KAMPALA, Uganda— The rhetoric against gay rights in the U.S. has softened in recent years in stark contrast to a history filled with oppressive legislation and social indifference. President Obama has been supportive of the LBQT community and so far 7 states have legalized gay marriage.
Religious zealots see this as a decline in moral righteousness, arguing it reveals ethical decay in the nation’s political consciousness. A spiritual need to revolutionize the world to fit their religious doctrines, has resulted in these foundations encroaching on the politics of foreign nations, particularly in Africa.
Why did they focus specifically on Africa? The continent has long been pigeonholed as the globe’s most homophobic and countless African nations have recently pushed through anti-LBGT legislation. Nigeria’s legislature recently passed an Anti-Gay bill criminalizing “same-sex marriage” and civil unions” with 14 years in prison. It also penalizes those “involved in a “public show of same-sex amorous relationship” with 10 years.
Many have debated the origins of homophobia in Africa. A divisive argument was made by Peter Thatchell, a British politician and proponent of international gay rights.
In November 2012, the Royal Society of Arts in London hosted a speaking engagement called Does Africa Need Our Outrage with Peter Thatchell. He asserted in his speech that the deepening crisis of homophobia is one the chief “imports” of European colonization, arguing the continent was tolerant to “same sex relations”, and that they were sometimes “accepted in pre-colonial Africa.”
Some dispute that the predicament is primarily affixed in the “emasculation of African men” by the actions of slavery and colonialism. Other’s say widespread misinformation about HIV/AIDS led to propaganda blaming homosexuals for the spread of the lethal disease.
The prevailing aspect of homophobia in Africa debatably relates to their increasingly fundamental religious virtues. Guardian reporter Madeleine Gunting stated in her expose “African Homophobia has Complex Roots” that perplexingly, “the most educated” Africans and those “most exposed to western culture” are frequently the most passionately homophobic. She went on to argue that the rapid expansion of religious institutions in Africa ride on the back of bashing homosexuality to boost church attendance and build immense dedicated church congregations.
This in itself led the United States religious foundations to make a bold investment in Africa’s religious movements, particularly Uganda. In February 2014, Uganda passed legislation that permits the government to jail accused homosexuals for life, and “legally obliges people to” report homosexual behavior to authorities.
Ugandan Anglican Priest Kapya Kaoma criticized American missionaries in Uganda, stating they were using religious propaganda to court public opinion and disparage homosexuality. He affirmed that American Pastor Scott Lively spoke at conferences condemning homosexuality, vilifying the community as “a group that has taken over America” and are coming to Uganda turn their children “into gays” with the prime goal of obliterating “human society.” According to Kapya, the Ugandan audience “believed everything” Pastor Lively said.
Who is Pastor Scott Lively? Current President of Abiding Truth Ministries, he is a vocal condemner of homosexuality, and lobbies national governments to criminalize it. He authored a book in the 1990’s called Pink Swastika, controversially comparing homosexuality to Nazism, and has been active in Russia, promoting their anti-gay legislation.
With fellow conservative evangelical Lou Engle, they visited Uganda frequently and pushed to criminalize homosexuality. The pair lobbied influential Ugandan leaders such as Pastor Martin Sempa and bill sponsor and introducer of the law, legislator David Bahati.
Lou Engle, leader of Kansas City based The Call, tried to maintain his non-involvement in the Ugandan legislation, arguing his organization was thrust into an “international controversy” despite their ‘genuine intent” as religious missionaries.
They issued a statement in April of 2010 that his organization was “wrongfully marked and vilified as an organization promoting hatred and violence against homosexuals” and that they had “serious concerns with the bill” and the “harsher penalties for certain homosexual behaviors or offenses.” The bill at the time wanted to penalize homosexuality with the death penalty; the penalty was retracted as a deal between Ugandan lawmakers.
Culpability for their involvement has not just been relegated to news reports. In March 2012, The Center for Constitutional Rights sued Pastor Lively and his foundation for his active political involvement in the persecution of gays in Uganda.
The CCR are representing Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay right advocacy group. A U.S. district court denied Pastor Lively’s attempt to end the suit. Presiding Judge Michael Ponsor stated persecuting homsexuals was “a crime against humanity that unquestionably violates international norms.”
On February 2014, Scott Lively changed his tune on Uganda’s anti-gay legislation, stating his preference for the ‘Russian anti-gay model’ that was more in-tone with his “philosophy.” Despite his apparent change of heart, his actions in Uganda spurred a religious revolution that created a dreadful circumstance for homosexuals. Even if he argues it was not his intent, he helped shape a fervently homophobic society, and a harsher world for homosexuals in Uganda.
– Joseph Abay