Now Cameroon

Arrests of gays are taking place in the West African nation of Cameroon.

YAOUNDE — Cameroon authorities have charged four people aged 17 to 46 with homosexuality and remanded them in custody, their lawyer told AFP on Saturday.
“All four were remanded in custody yesterday (Friday) after having been charged the same day,” said Michel Togue.
Two of them were also charged with “indecent behaviour involving a minor”.
The lawyer said one of the accused “said he was arrested at his home on August 10” in the capital Yaounde after “somebody turned up and asked to see a ‘gay film’ in his company”.
It was “obviously a set-up because police arrived to arrest him as they were watching the film”, he added.
The three others were arrested when they visited him after his arrest.
Police were not available Saturday to comment on the arrests which take the number of those detained in less than a month to seven.
Homosexuality being outlawed in Cameroon, those arrested risk five years in prison.
Gay rights activists say the government is set to tighten anti-gay legislation further.


American Anti-gay Campaign in Africa: Family Watch International

Late yesterday, Religion Dispatches posted my lengthy report on the anti-gay work of Family Watch International and the World Congress of Families.
I became curious about FWI when I saw that they had distanced their organization from Martin Ssempa. I reported way back in January 2010 that Ssempa was associated with the group. However, efforts then to get FWI to respond to the issue were ignored.  Recently, however, FWI made a change which according to Slater was a reflection of their belief that gays not be killed or beaten for being gay. She told me in the interview that FWI did not support violence, but take no position on other penalties.
The question that came to my mind was – “Isn’t removal of freedom and being cast in jail violence?”
Apparently, not violent enough.
I hope you will go read the report at RD.

Ghana's administration sends mixed signals on gays

Ghana’s President has not spoken but a recent appointee seems to have taken on the role of government spokesperson. Lauretta Lamptey, a recent appointment to the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice clarified the position of her office on Tuesday.
In short, the government is leaving it up to Parliament to either decriminalize homosexuality, to make the penalties stronger or leave things as they are. Lamptey says that being homosexual is not a crime but some kinds of homosexual behavior might be.
I posted on this at Religion Dispatches – the rest is over there
Paul Canning has more on GLB efforts to response to the recent anti-gay rhetoric.

Ghana's government silent on calls to jail gays

Yesterday, I posted a piece at Religion Dispatches about the response of Ghana’s government to my inquiries about the recent calls for arrests of gays. Here is the lead:

In the face of reports that Ghana’s Western Region Minister recently called for the arrest of gays, a Ghanaian government source told RD today that the government was not “clamping down” on sexual minorities. The source, who did not want to be named since he was not speaking officially, said that Ghana is a law abiding country and that those on a crusade should take up the matter in the courts.
The issue appears to be a sensitive one for the government. The Ministry of Information and the Office of the President declined to speak to me and one staffer simply hung up when asked if the government supported recent calls to arrest gays.

Go read the rest over at RD.
UPDATE (7/28/11) – Reached the President’s office today and the spokeswoman there said she was not authorized to talk about the President’s position on the call for arrests of gays in Ghana. The Communications Director who she thought might comment was out until Monday.

Is Ghana the next Uganda?

Judging from this June, 2011 report, a safe prediction is that Ghana’s Parliament might soon follow the lead of Uganda in some manner. I have been observing a steady stream of articles from religious and political leaders calling for tougher restrictions on homosexuality. Click the link above to read some, and then consider this recent one calling on Christians to vote against any politician who proposes any law favorable to homosexuality. Also, listen to the interview on the page. One minister, a Dr. Marti, said that one reason that the British Empire fell was because of homosexuality. That minister called for clearer laws against homosexuality so that Ghana would lead the world against homosexuality. Apparently, the issue might become a campaign issue in the upcoming elections.
The situation does not seem to be as severe there as in Uganda, however, this politician warned last month that mob violence may occur. And this one openly called for interfering with rights of association for gays. Today, a Ghanaian leader called for new legislation.
Much of the rhetoric sounds like Uganda circa 2009.
More today (7/19/11) – Rev. Gideon Titi-Ofei & UK evangelist, Nana Owusu condemn homosexuality.

Politifact rates Tim Pawlenty's views on sexual orientation

On the July 10 Meet the Press program, Tim Pawlenty was asked by David Gregory whether or not homosexuality is a choice and if it is genetically caused. Politifact rated Pawlenty’s answers and overall did a pretty good job of it.
They rated Pawlenty as mostly true on the genetics question but false on the question of choice. Go give it a read. Also, what do you think of this money quote from Michael Bailey?:

“If you can’t make a male attracted to other males by cutting off his penis, castrating him, and rearing him as a girl, how likely is any social explanation of male homosexuality?” Bailey asks.

Do parents cause homosexuality? A reply to Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson has a special place in the evangelical world, being a convert to Christianity after being in the Nixon administration during the Watergate scandal. He went to prison for his activities and became a champion of prison reform. He has donated much to charities and humanitarian efforts that many don’t know about. So I was sad to see his recent column at where he promotes Joseph and Linda Nicolosi’s book on “preventing” homosexuality. He seems to say a series is coming. I hope not.
In any case, I put up a response to his column at Crosswalk just a bit ago. I hope you will read them both and chime in.
UPDATE: Colson just posted a more troubling article at Crosswalk.

Uganda's religious and civil leaders continue calls for debate on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

In sharp contradiction to Christianity Today columnist Timothy Shah’s statement that Uganda’s religious and political leaders were “repelled” by David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, various such leaders spoke out in support for the bill in the waning days of the 8th Parliament.
Today, UG Pulse reported:

Religious leaders, as well as the civil society organisations have today petitioned the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, calling for the debate and passing of the controversial Anti Homosexuality bill.
This comes a day after the activists were thrown out of the Parliament, shortly after meeting the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Stephen Tashobya on the same matter.
The Inter Religious Taskforce against Homosexuality, led by Pastor Martin Ssempa and Bishop Julius Oyet, presented over 2000 signatures collected from across the country, calling for the passing of the bill, which they say will protect the children.
They also revealed that a lot of money had been injected into a recruitment drive and if the legal committee was delaying, the bill should be moved to a different committee instead.
The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi told the taskforce that Parliament will receive all views from different stakeholders before it is either passed or rejected.
He however promised to consult with the relevant committee to discuss the bill as soon as possible.

Yesterday, a Voice of America report said the signatures numbered 2 million.

Religious leaders in Uganda are calling for a renewed debate of the country’s “anti-homosexuality” bill which they argue is essential to protect Ugandan children from homosexual recruitment.
On Wednesday, religious leaders and anti-homosexual activists from around Uganda gathered in parliament to urge debate on the country’s much-maligned “anti-homosexuality” bill.
The bill – also known as the Bahati Bill for the Member of Parliament who introduced it – has garnered worldwide attention for a provision which set the death penalty as punishment for certain homosexual acts. While the death penalty has since been removed from the bill, advocates continue to call for its passage as a means of protecting Uganda’s children.
Lead by Pastor Martin Ssempa, a charismatic and vocal opponent of homosexuality in Uganda, the group asked Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Edward Kiwanuka [Ssekandi] to fight the emerging “homo-cracy” in Uganda and enter the bill for debate.
“We as religious leaders and civil society are distressed that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is being deliberately killed largely by the undemocratic threats of western nations,” he said. “These same nations who promote democracy don’t want our representative to discuss laws to protect our children from the human trafficking of recruiting our children into homosexuality.”
Ssempa leads the Inter-Religious Taskforce Against Homosexuality. During the session with Speaker Kiwanuka, the Task Force presented a portion of over 2 million signatures it said were gathered from around Uganda in support of the bill.

In fact, Julius Oyet was deputized by David Bahati to gather these signatures.
Then, this report was filed late yesterday in the Daily Monitor. The Speaker of the Parliament gave an encouraging word to the religious leaders:

“The mover of the Bill (David Bahati) is still a member of the 9th Parliament and even if the current Parliament doesn’t debate it, the new Parliament will do it,” Mr Ssekandi said.
He added: “Since the Bill was tabled, I have received numerous calls from the international community to throw it out but I always tell them that I don’t have those powers.”

Mr Ssekandi also told the team that their petition would be considered by the committee.

Chances are that time will run out on the bill. However, Ssekandi seemed to say that the new Parliament might take it up. With the government spokeswoman recently saying that the bill’s provisions will be added to another bill — the Sexual Offences Bill — the issue is far from over.

Uganda govt says Anti-Homosexuality Bill not necessary; fate in Parliament unclear – Updated

UPDATE (3/25):
NTV Uganda has the report described below in my original post last night. The Parliament has not spoken on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but yesterday the Museveni administration did, saying that the bill’s provisions will be covered in other legislation. Roll the tape:

While this is a positive development, it remains to be seen whether or not Bahati will be able to motivate his fellow MPs to pass the bill over the objections of the Museveni administration.
UPDATE: I just now received an email from a listener to Ugandan radio that David Bahati has been assured by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chair Stephen Tashobya that the AHB will be debated.
Original post 3/24/11, 8:16pm:
This afternoon I have heard from two sources in Uganda that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been shelved. Frank Mugisha, leader in the GLB community in Uganda posted this on his Facebook status:

Anti homosexuality bill should not be discussed, not needed redundant and unnecessary says Ugandan Government.

He followed that up with a message saying that “the bill is shelved…the govt has stopped it.”
I heard from another source that the UG Minister of Information was on NTV Uganda earlier today (evening there) saying that the bill was “unnecessary,” should not be considered and will not be supported by government.
There have been conflicting reports all along and so I hope to get additional information when the light of day visits Uganda. Government pulling out support is a critical issue, but Parliamentary leaders have said in the past that the bill is Parliament’s and will be decided by Parliament. One of the sources I am citing also said Bahati did not sound finished.
Watch this space, I will add news as I get it.
Update (3/25): While the reversal of course of the Museveni administration is a critical blow to the AHB, it seems clear that Bahati disputed the assessment of the government spokeswoman. What is not clear is how willing Bahati and his fellow MPs will be to cross the Museveni administration.
It is also important to add that the govt spokeswoman said that the govt disapproves of homosexuality and did not object to specific aspects of the bill. Rather, she claimed that current law and other proposed bills would handle the same issues.

BYU, Utah professors rebut LDS gay change group

Last Friday, the Salt Lake City Tribune published an opinion article by members of a Latter Day Saint group called Foundation for Attraction Research. This group, co-founded by National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality leader, Dean Byrd, claims that science validates their religious view of homosexuality. Among other problems, the article last Friday misrepresented the views of National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins.

A week later, today’s SLC Tribune has an effective rebuttal from Wiliam S. Bradshaw, professor emeritus of molecular biology at Brigham Young University; David G. Weight, professor emeritus of clinical and neuropsychology at BYU; and Ted Packard, professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Utah. The authors sent the article to me directly:

First, the authors’ manipulations of quotations from Dr. Francis Collins distort and misrepresent his views. They first cite Collins about possible genetic influence on homosexuality. After several intervening paragraphs they introduce separate comments about “individual free will” and “playing the hand dealt to us,” which they represent as his “additional insight on homosexuality.”

This juxtaposition is a deception. The “free will” comments actually refer to genes and intelligence or criminal and antisocial behavior, not homosexuality. Collins has responded to this corruption of his statements by A. Dean Byrd as incoming president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH.

Collins sets the record straight as follows: 1) “The words quoted by NARTH … have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion than I intended”; 2) The fact that there are other factors that influence how information in DNA is expressed “certainly doesn’t imply that those other factors are inherently alterable”; 3) Even though the actual genes contributing to SSA have yet to be identified, “it is likely that such genes will be found in the next few years.”

Here is the full text of Collins’ unequivocal denunciation of others who, like Byrd and the three authors, have recently misappropriated his scientific views: “It is disturbing for me to see special interest groups distort my scientific observation to make a point against homosexuality. The American College of Pediatricians pulled language out of context from a book I wrote in 2006 to support an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice. The information they present is misleading and incorrect, and it is particularly troubling that they are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents.”

Regular readers here may recognize the source of this information about Collins – Exgaywatch and then here and here. Read the rest at the link above, I think the authors have made a quality rebutal.