubt of this despite the claims of defenders.

State Department: Anti-Homosexuality Bill “major violation of human rights” but Bahati was not asked to leave country

Just a bit ago, I talked to Andy Laney of the U.S. Department of State who contradicted a report in the Uganda Observer that David Bahati was asked to leave the country.

Mr. Laney said, “We did not ask David Bahati to leave the country,” adding that the State Department did not have that authority.

However, Mr. Laney confirmed that State Department officials met with Mr. Bahati while he was in the United States and told him

…that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a major violation of human rights and that we strongly oppose it.

Mr. Laney’s statement about Bahati’s departure from the country is in sharp contrast to what I reported earlier today based on the Observer article:

Reports from the US state that Bahati, who was taped for Thursday’s Rachel Maddow TV Show, was told to get out of the USA by the authorities Thursday.

Bahati who had planned on staying in the USA and to leave over the weekend, was asked to leave right away by department of State officials.

The US authorities informed Bahati that he was no longer welcome and nor was he legally entitled to remain in the USA.  He was put on a plane for Paris and is probably on his way back home.

The Observer article adds that protests were planned in DC.

A large group of activists were planning to protest today – Friday. But now that Bahati has left , the protests have been called off and the activists assert they are happy he is gone.

This may be more the real reason he left – to avoid protests.

Mr. Laney did not know whether Mr. Bahati had indeed left the U.S.

UPDATE: Bahati confirms that he was not asked to leave the country. The article incorrectly attributes Mr. Laney’s quote above to the Lez Get Real website.

Author of Uganda anti-gay bill on his way home

I am trying to confirm these facts but this article from the Uganda Observer says David Bahati is on his way home, with a little help from the US State Dept.

He is not answering his phone and has not returned emails. I suspect he is indeed in transit.

David Bahati on the Rachel Maddow Show, Parts 1-3 with commentary

Here are the Rachel Maddow Show segments with Ugandan MP David Bahati.

Part one:

Part two:

Part three

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

US Connections with guest Jeff Sharlet

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Maddow’s opening commentary:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Bahati criticizes conference ban

As I noted yesterday, David Bahati, currently in Washington DC representing the Ugandan Parliament, was barred from entrance to a conference on financial management hosted by the International Consortium of Governmental Financial Management.

ICGFM spokesman, Doug Hadden, told me that Bahati “arrived mid-morning and was informed of the decision [to bar him from the conference]. There was a frank but calm discussion and Mr. Bahati was not able to enter the building.”

Contacted by email, Mr. Bahati said the ICGFM’s action “has exposed the level of intolerance that is inconsistent with the values of American people.” He added, “My resolve to defend the future of our children and the traditional family in Uganda is intact.”

Bahati’s statement is nearly identical to one made to the Uganda Daily Monitor today. The Monitor article added

The other MPs attending the conference are Ms Grace Kyomugisha (UPDF), Mr Gaud Kabondo (Bunyaruguru), Mr William Nsubuga (Buvuma) and Sarah Nyombi (Ntejeru North).

The Uganda delegation later met the Deputy Assistant of Secretary of State Bureau of African Affairs, Ms Karl Wycoff, and raised the matter.

According to a posting on Jeff Sharlet’s C-Street Facebook page, there may be a clue about some American support for Bahati’s work.

Uganda’s leading anti-gay campaigner, Family man David Bahati, is in the U.S. He wanted to talk to Rachel Maddow, so I hooked him up. Her interview with Bahati will be on the show tonight. Interesting side note: He’s being escorted to media appointments by a recently retired senior Department of Education official whom… he met through the man’s Ugandan missionary work with an anti-gay Anglican religious movement.

Developing…

Christian Science Monitor errs on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Another mainstream media source is falsely reporting that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been withdrawn. An article by Scott Baldauf in the Christian Science Monitor incorrectly says:

In Uganda, where homosexuality is already illegal under British colonial-era laws, the parliament briefly debated and then withdrew a proposed bill that would have imposed lengthy sentences, and in some cases the death penalty, for homosexuals.

CNN reported it in late October and I have confirmed it here and here that the bill has not been withdrawn and is still up for consideration. I have asked CSM to make a correction.