Zambia moves against criminalization of homosexuality

An interesting report out of Zambia

FORMER president of Botswana Festus Mogae has urged President Rupiah Banda’s government not to criminalise homosexuality and sex work because that would make the fight against HIV/AIDS difficult.

And President Rupiah Banda said he understood the need not to criminalise homosexuals.

Speaking when he led a group of prominent Africans that include Dr Kenneth Kaunda, former Vice-President of Uganda Dr Speciosa Wandira and former chairperson of Kenya’s National AIDS Control Prof Mirriam Were, who are calling themselves Champions of an HIV-Free Generation, Mogae said there was no need to enact laws that criminilise homosexuals and sex workers.

He explained that the Botswana constitution criminalized homosexuality and sex work but since he left office he had been arguing with the government to repeal the law.

Mogae said over the last three years nobody had been prosecuted for being homosexuals or sex workers in Botswana.

Statement: Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not support efforts to pass Anti-Homosexuality Bill

This afternoon, Mitch Harrison at Canyon Ridge Christian Church sent me a statement about church support for Martin Ssempa. The statement, in full, reads:

Canyon Ridge Christian Church began work in Uganda with the intent of helping address the HIV/AIDS pandemic that was wiping out generations of people in that country and other parts of Africa. Our partnership with Pastor Martin Ssempa began in response to this intent.

 

Because of the current controversy in Uganda over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and because of Pastor Ssempa’s involvement in the support of the bill, we have been in regular communication with him to clarify his positions and opinions. While we have come to understand that Pastor Ssempa advocates for an amended version of the Anti-Homosexuality bill that removes the death penalty and reduces other severe penalties, he is still supports passage of this bill.

 

We, however, do not support him in this effort.

 

We are in the process of determining how we can redirect our support in Uganda to activities specifically related to addressing HIV/AIDS issues.

 

Further, we condemn acts of violence against any person regardless of sexual orientation.

 

Our desire is to see God’s purposes lived out in Uganda, and for the redemption and abundant life he gives to be experienced by everyone.

While CRCC is not directly acknowledging the errors in their earlier statement (still up but probably not for long), they do so implicitly by condemning acts of violence which the AHB would lead to and which has been recently incited by Uganda’s Rolling Stone.

Background for this story is here, here, here, here, and here (all of my articles at Salon.com)

UPDATE: CRCC has replaced their former statement with the one above on their website. The Ssempas are no longer referenced as mission partners but rather a link to this statement has replaced their page. The former page is archived here (page 1, page 2, page 3).

Rolling Stone editor appears on BBC News; says tabloid is in public interest

Giles Muhame, a recent Makerere University journalism graduate and editor of the temporarily stalled Rolling Stone Uganda-style, appeared on BBC News today. Here is the link to the audio.

And here is the article based on the interview, also featuring Frank Mugisha representing the GLB community in Uganda.

Frank Mugisha said one woman was almost killed after her neighbours started throwing stones at her house.

He said most of those whose names appeared in Uganda’s Rolling Stone paper had been harassed.

Last year, a local MP called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

The proposed Anti-homosexuality Bill sparked an international outcry and a year later has not been formally debated by parliament.

Ugandan government minister Nsaba Buturo supports Hang Them campaign

The world is noticing Uganda again, this time due to the outing campaign conducted with deadly intent by the tabloid, Rolling Stone. This CNN report quotes Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo on the subject:

Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister Nsaba Buturo dismissed the activists’ accusations.

“They [the activists] are always lying,” Buturo said. “It’s their way of mobilizing support from outside, they are trying to get sympathy from outside. It’s part of the campaign.”

Buturo said the anti-gay measure will be addressed and passed “in due course.”

“Of course I hope it passes,” he said.

Buturo is referring to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and provides another evidence that the bill has not been withdrawn and at least in the minds of the supporters is very much alive.

According to a comment on editor Giles Muhame’s Facebook page, he believes the standoff between the government and the paper is soon to end:

The deliberations between Rolling Stone, Uganda’s leading investigative newspaper and the Media council are now ‘apetising’. The standoff is soon coming to an end.

According to the CNN piece, the government is not pursuing the paper due to the outing campaign, but because all of the necessary paperwork needed to operate a paper has not been completed.

After the list was published, the federal Media Council sent a warning to Muhame and ordered the newspaper to cease operating.

But the warning was “not related to the list at all,” said Paul Mukasa, secretary of the Media Council. Rather, he said, the letter warned the paper that it was publishing without required permits.

“Until they fill in the required paperwork, they are breaking the law,” Mukasa said.

The secretary said the newspaper has initiated the process “to put their house in order.”

Jeff Sharlet talks about Uganda on Democracy Now

Not usually my source for news, but this clip of Jeff Sharlet on Democracy Now is interesting in that he says David Bahati is ready to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill along. Specifically at 32:43, Sharlet says:

What I’m hearing from David Bahati, the author of the bill, with whom I am still in touch, is that he’s now being promised a second reading, and this new step in the press is a very alarming one because it shows that its moving back to the forefront of Ugandan society.

 

The at 33:00, after the statement about the current status of the bill, Sharlet mentions the connection between Martin Ssempa and Canyon Ridge Christian Church, which, as Sharlet points out, I have documented repeatedly.

There is much more in the interview, some of it pretty controversial stuff, but I want to make two quick points. One is that the outing campaign could be a means to reignite the bill, as Sharlet suggests. The bill has not been withdrawn, and if Bahati is correct, he may get his second reading.

The second point is that I think Jeff is generally correct about the membership of Canyon Ridge. I think if church members had a true picture of what the Anti-Homosexuality Bill really contained, they would be horrified. However, the leadership of the church has not posted the bill in favor of edited documents which obscure it’s plain language.

And I continue to wonder why the Human Rights Campaign of Las Vegas, who met with Canyon Ridge leaders over a month ago, have said nothing about a church in their community which indirectly supports a bill which is terrorizing GLBT people in Uganda.

UPDATE: Jim Burroway reported this last week but I neglected to add this piece of information to any of my posts: The Uganda tabloid Rolling Stone has been halted by the government, at least temporarily. Apparently the paper did not meet all regulations necessary.  Click the image to read it…

Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

News Release

For immediate release – 10.20.10

Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

Free downloads help church groups prevent bullying, speak against anti-gay harassment

On a day when many people are speaking out against bullying, the Golden Rule Pledge is releasing materials which can be used by churches to help prevent youth bullying.  Available for free download on the Golden Rule Pledge website, these lesson plans and class activities can help churches become part of the solution to youth bullying.

A national partner of the National Bullying Prevention Month, the Golden Rule Pledge was created in 2008 in order to advocate for the application of the Golden Rule in schools and especially to speak out against anti-gay bullying.

“People of faith need to minimize ideological worries and become part of the solution to bullying in schools,” said Warren Throckmorton, co-leader of the Golden Rule Pledge. “A middle school student who is bullied every day doesn’t care about religious differences. He needs help.” In September, three young teens ended their lives after prolonged anti-gay harassment. Churches can play a vital role in partnering with schools and other community groups to model the Golden Rule – treat others the way I want to be treated.

“I hope youth leaders can use these resources to raise awareness about the need to treat all people with respect – even if you have differences of opinion,” said Throckmorton.

Andrew Marin, Founder of the Marin Foundation and author of Love is an Orientation has endorsed this effort saying, “With such drastic consequences that have been proven time and again, it saddens my heart to see so many in the Christian world avoid a bold front-running stand to cut off all bullying in our schools, churches and communities. This curriculum is an easy and productive way to not only start the conversation, but show Jesus’ biblical mandate for His followers to stand up and live differently. The time is now. The time has to be now. Download this curriculum. Implement it. And continue to be serious about sprinting towards what so many sprint away from. Bullying is never an option.” 

Bob Finch, Director of Missions of the Pike (KY) Association of Southern Baptists agrees saying, “Recent headlines with regards to students taking or attempting to take their lives should be a wake-up call to all Christians to train our youth to not only stand against all forms of bullying, but to equip them to be used of God in putting an end to it in the schools where they attend.  I believe this program can be used to equip and empower them to do just that in a way that will also show their classmates the love of Christ as well.”

The Golden Rule Pledge (www.goldenrulepledge.com) is co-led by Warren Throckmorton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Michael Frey, Western PA Director of Campus Ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ. The resources can be accessed at no cost at www.goldenrulepledge.com/grpresources. For more information, contact Dr. Throckmorton at warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com.

It gets better: A Christian speaks out against anti-gay bullying

On 10.20.10, the Golden Rule Pledge is partnering with the National Bullying Prevention Month to raise awareness among people of faith about bullying prevention.  Later today, I am going to post a link here and on the Golden Rule Pledge website to some resources which I hope will be of use to youth leaders in talking to youth groups about becoming part of the solution to school bullying. One resource I am going to include on that page is the following video from the You Tube page of The Poultry Press. Roll the tape:

This video is a direct challenge to far right observers who believe the distress felt by many young people is due to their sexual orientation. This young man identifies as straight and yet reports repeated harassment due to perceptions that he was gay.

Now, go check out the resources (small in number but growing) on the Golden Rule Pledge site.

AP reports Ugandan Hang Them campaign, obscures status of AHB

On October 4, BoxTurtleBulletin and I reported (with more here) that a Ugandan tabloid – Rolling Stone – started a campaign of outing gay people with the caption “Hang Them” on the front cover of the rag.

Today, the Associated Press published a story covering the same issue with some new details of the worsening conditions for gays in Uganda. Check this out and compare it to Martin Ssempa’s contention that gays are not in danger in his country.

The AP story did obscure one important point:

KAMPALA, Uganda — The front-page newspaper story featured a list of Uganda’s 100 “top” homosexuals, with a bright yellow banner across it that read: “Hang Them.” Alongside their photos were the men’s names and addresses.

In the days since it was published, at least four gay Ugandans on the list have been attacked and many others are in hiding, according to rights activist Julian Onziema. One person named in the story had stones thrown at his house by neighbors.

A lawmaker in this conservative African country introduced a bill a year ago that would have imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. An international uproar ensued, and the bill was quietly shelved.

As I noted on the 14th, the anniversary of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s introduction, the bill remains in committee. If by shelved, these reporters mean the bill has been withdrawn, they provide no direct confirmation of this. To my knowledge, the only source close to the bill who has provided a comment is Charles Tuhaise who told me recently that the bill remains in committee and awaits hearings and a second reading.

On September 13, Peter Boyer of The New Yorker reported without source that the Fellowship was involved in the withdrawal of the bill, writing:

Hunter brought Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the former African rebel who became Uganda’s President, and other key Ugandan leaders into prayer groups. When Uganda’s Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure’s defeat. Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.

Since this is the extent of Boyer’s reporting on the bill, it misleads the reader into thinking that the bill was, in fact, withdrawn. Not so, according to the Parliamentary Research Services’ Charles Tuhaise.

The AP article does not source their contention about the bill. Instead, the writers reveal that they were not able to get anyone in Parliament to talk about the bill:

Four members of parliament contacted by The Associated Press for this article declined to comment, and instead referred queries to David Bahati, the parliamentarian who introduced the bill. Bahati did not answer repeated calls Tuesday.

While I do not know what the future holds for the AHB, I am aware that, as recently as the beginning of this month, supporters were still calling for the passage of the measure. As reported here on October 11, Martin Ssempa was still promoting the bill’s passage in a private talk given several days before. If anyone would know about the bill’s status, it would be Ssempa who emerged as the bill’s chief pastoral supporter in Uganda.

One year later: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday, I posted a statement from Uganda’s sexual minority community about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009. Today, I want to post a current status report and some observations.

My first post on the bill was titled, Uganda: The other shoe drops and detailed the little we knew at the time based on Ugandan news reports. Within a couple of weeks, it became clearer who in Uganda was promoting the bill (e.g., Martin Ssempa) and attention turned to American connections to those Ugandan ministers and politicians.

I started writing early (Oct 28) on this topic hoping to get some attention on these American connections as well as generate response from American evangelicals. The Facebook group (now 16,000+ members) quickly generated thousands of members involving liberals, conservatives, gays, straights, people of faith and people of no faith. At heart, it was an effort to mobilize people of faith to speak out. All of the blog posts (well over 100) can be seen here.

The current status of the bill is that it remains under consideration by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. According to Charles Tuhaise, a researcher in the Parliamentary Research service, no public hearings have been scheduled. A second reading cannot be scheduled until hearings have been conducted and a committee report has been prepared. Time is running out; the Ugandan elections are coming and the current Parliament ends inn May, 2011. Hon. David Bahati, the mover of the bill, has not responded to my questions about where he takes the bill from here.

Even though the bill seems to be stalled in committee, the effects on the daily lives of GLBT people in Uganda are quite negative. As noted in the statement yesterday from Sexual Minorities Uganda, since the bill was introduced conditions have worsened for them. Even though the bill has not moved, that has not stopped bill supporters such as Julius Oyet, David Kiganda, and Martin Ssempa from preaching stereotypes about gays and continuing what Martin Ssempa called “the war.” 

Due to the ongoing efforts of Ssempa and allies, attention has turned to the Americans which support these Ugandan preachers. Julius Oyet has been supported in the past by an Atlanta area church, New Gate International Church, headed by Apostle Venessa Battle. Rev. Battle is one of the approved apostles listed in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles. Last month, when I called New Gate, a representative there said the church has support Rev. Oyet in the past but declined to say to what degree. She also said she would provide a statement regarding Rev. Oyet’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but never followed up.

The most prominent American church involved with a Ugandan leader in the anti-gay movement is Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Canyon Ridge leaders told me recently that they continue to evaluate their stance and may have a new statement soon.  The fallout from the AHB has been substantial for CRCC. They have experienced unflattering national attention to their support for Martin Ssempa, and the loss of two community partnerships with AIDS related groups – Southern Nevada Health District and Aid for AIDS Nevada. One group, the Human Rights Campaign – Las Vegas met with Canyon Ridge leaders in September but has not said anything publicly about the church’s stance on the AHB. The HRC-LV has not responded to repeated requests for information about their stance on the AHB or CRCC’s support for Martin Ssempa.

There are many other American connections I could raise (e.g., Lou Engle, College of Prayer). Overall, Uganda’s AHB has become a point of division for American evangelicals. Some evangelicals believe criminalization of homosexuality would be a good thing (most recently the Tea Party darling, David Barton), while others (e.g., Rick Warren) do not. (Count me squarely on the side that believes the state has no business regulating such behavior.) And as indicated by Barton’s comments, one year later, the issues raised by the AHB in Uganda are still alive in American politics as well.