Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: The Plot Thickens

If ever we needed a lesson in how prejudice can fan the flames of oppression, how is this? The NY Times recently reported that three American evangelical Christians visited Uganda last March to give a series of high profile talks:

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

As it turns out, just one month after the conference, a Ugandan politician who claims to have ties to evangelical members of the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which among other things, imposes a death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The evangelicals are naturally backtracking, claiming they had no idea their anti-gay ideas could possibly be used in such a way. (One is actually quoted as saying, “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”)

I’ve visited Uganda twice with members of my congregation, and I can personally attest to the palpable growth of American evangelicalism in that country. Whether or not this bill bears direct American influence, I can’t help but note the disingenuousness of someone who preaches that “the gay movement is an evil institution” then expresses surprise when others prove more than willing to take him at his word.

Click here for a CNN article on the Ugandan bill, and here for a Human Rights Watch Report.

7 thoughts on “Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: The Plot Thickens

  1. Matt

    Well, at least in naming the bill they’re willing to call a spade a spade, rather than using nonsensical “defense of marriage” or “family values” rhetoric.

  2. Neal Rubin

    Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has been covering this story for more than a month and there are more ties from US politicians, mainly from a group called “The Family” and they live at a complex on C Street in Washington D.C. It is a secret society to promote evangelical religious and political beliefs thru people in powerful positions in countries around the world. It would be funny if it wasn’t so scary. A secret society of powerful people trying to influence policy in countries around the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if this group has ties to the settler movement and perhaps right wing politicians in Israel. Now that the spotlight has been shown on this group, I’m sure more revelations of their efforts will be forthcoming.

  3. Sandra Lillie

    Rachel Maddow on MSNBC has been following this story closely for quite a while now, and in fact has been very instrumental in bringing it to the attention (finally!) of other media outlets. Without her spotlight on this, I think the legislation was set for imminent passage. Now, however, this seems less likely. Thank God!

  4. Nancy

    A few other choice pieces of the Uganda anti-gay bill:

    “A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex commits the
    offence of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.”

    “A person who funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities commits an officense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for 5 to 7 years.”

    This bill means that I could get a 7 year sentence because I’ve made financial contributions to the Center on Halsted in Chicago. Good thing my partner and I haven’t gone to Canada yet to get married.

    I guess this also means that if this bill passes, I should not sign up for the next JRC trip to Uganda!

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I hope this bill will not pass, but either way, I hope it will not keep you from signing up for our next trip to Uganda. If I learned anything on my visit to Iran last year it is that we should never mistake the government of a country with the country itself. The heart of a country is its people.

      Over the years, we have cultivated relationships with many visionary and courageous Ugandans – people such as Samuel Watalatsu and JJ Keiki – who are devoted to tolerance, healing, and the sustainable development of their communities. They, and countless other Ugandans like them, are eminently worthy of our support – even if their government often behaves in an odious manner.

      Click here and here for some examples of the bravery of the Ugandan people.

      1. Ann Perkins

        Brant – easy for you to say – you’re straight. While I appreciate both your connection to the people of Uganda and the sentiment that the people don’t equate to the government, your answer to Nancy was off-base. Encouraging LGBT folks to travel abroad to a locale where homophobic sentiments are about to be codified into law is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. Anywhere there’s a death penalty for homosexuality – such as Iran, by the way – is simply not a wise choice for LGBT travelers. Period.

        Of course, Florida’s laws, while not quite so severe, are also horrible for gay folks. I’m taking a pass on Disney as well.

  5. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

    Thanks for raising my consciousness on this, Ann. I certainly understand the safety issue. I suppose I was somewhat sanguine on this point because there have been LGBT participants in our trips in the past – and I have several LGBT friends and colleagues who have done service work in countries whose governments were fairly inhospitable to their sexual orientation.


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