Prayer Breakfast Group Member is Behind Uganda’s Infamous Anti-Gay Bill
As reported previously at EDGE, there is some evidence that Uganda’s anti-gay bill--which would steepen punishments against gays, and inflict the death penalty in certain cases of same-sex intimacy--was prompted in part by claims made by American evangelicals who visited the country nearly a year ago.
In March of 2009, several American evangelicals traveled to Uganda and presented what they called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals’ Agenda." Their talks contained assorted claims about gays and the "dangers" that gays pose to society. The views set out by the Americans ranged from highly dubious claims that gays can be "converted" to heterosexuality to wild, undefined assertions that a "gay agenda" was at work "to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity," as well as stereotype-based pronouncements that gay men prey on teenaged boys.
Now it’s come to light that a right-wing American religious group called The Fellowship Foundation--also known as "The Family"--includes both Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, and the lawmaker who introduced the anti-gay bill, David Bahati, among its membership. The Family sponsors an annual religious event called The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., for the purpose, some claim, of influencing policy and giving like-minded, powerful individuals the opportunity to network. It is traditional for members of Congress to attend and for the United States President to speak at the Washington, D.C. event. President Obama attended last year’s Prayer breakfast.
The Prayer Breakfast Network Web site set out the group’s aims and motivations, with text informing readers that, "Our PURPOSE is to reach leaders for Jesus Christ.... Our STRATEGY is to use Prayer Breakfast events.
"Prayer Breakfasts have shown to be highly effective at reaching into our community and impacting our leaders," the site’s text adds. "Leaders desire to come, get involved and experience a fresh reminder of our country’s Spiritual Heritage."
The Washington, D.C. event is coordinated with similar prayer breakfast gatherings around the country on the first Thursday of every February. The next such prayer breakfast event is scheduled to take place Feb. 4.
That same day, counter-events around the nation will also take place this year. The American Prayer Hour is deigned to offer people of faith who believe in inclusiveness to gather, express their devotion, and network in a similar fashion. A Feb. 2 article at Examiner.com cites the anti-gay Ugandan bill as a major reason for the alternative prayer gathering.
"The American Prayer Hour will show that such cruelty and extremism does not represent most people of faith," the Examiner article says, going on to bullet-point several articles on which the event is predicated.
"Everyone in the world knows it is time to reject violence against gay and transgender people," the article claims. "No religion calls on us to harm our neighbor.
"People just want to be free to be who they are, be safe and love their families," the article continues. "Our prayer is that all people will be safe, including gay and transgender people."
Adds the article, "Gay people are in every nation and every nation must be fair with all of their citizens."
The article states that Yoweri and Bahati both belong to The Family, and says that both politicians "are among their ’key men’ in Africa." Recently, faced with mounting international pressure and the possibility of losing aid money, Museveni disavowed the bill, but Bahati rejected an appeal from the Ugandan government to withdraw the anti-gay legislation he’d authored and introduced, which not only provides the death penalty for gay men who repeatedly have sex with other men, and for HIV-positive men who have sexual relations, but also carries steep penalties for anyone failing to report gays to the authorities.
Cities where The American Prayer Hour is slated to take place include Anchorage, Alaska; Berkeley, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Boynton Beach, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; and Washington, D.C.
Anti-gay blogger Peter LaBarbera upbraided gay-friendly American people of faith at his site, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, where he posted an article critical of the relative tolerance toward gays that exists in the United States and lambasted American protests of the proposed anti-gay law.
"Here’s the question I keep asking myself about the Uganda controversy: just what is it that qualifies the United States of America to lecture the Ugandans about homosexuality?" LaBarbera wrote. "Is it our public policy that enshrines immoral sexual behavior (oops: ’sexual orientation’) and gender confusion (er...’gender identity and expression’) as a ’civil right’? Is it our homosexual ’marriage’ laws that make a mockery of this divine institution...?
"How about our pro-homosexuality educational propaganda in K-12 schools that corrupts young students’ minds in the name of ’tolerance’? Or the 24/7 ’gay bathhouses’ and sex clubs that proliferate in urban centers across the United States to facilitate quick-and-easy (and anonymous) deviant sexual hook-ups?"
LaBarbera targeted an instructor at the evangelical Grove City College, Warren Throckmorten, writing, "Sadly, Warren has lost his faith in the ability of God to radically change homosexuals through Christ, and now busily works--even in Uganda!--to promote the faithless and disheartening message that most ’gays and lesbians’ cannot change their basic ’orientation,’" before going on to write, "Tell me: does Uganda have something to learn from Christian ’defectors’ like the opportunistic Prof. Throckmorton--who is now a de facto promoter of homosexuality as normal, natural and healthy while ostensibly still claiming some sort of ’Christian’ mission at GCC?"
LGBT groups have also joined in on the alternate prayer breakfast event. In Boston, the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts will co-host a rally against what it calls "the secretive right-wing network, the so-called ’Family,’ which is tied to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill (’AHB’) pending in the Ugandan Parliament.
The Boston event is meant to "expose and denounce the homophobia of groups like the ’Family,’ to demand that the US Government step up efforts to stop the AHB, and to demand political asylum for LGBT refugees from Uganda," a release from The Anti-Violence Project explains. "Organizers draw inspiration from writer Émile Zola’s famous J’Accuse, addressed to the President of the French Republic in 1898, which denounced anti-Semitism in connection with the infamous Dreyfus Affair."
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.