12.10.2009

TIME on Who's To Blame For Uganda's "Kills-Gays" Campaign (UPDATED)

Here's TIME explaining who's mostly to blame for "Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S." Hint: It's Rick Warren & his Protégé (h/t ).

The bill has an American genesis of sorts, inspired to a large extent by the visits of U.S. evangelicals who are involved with a movement that promotes Christianity's role in getting homosexuals to become "ex-gays" through prayer and faith. Ugandan supporters of the bill appear to be particularly impressed by the ideas of Scott Lively, a California conservative preacher who has written a book, The Pink Swastika, about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination, which, by itself, would have raised the anti-colonial sensitivities of Ugandan society. Says the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopalian priest from Zambia who authored a recent report on anti-gay politics in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya: "The U.S. culture wars have been exported to Africa."

One of the bill's loudest supporters is a charismatic pastor, Martin Ssempa, who heads a Ugandan campus AIDS eradication organization that is funded in part by the U.S. and who was associated with the global outreach of Southern California's Saddleback Church, run by Rick Warren, author of best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Ssempa has a penchant for burning condoms. In 2007, he organized a rally against homosexuality to protest "homosexual agents and activists" who were "infiltrating Uganda." Asked how the anti-homosexuality bill might affect the fight against HIV and AIDS, Ssempa seemed bemused. "I don't see what this bill has to do with HIV," he told TIME. Warren, who has called Uganda a "purpose-driven nation," cut ties with Ssempa in October as controversy over the bill grew.

Despite Ssempa's beliefs, experts say the law would impede efforts to stem the spread of HIV and AIDS, especially among the category of "men who have sex with men" — the terminology often used because of the stigma around being openly gay or bisexual. Many homosexuals marry or date women and identify themselves as heterosexual even though they are sleeping with men. That community is disproportionately affected by the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, in part because of a long-standing unwillingness on the continent to acknowledge homosexuality. Indeed, the situation is one of double jeopardy, combining the pariah status of homosexuals in a deeply conservative culture with the stigma of AIDS, which until recently was perceived as a heterosexual disease in Africa, even by gay men. The "gay doctor," who has worked in AIDS wards, said he was stunned when he was told in 2000 that a gay friend may have contracted AIDS. "Most people think they can't get HIV through anal sex," says Grace, who leads a campus group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth at Makerere University and did not want to give her full name.

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UPDATE I:

The Advocate explain how prominent Senators/Represetnatives are also at the root cause of Uganda's "Kills-Gays" law:

An antigay conservative group with high-powered U.S. political allies has used its influence to support a proposed Ugandan law that would impose the death penalty on "repeat offenders" engaging in gay sex.

David Bahati, a Ugandan lawmaker and member of the fundamentalist group The Family, sponsored the antigay legislation and has received millions of dollars in funding through the organization’s African outreach programs. The Family has also cultivated a "deep relationship" with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni (pictured, right), Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, said in a Tuesday interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross on National Public Radio.

Sharlet detailed The Family's connections with Capitol Hill powers-that-be, including Nevada senator John Ensign (pictured, left) and Kansas senator Sam Brownback. “Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma boasts of traveling around the world, doing The Family's political business, he said. "[Oklahoma] Senator Tom Coburn has done the same thing. [Iowa] Senator Chuck Grassley has been very involved in African affairs on behalf of The Family. Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming is a part of it.”

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