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.
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.
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.
Next is a Motion for commending the Speaker @RebeccaKadaga for upholding and protecting #Uganda ’s cultural values against same sex marriages at the 138th @IPUparliament Assembly. The motion is being moved by hon Nsaba Buturo #PlenaryUg
The recognition of Kadaga Wednesday led to other members of Parliament making statements about a need for a new law against homosexuality.
Hon. @HerbertAriko : A law should not only be proper but must take into consideration the moral fibre of the nation. The act or bill which was nullified by court must become one of the urgent business of this House. The Penal Code Act is not enough. #PlenaryUg
Hon Cecilia Ogwal: Unless we have a strong law which will stop each and everyone from practising homosexuality, it will spread like a wild fire. WE must preserve our values. Let us not just talk;let us bring this law and pass it. #PlenaryUg
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.
MD Del. Herb McMillan wants to make it very clear that he does not endorse Michael Peroutka for Anne Arundel County Council. If only GOP Attorney General candidate Jeffrey Pritzker would be as vocal. In light of Peroutka’s statement impying that Pritzker agreed with his views, I wrote Pritzker a couple of days ago for a clarification. So far no answer.
Join me in prayer for the family of Steven Sotloff.
So says Reuters…
Amnesty International has more.
Spokeswoman for Parliament Helen Kawesa said, “Parliament will wait to receive the judgment in its entirety and pronounce itself on the way forward.”
For all prior coverage on Uganda’s efforts to enact the draconian law, click the link.
…it’s (the Anti-Homosexuality Law) enactment has been misinterpreted as a piece of legislation intended to punish and discriminate against people of a “homosexual orientation”, especially by our development partners.
The Government of the Republic of Uganda reaffirms that no activities of individuals, groups, companies, or organizations will be affected by the Act. The intention of the Act is to stop promotion and exhibition of homosexual practices.
According to the law, touching between homosexuals could result in life in prison. Touching. The law makes the statement by the government absurd. If my friends in Kampala are reading, please understand that no one believes this statement. Note what the law says:
2. The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex; (c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
None of the statement rings true. Even if Uganda’s government means to honor some of these promises, the government’s credibility is lost with the aspects of the statement that are clearly false.
In other news…
Kutesa has been appointed as General Assembly president to begin June 11. The question mark in my title is because it is incredible to think that anyone from Uganda could stand for such a position at the UN and even more incredible that it is Kutesa.
Kutesa has long had a reputation for corruption and had to step down from leadership in Uganda’s majority political party due to a corruption investigation. He was also singled out for a travel ban to the U.S. over those same corruption charges.
The main focus of this petition to the UN is Kutesa’s role in defending the Ugandan government over the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
In my opinion, political appointments such as this should go to people who have a solid positive reputation for advancing human rights and standing against corruption in governance.
Hopefully, he won’t be replaced but there are those who come close.
By now, most people know that the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died earlier this month (March 19). Phelps was the personification of hatred toward gay people along with the church which was mostly his family members. I am sure others have speculated about who could replace Phelps so this might not break much new ground. However, I thought of this list while reading about Martin Ssempa’s march to celebrate the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.
Most people, me included, do not want to see a replacement for Phelps. It is tragic to be known for one’s hatred and such a stance is surely a misrepresentation of Christianity. But there are those who seem to want the position. I’ll start with the reason this post even came to mind. Martin Ssempa: Today, Ssempa is leading a march in Uganda to celebrate the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill late last year. A person who would celebrate a law that makes life in prison a possibility for simple affection between two consenting adults has to be on the short list for a Phelps replacement. Once known primarily for his work in Uganda against HIV/AIDS, now he is known world wide as one of the most vocal and absurd anti-gay crusaders. His pornography shows in Kampala and hateful rhetoric rival Phelps for showmanship and degradation. Ssempa seems to revel in his status as an anti-gay icon in Uganda and in the United States. In fact, he is on the list while bill sponsor David Bahati is not, because Ssempa has cultivated his image in the U.S. Paul Cameron: Paul Cameron has been discredited widely but still finds his way to the media, recently telling a talk show host that he would be open to the death penalty for sexually active gays. In the past, he has suggested that the Nazis methods of handling gays might also have merit. Cameron has for years called for criminalization of homosexuality and has produced mountains of junk studies to attempt to vindicate his views. Scott Lively: Many might place Lively at the top of the list because he is widely believed to be the force behind the Uganda bill and the tightening of laws in the Soviet bloc nations. He favors laws which limit free speech on homosexuality but doesn’t favor the death penalty as did Ssempa before the law was amended. He says he favors rehabilitation and has often cited NARTH as a favored organization. Where he rivals Phelps is with his historical fiction book, The Pink Swastika, which essentially lays blame for the Holocaust on homosexuality. James David Manning: Like many people who yell fire in a crowded room, this New York City preacher posted provocative rhetoric and then said he didn’t mean anything hateful. Manning posted “Jesus would stone homos” on his church sign and then said later he is not a hater. We’ll have to see if he escalates his rhetoric once the attention dies down.
Christian Reconstructionists: Many adherents of Christian reconstructionism (like this supporter of Ron Paul) think gays along with disobedient children and adulterers should be stoned. I am not sure any one of these fellows is going to rise up to the status of Phelps but their belief in their view of Mosaic law could be a foundation for such a move.
Some might object to my omission of Bryan Fischer. Fischer gets a dishonorable mention because he parrots some of Lively’s and Cameron’s views but doesn’t seem to want to kill gays. Criminalize same-sex relationships yes, but not kill them.
I hope it is clear that the focus here is not disagreement over biblical interpretation or moral objection to same-sex behavior, but rather the obsessive effort to demonize an entire group of people. Certainly, Ssempa, Cameron, Lively and Manning have demonstrated the latter. We don’t yet know the full consequences of their work.
Update on Ssempa’s march: At least three dudes showed up.
Yesterday, the State Department covered several topics related to Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Act during the daily briefing. Here some excerpts:
QUESTION: — about Uganda and your opinion of the high court legal challenge to the anti-homosexual act?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, just to reiterate, as we’ve said, the enactment of the homosexuality act was a step backward for Uganda. The law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
As we said a week or a couple of weeks ago, this is – has caused us to take a look at our relationship, and there’s no question it has impacted our relationship. Now that the anti-homosexuality act has been enacted, we’re continuing to look closely at the implications of the new law, and where appropriate, we have adjusted some activities and engagements while we are doing that.
So let me give you an example: We currently fund or we have been funding the salary top-off, so additional salary to pay for – to help pay 18 health officials, senior health officials. That expired last month. That is something where we are no longer providing that top-off payment. Obviously, these are not individuals who are implementing – the worker bees, for lack of a better phrase. These are individuals at the top who are speaking on behalf of and implementing the policy. So that’s one example.
We’re also looking at our assistance programs to evaluate the ability of our implementing partners to carry them out effectively in a nondiscriminatory manner, and the legal implications of the act on our programs on the ground. So all of those pieces are pieces we’re evaluating.
QUESTION: So is it your assessment, then, that that is the total of your reaction, or you are continuing to review your assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the way I would think about this is we’re taking a thoughtful, deliberate look at next steps in light in enactment of the law. So, some of those pieces are how to send the strongest message. Specifically, the topping off of the salaries of these health officials is one way.
But we’ve also been in touch, and have been for some time, with Ugandan LGBT activists since this legislation was actually first introduced in 2009. They’ve specifically asked that the United States not cut off aid to the Ugandan people. As I talked about a little bit last week, and as you know, Scott, a lot of the aid that we provide goes to ensure services for things like lifesaving health and medication for HIV/AIDS, to bring justice to those responsible for atrocities, like the LRA. So we want to make sure that actions we take don’t have a detrimental impact on the Ugandan people who need those health services, et cetera. So we’re all looking at all of that.
I didn’t realize that the U.S. government helped pay the salaries of Uganda’s health officials. At least one, Ruth Aceng, was the leading figure in the committee President Museveni convened prior to his decision to sign the anti-gay bill. Apparently, they will experience a pay cut. The department does not want to harm people who get their medicine or other basic needs from our funding.
Consistent with reports from Secretary of State Kerry that experts might go to Uganda, the state department staffer promised to get more information of the specifics.
QUESTION: Last week, I know Secretary Kerry mentioned that the U.S. was sending experts to go —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and talk? Who are these experts and what were they – I mean, the law is enacted. Were there any —
MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding is it’s health – in the pool of health experts, but I can check and see if that’s happening or who might be in that group and if that’s moved forward.
QUESTION: From the way – from what he said, it was experts to do with the law, I mean, in trying to refine ways of doing law, or did I misunderstand it?
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see —
MS. PSAKI: — and if that’s actually be implemented or is moving forward.
Nine individuals and a human right organization in Uganda have petitioned Uganda’s Constitutional Court regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. The petitioners want the court to declare the Act to be unconstitutional. Here is the petition.
Notice that the petitions have comprehensively examined the law and offer numerous violations of Uganda’s Constitution. They also point out that a quorum was not in place on the day the bill was passed.
The petitions request that the court:
(a) Permanently staying the operationalisation of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014.
(b) Permanently staying the gazetting of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014.
(c) Permanently prohibiting any person, organisation, Company and/or entity to write, publish, or mount a campaign against adult persons who profess and engage in consensual same sex/gender sexual activity among themselves as adults.
(d) Permanent injunction and/or gagging order against persons, organisations, or companies restraining them from publishing, or writing in the print and electronic media including the internet; articles, letters, against adult persons who profess and engage in consensual same sex/gender sexual activity among themselves as adults which articles may bring such persons into public ridicule, odium and hatred.
(e) Any other reliefs that this Honourable Court may deem fit.
Ugandan politicians and evangelical leaders have been on the defensive for different reasons since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni. Many evangelicals are having to account for support for the bill which arose from the far right element of the evangelical world and Ugandan leaders, facing loss of aid from donor countries, are spinning the bill beyond recognition.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey posted a thoughtful article at Religion News Service (picked up by WaPo) earlier this week which included reactions of various evangelicals to the bill (yours truly among them). Bailey noted the strong opposition to the bill from Rick Warren. Warren felt the need to repeat his opposition recently as apparently some critics were erroneously blaming him for influencing the bill’s passage. Russell Moore was also vigorous in opposing the bill but sadly was incorrect in at least one of his statements:
Decrying laws in countries such as Uganda and Russia, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he knows no evangelicals who would support legislation like Uganda’s.
If you count Scott Lively, Bryan Fischer and Darryl Foster among evangelicals (I would rather not), then Moore isn’t correct. Maybe Moore means he doesn’t personally know anyone. I must say I was glad to hear from the Southern Baptists. I do wish they had spoken out louder and sooner.
Among Ugandan leaders, Uganda’s UN envoy has the unenviable task of defending the indefensible. About the law, Onyanga Aparr said
“It seeks to protect our children from those engaged in acts of recruiting them into homosexuality and lesbianism,” he said.
The law also sought to curb the use of paid homosexual sex to induce disadvantaged and vulnerable people, he said.
This is a farce. There are already laws on the books that criminalize any sexual contact with people under 18. If prostitution was in view, then why did the law not address only those transactions? In truth, the law criminalizes consensual relationships with the threat of life in prison. Perhaps, the UN envoy has not read the bill. He can read it here.