Uganda committee chair: Fate of Anti-Homosexuality Bill still uncertain

This morning, Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee of the Ugandan Parliament told me that the prospects for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are still not certain. He denied saying that public hearings were planned, adding “what we said was we have that bill [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] together with many other bills before the committee.”

Tashobya added, “When I was asked about that bill, I said yes, it is among the many bills that we have and we shall sit down as a committee and look at all the bills and set out a program. I cannot rule it [the Anti-Homosexuality Bill] but I cannot say at this stage.”

Last night, I posted a link to a UG Pulse article which quoted Tashobya as saying that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be one of the bills debated and possibly passed by this short session of Parliament which reconvenes March 22 and ends on May 12. However, this morning Tashobya confirmed his statements to me on March 3 and March 10 that he was not sure that there would be time enough for the anti-gay measure, saying “We won’t finish all the business before the committee by the end of the session.” However, about debate on the anti-gay bill, he said, “I cannot rule it out at this point.”

Tashobya cautioned that his views were conditioned by the need to take into account the views of his entire committee. He did confirm another UG Pulse report about a bill to address the rights of women. He told me that his view as committee chair was that the Domestic Relations Bill was “long overdue” should be considered before the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The author of the AHB, David Bahati welcomed the possibility that the AHB would make it to the floor of Parliament. In a statement to me this morning, Bahati wrote:

The urgency to have a measure to protect our children and traditional family and defend the decency of our society from the gathering evil of homosexuality is now. I believe parliament will come up with a law that puts Uganda’s interest first, namely, to prohibit same sex marriage, to stop the recruitment of our children, to stop the promotion of homosexuality and to establish a mechanism for rehabilitation, care and counselling.

In a way, public hearings have been taking place since October, 2009. However, it appears that now a narrow window is still open for stakeholders and other interested people to make their views known.

UPDATE: The Red Pepper demonstrates how much haste Bahati is in to get his bill passed.

NTV has this report in which we finally see Stephen Tashobya. I don’t know what to make of what seems like a contradiction between his statements on camera and his statements to me. This footage was edited and may not have included his full thoughts on the matter. If they can be reconciled, I would say that he plans debate if and when the committee takes up the anti-gay bill, but would not guarantee to me that the bill would get that far. Whatever the reality, these statements from Bahati and Tashobya should alert opponents that the window to have an impact is narrow.

Other posts on AHB timetable:

Uganda: Committee Chair describes Anti-Homosexuality Bill timetable – December 17, 2010

Reporters say anti-gay bill has been shelved – Ugandan politicians disagree – Jan 10, 2011

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered – March 3, 2011

Uganda’s Parliament back in session March 22. Will Anti-gay bill be debated? – March 10, 2011

UG Pulse: Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be debated when Parliament reconvenes

UPDATE: Please read this update in addition to this post.

…………………….

According to the UG Pulse, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chair Stephen Tashobya told media today that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be the subject of public hearings and debated this session.

This is consistent with most of what Tashobya has told me previously. Only one occasion has Tashobya told me that there might not be time to consider the AHB. Here is the UG Pulse’s report:

The controversial Anti Homosexuality bill is one of several bills that Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee are set to debate when the House resumes business next week.

The bill, which has caused uproar from human rights activists and donors since it was tabled in Parliament in 2009, seeks to criminalize the act, with one of the controversial clauses calling for death penalty for those who are found guilty of aggravated homosexuality.

Speaking to the media at Parliament today, the committee chairman, Stephen Tashobya said though the bill has created both local and international concern, it is up to Parliament to pass the bill.

Tashobya says the committee will hold public hearings where stakeholders’ views will be heard and a report made to the House for debate and possible passing before Parliament closes the 8th Parliament.

Ndorwa West MP and mover of the bill, David Bahati welcomed the development and said he would continue to lobby Ugandans to support the bill, whose intention is to protect the Ugandan traditional family and children.

Previous posts citing Tashobya:

Uganda: Committee Chair describes Anti-Homosexuality Bill timetable – December 17, 2010

Reporters say anti-gay bill has been shelved – Ugandan politicians disagree – Jan 10, 2011

Committee chair says Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill may not be considered – March 3, 2011

Uganda’s Parliament back in session March 22. Will Anti-gay bill be debated? – March 10, 2011

Christianity Today’s website contradicts Timothy Shah’s CT conspiracy article

Since October, 2009, there have been a number of flawed articles about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but none more flawed than the one currently up on the website of Christianity Today, by Timothy Shah. I have written here and here to demonstrate just a few of the problems, but I want to address some of them again with more information.

First, in reference again to this Shah authored statement:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Instead, a major reason for the attention focused on the bill is that many believe it is the fruit of American evangelical homophobia.

I asked to write a rebuttal but CT declined. About an hour ago, I posted this comment:

I encourage readers of Timothy Shah’s article to read the articles provided by Christianity Today on page three. Although incomplete, these articles accurately contradict several of the claims made by Shah. For instance, Shah says that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill repelled “virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders…” However, on CT’s website, Ugandan Bishop David Zac Niringiye told Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

How are Ugandan Christians generally responding to this legislation?

This is not just a Christian response. I can certainly say the objectives of the bill have the total support of most of Uganda, not just Christians, but also Muslims and Roman Catholics. It would not be right to talk about how Christians feel. They’re all agreed on the objectives. There will be a difference of opinion on the details of the bill. Space does not permit a detailed fact-based rebuttal which is why CT should allow one.

Bishop Niringiye’s response is linked after the Shah article and can be read here. He adds as if to make the point clear (but not clear enough for Timothy Shah):

Bailey: Do you know how Christians are responding to the penalties in this bill?

Niringiye: The point I’m making is that Christians in the country, including other people in the culture, really support the objectives of the bill. When it comes to the issue of the death penalty, there is as much debate over the death penalty as there are different Christian persuasions. The discussion on the death penalty [in this bill] needs to be separated from, Is the death penalty [ever] an acceptable sentence? I am sure there are American Christians or others in the world who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say the death penalty is an acceptable sentence. There will be Christians in Uganda who will say no, the death penalty is not an acceptable sentence for any offense.

The CT website also has articles which demonstrate the division among American Christians over the issues raised by the AHB. For instance, this one by Sarah Pulliam Bailey notes that American Christians were troubled by the bill and took various positions on criminalization. Shah reduces the narrative to a left versus Christian conflict, ignoring the opposition among Christians around the world to what most Ugandan leaders were supporting in the name of Jesus.

Shah completely ignores that David Bahati told the media that he did indeed have evangelical supporters in the US. He declined to name them but I named a few here. Moreover, Lou Engle went to Uganda in May, 2010 and told the Ugandans alongside religious and political leaders that Uganda was “ground zero” in the culture war. He later acknowledged favoring the criminalization of homosexuality. Bahati, Nsaba Buturo and Julius Oyet all felt supported by Engle’s visit. The left did not make that up.

Shah’s vision is woefully inadequate to suggest that  American opposition was triggered solely by perceptions of “American homophobia.” What completes the picture is to understand that the American opposition was not exclusively from the New York Times (which actually came late to the issue) and the left, but also with vigor from American evangelicals contending with Ugandan and other American evangelicals that the AHB was wrong.

Shah mentions the Fellowship, the evangelical group which David Bahati aligns with in Uganda, but fails to examine the significance of the fact that the Fellowship’s American leadership condemned the AHB. The platform used by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to condemn the AHB was the National Prayer Breakfast in February, 2010. The National Prayer Breakfast is organized by the Fellowship.

I was in the African Suite at the Washington Hilton watching the speeches by Obama and Clinton. After the NPB ceremonies were done, a spirited discussion broke out in the room involving myself and the Ugandan delegation. Only one Ugandan spoke against the bill, while three were vigorous in their support for it.

In his attempt to make a case for a conspiracy, Shah comes too close to engaging in one. He clearly wants to beat up on Jeff Sharlet, who incidentally helped get the Fellowship’s Bob Hunter on the Rachel Maddow Show to condemn the AHB, but makes an irresponsible claim to do so. Shah writes:

He [Sharlet] further suggests that American “fundamentalists” such as Rick Warren harbor a genocidal “motive” because they aim at the “eradication of homosexuality” and so countenance the murder of open homosexuals such as David Kato.

I have the book C-Street and also asked Sharlet if he has ever suggested that “fundamentalists such as Rick Warren…countenance the murder of open homosexuals.” It is not in the book and Sharlet tells me that he has never linked fundamentalists with the murder of David Kato. In his book, Sharlet says Bahati and Warren both believe homosexuality is wrong, and in that sense favor the eradication of homosexuality, but he notes that Warren’s approach is religious and curative while Bahati’s bill proposes darker ends. Sharlet does not say Warren wants gays killed and it is irresponsible to suggest it.

There is much more to say, but a read of the CT website on Uganda will quickly reveal how problematic it is. I will pick this up in another post soon…

Has Uganda’s antigay bill been stopped by Ugandan opposition?

In this post, I want to unpack a bit more the claims of Timothy Shah made in a Christianity Today op-ed posted yesterday (Go to the first reaction here). Overall, I think it was a mistake for Christianity Today to publish an article making so many factual claims without sourcing or evidence. I have been following this story since March, 2009 and do not recognize the narrative advanced by Shah.

In this post, I want to address this paragraph:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Instead, a major reason for the attention focused on the bill is that many believe it is the fruit of American evangelical homophobia.

Shah claims the bill was “stopped in its tracks” due to opposition from “virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders.” There are two fact problems here. One, the bill was not stopped and two, bill was not opposed by all of Uganda’s political and religious leaders.

As I have documented, the bill is still alive and may be considered before the end of this Parliamentary session in May. While the committee chair, Stephen Tashobya has expressed some uncertainty about the fate of the bill, he has refused to say that the bill is dead.

Shah says “virtually all” religious and political leaders were repelled by the bill. This is about as uninformed as statement as an observer could make. Going back to April 29, 2009, David Bahati asked the Ugandan Parliament for permission to introduce his private member’s bill. According to the minutes of Parliament, his request was approved without substantial concerns.

At the time, in the gallery were several religious and political leaders:

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am aware of the matter and it is very important. I am going to give you time. There is a matter he wants to raise concerning the community and I am going to give him time. Let us have that motion quickly, get rid of it and get back to the statement. Afterwards we can stay here till midnight and talk about East Africa and all the other things. I am appealing to you.

Let us hear from hon. Bahati. In connection with the motion he is moving, we have in the gallery Apostle Julius Peter Oyet, Vice-President of the Born Again Federation; Pastor Dr Martin Sempa of the Family Policy Centre; Stephen Langa, Family Life Network; hon. Godfrey Nyakaana; the Mayor of Kampala City Council; Julius, a young boy who was sodomised, and his mother. His story has been in the press. They are all here in the gallery. Please, let us deal with them so that they can leave. There is also George Oundo who came out to speak against homosexuality. Please, let us balance the public good and our good since all of them are important. We shall do them all very quickly. Hon. Bahati.

6.24

MR DAVID BAHATI (NRM, Ndorwa County West, Kabale): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to move a motion seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Members Bill moved under Rule 47, 105 and 106. Some of the few copies available are going to be circulated in a minute. I beg the indulgence of Members that I move on.

The only way Mr. Shah can be correct is to dismiss Martin Ssempa, Julius Oyet, and Stephen Langa as religious leaders. How about the mayor of Kampala’s city council? Reading the minutes, it is abundantly clear that no MP offers more than procedural concerns. The Parliament had copies of the bill and gave Bahati permission to introduce it.

When Bahati did finally table his bill on October, religious leaders came out in support. For instance, Martin Ssempa told me that the bill had his “total support” and that he hoped it would pass. The day after I posted Ssempa’s views, Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo publicly expressed support for the bill in an article on the official government media website with the headline, “Government Vows to Fight Homosexuality.”

In late October, 2009, Parliament’s Presidential Affiars committee held hearings on the bill and included religious leaders. Those leaders objected to the death penalty but did not call for the removal of the bill or a reduction in the sentence of life in prison:

Homosexuals should not be killed but instead imprisoned for life, religious leaders have suggested.

Making their input in the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009 yesterday, the clergy said the clause on death as a penalty for homosexuality be scrapped.

“If you kill the people, to whom will the message go? We need to have imprisonment for life if the person is still alive,” said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda.

These religious leaders did not like the death penalty but were not repelled by the rest of the bill. Then in December, a coalition of religious leaders (including the Roman Catholic church) led by Martin Ssempa expressed strong support for the bill.

The first recorded opposition to the bill by President Museveni was on December 18, 2009 in a AFP report. According to that article, Museveni assured the US of his opposition.

The top US diplomat for African affairs said the bill, if passed, would not only violate human rights, it would also “undermine the fight” against HIV and AIDS by stigmatizing homosexual acts.

He added that it is premature for US government to consider withdrawing aid from Uganda because Museveni himself said he does not support the legislation and the battle is not yet lost.

However, Museveni did not address the bill directly until January, 2010 when he spoke to his party conference about the bill. Museveni did not express direct opposition but advise a dialogue, saying

So therefore, I strongly advise you that you agree to the idea that the cabinet sit down with Bahati, a subcommittee, and see how best to handle this issue because…because… it is a foreign policy issue. It’s not just our internal politics. It is a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way which does not compromise our principles, but also takes into account our foreign policy interests.

This statement is not opposition but rather direction to his party about how he wanted to handle deliberation on the bill.

Then, on March 15, 2010, a small cabinet committee headed by Minister of Local Government, Adolf Mwesige issued a report critical of the AHB, saying it was redundant and that it might have been introduced illegally. However, the committee recommended keeping some of the good portions of the bill, namely the provisions on penalizing promotion of homosexuality.

I have just scratched the surface of this topic. There is so much evidence of the support for the bill from many religious and political leaders over the life of this bill that it is stunning that anyone could seriously claim otherwise. Shah paints a picture that is just untrue. Reading this article, one would come to the conclusion that the AHB was stopped by Ugandan opposition. One might think that Bahati’s bill was widely criticized by religious and political leaders.  Although some concerns have been raised, opposition to the death penalty is not the same as being repelled by the bill. The burden is on Mr. Shah to provide evidence for this narrative. I do not believe he can.

As far as I can tell, Shah’s conspiracy theory relies on demonstrating that Ugandans killed the bill. He needs to show this so that he can blame the uproar on something other than the real need to oppose an unjust proposal. Instead of finding some evangelicals involved in supporting what turned out to be a draconian bill, the whole reason Uganda is in focus is because the left loves to bash evangelicals. If only.

Another fact Shah has to ignore to make his case is the existence of a strong reaction from evangelicals around the world to the Ugandan proposal. Opposition to the AHB has not come solely from the left. Readers of this blog will surely attest to that. Shah’s article is not simply misleading, it ostracizes and marginalizes the persistent and growing evangelical opposition to the AHB and criminalization of homosexuality which has grown over the last 2 years. I will return to this point in my next post.

UPDATE: Watch this video for the opposition from Cyprius Lwanga, Archbishop of Kampala. This took place in December, 2009. Note at 1:44, the narrator says that “many conservative religious leaders” support the bill. Lwanga was virtually on his own. And then not long afterwards, Martin Ssempa represented a coalition of religious leaders which called for the removal of the death penalty but still encouraged the passage of the bill. The Roman Catholic church in Uganda was listed as a signer of that statement.

Christianity Today author misleads on Uganda

In a web only piece on Christianity Today, Timothy Shah wants readers to believe that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is “a legislative stunt” which has generated conspiracy theories about maltreatment of gays in Uganda. He writes:

Uganda has attracted human rights activism because of a single legislative stunt by a single low-level politician named David Bahati, a member of the country’s authoritarian ruling party and an Anglican. In 2009, Bahati proposed an anti-homosexuality bill so draconian that it would make “serial” homosexual practice a capital crime and punish pro-gay advocacy with a seven-year jail sentence.

At least Shah recognizes the actual intent of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. However, I take issue with his assumption that human rights activists have been interested in Uganda solely because of the AHB. In 2008, then-darling of American evangelicals, Martin Ssempa, led a rally where he proclaimed that gays have no place in Uganda’s HIV/AIDS programs because homosexuality is a crime in Uganda. Due to such incidents, activists were monitoring human rights concerns. Then when the three Americans, led by Scott Lively, went into Kampala to lead a workshop and meet with Parliamentary leaders, the situation attracted the attention of many in the US, even before Bahati got permission from Parliament to offer his private member’s bill in April.

Shah, without source or evidence, dismisses Bahati and his bill as “a single legislative stunt by a single low-level politician.” On the contrary, David Bahati is the Caucus treasurer for the ruling party, ran unopposed in the recent election (his opponent dropped out citing fears for his safety) and used his clout to support other ruling party candidates.

The AHB is not a legislative stunt. Bahati and the millions of Ugandan supporters that signed petitions asking Parliament to pass it are quite serious in their desire to craft strong laws restricting freedom of speech and association with the aim of eliminating homosexuality.

Shah then develops a fact-challenged narrative that has the bill “stopped in its tracks” not because of international outcry but because everybody else in Uganda was repelled by it. He writes:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Instead, a major reason for the attention focused on the bill is that many believe it is the fruit of American evangelical homophobia.

In fact, the major reason the bill attracted so much attention is clearly due to the harsh provisions offered in the name of Jesus. Christian opposition in the US and around the world was prompted by the fact that Ugandan supporters of the bill used Christian tenets as a basis for their support. Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa told Christianity Today that Rick Warren was wrong to oppose the AHB. David Bahati told numerous media that he had many American supporters. Religious right darling Lou Engle went to Uganda and failed to condemn the bill while Ugandan supporters, including the Minister of Ethics Nsaba Buturo and prominent religious leader Julius Oyet used Engle’s event as a platform to support the bill.

Shah reasons from hindsight. He says there is a Uganda conspiracy but has to ignore many facts and events to do it. In effect, he says the bill hasn’t passed and so the uproar about it must have been a conspiracy of the left. He says that everybody in Uganda opposed the bill. Not so at all. However, even those in Uganda who expressed some level of opposition did not do so until after the international outcry, including that coming from Rick Warren, had slowed the bill down.

The following statement is just wrong and should have disqualified the article from being published:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks.

The bill’s harshness led to some calls for the removal of the death penalty and there was a government cabinet committee (not a Parliamentary committee) which said the bill was unconstitutional, but none of this stopped the bill in its tracks. The President was not “repelled” by the bill. He urged caution after the international outcry in January of 2010 (the bill was introduced in October, 2009). The bill is still in committee. The chair of that committee told me recently that if there is time in this session, he will bring it up. Mr. Shah should try talking to the people in Uganda who have something to do with the situation.

When all is said and done, I can’t really understand what Shah wants American evangelicals to do. He correctly called the AHB “draconian” but he doesn’t seem to think there was ever anything to it. Should evangelicals just dismiss those who think the bill is a threat because some left-leaning commentators find evangelical dirt in their reporting? What if evangelicals had not spoken out? What if Rick Warren had not produced his video and written his epistle? Having done the research on the precursors to the bill and interviewed the principle figures, I firmly believe the AHB would be law now save all that effort.

A commenter on the article at the CT website demonstrates one consequence of this article. A Patrix Devit replied to David Fountain, who referenced the actual themes of the March conference involving Scott Lively, Caleb Brundidge and Don Schmierer. Fountain noted the demonization of gays which occured at that conference which was reported by the New York Times. Devit responded:

Interesting, well-written article. @Mr. Fountain: It’s been shown on multiple occasions that the NY Times will alter facts or even completely fabricate stories when an opportunity to strike at Republicans, Christians (etc) presents itself. Nothing that the NY Times puts forth can be taken at face value.

Except that in this case, the NYT was mostly correct. However, reading Mr. Shah, one would not know much at all about what has really transpired.

Is the world about to end?

Preachers gonna preach.

Greg Laurie, who is probably a really nice guy, told his congregation that the 2nd coming is coming sooner than later. He thinks so due to…

…the dramatic escalation of global wars and terrorism, the push for unity or globalism, the change in world economics toward a cashless society, the unprecedented increase of killer earthquakes, and false teaching permeating the church.

I am not a historian but I bet there isn’t a dramatic escalation of wars. I suppose there could be a push for globalism but for sure, there are some countries who are going to hold out on the We Are the World remake. False teaching has been with us from the beginning; but what about those earthquakes?

The US Geological Survey must get that question a lot (Are there more earthquakes now?) because they have a page about it here.

We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant.

A partial explanation may lie in the fact that in the last twenty years, we have definitely had an increase in the number of earthquakes we have been able to locate each year. This is because of the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and the many improvements in global communications. In 1931, there were about 350 stations operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail, internet and satellite. This increase in the number of stations and the more timely receipt of data has allowed us and other seismological centers to locate earthquakes more rapidly and to locate many small earthquakes which were undetected in earlier years. The NEIC now locates about 20,000 earthquakes each year or approximately 50 per day. Also, because of the improvements in communications and the increased interest in the environment and natural disasters, the public now learns about more earthquakes.

According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 – 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year.

Vivid events can produce illusory correlations and in this case it appears that a perception of increase is based on better recording of earthquakes rather than an increase in the actual frequency.

Besides NASA says we are all safe…

Scott Lively goes nuclear in Moldova

Scott Lively said once that his work in Uganda was like “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda.” In January, he went nuclear-style to Moldova to oppose an anti-discrimination law. Radio Free Europe has the story:

When the Moldovan government submitted a draft antidiscrimination law to parliament last month, conservative Orthodox Christian forces in the country treated it as a call to battle.

And that call was heeded by U.S. pastor and lawyer Scott Lively, who traveled to Chisinau to warn the country against adopting any measure that would bar discrimination against homosexuals.

The bill outlaws discrimination against anyone on the basis of religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, color, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, political opinion, or social status. It was proposed as part of Moldova’s effort to gain an association agreement with the European Union.

The controversial Lively believes homosexuality is a lifestyle choice with dire social consequences and has made a career in recent years campaigning against gay rights around the world. His website claims he has spoken in more than 30 countries.

“I’ve been dealing with these laws all over the world and I recognize — as I said there in the lectures I gave and the media interviews that I gave — an antidiscrimination law based on sexual orientation is the seed that contains the entire tree of the homosexual political agenda with all of its poisonous fruit,” Lively tells RFE/RL, “and that, if you allow an antidiscrimination policy to go into effect, it essentially puts the power of the law and the government into the hands of gay activists and makes people who disapprove of homosexuality criminals.”

Mainstream science rejects the notion that sexual orientation is a matter of personal choice.

I was interviewed for this piece. The interviewer was interested in Lively’s past work, especially in Uganda.

Boris Dittrich, acting director of the advocacy group Human Rights Watch’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) program, just returned to the United States from a trip to Moldova, where he discussed Lively’s visit with rights advocates in Chisinau.

“He came there with a story like what he told in Uganda, that if this antidiscrimination law would be accepted, the society would be homosexualized and the homosexuals would take over and it would be very dangerous,” Dittrich says.

In Uganda, Lively met with lawmaker David Bahati, who drafted the antigay bill, and gave speeches in which he tied gays to the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

“He stirred up a lot of fear in Uganda,” says Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania, who has followed Lively’s activity. “He told them that homosexuals had an unusual interest in children and so that to protect your children, you should construct stronger laws against homosexuality and enforce them.”

In Moldova, however, Lively did not publicly advocate criminalizing homosexuality, but limited himself to campaigning against the antidiscrimination bill. He said he met with one member of parliament while he was in Chisinau.

Exporting U.S. Culture Wars

Lively is not the first controversial U.S. antihomosexual campaigner to find his way to Moldova. Psychologist Paul Cameron — a sex researcher who argues that homosexuality is associated with child sex abuse and other social evils and whose work has been repudiated by major professional associations in the United States — visited the country in October 2008 and again in May 2009.

Cameron campaigns actively for the criminalization of homosexuality on public-health grounds, Throckmorton notes, and so he “promotes laws against homosexuality much in the way some countries criminalize or sanction smoking in public places. He just believes that homosexuality is harmful to health and harmful to the culture.”

I also provided this little gem which I think gives Mr. Lively’s views a proper context:

I have come to discover, through various leads, a dark and powerful homosexual presence in other historical periods: the Spanish Inquisition, the French “Reign of Terror,” the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American slavery.

This quote comes from his lesser known book, The Poisoned Stream which argues that homosexuality is a “poisoned stream” through history. For Lively, money is not the root of all sorts of evil, homosexuality is.

Christian groups urged to do more on bullying prevention

Last week, the Obama administration focused on bullying prevention in a series of events. All week I intended to write about it and one thing or another got in the way so I was pleased that the Christian Post put up an article on the topic.

As I noted in the article, the attention to the issue has waned since the Fall. I believe that will change shortly as the Day of Silence and the Day of Dialogue are coming in April.

Andrew Marin, founder of the Marin Foundation, is quoted here:

His Golden Rule Pledge website provides resources for bullying prevention to churches. Since bully victims had made news, Throckmorton said that churches from all groups began showing interest. Still, more interest needs to shown, he said.

Andrew Marin, president of the Marin Foundation, agrees. His organization attempts to build bridges between evangelicals and the homosexual community.

Marin laments that some youth groups simply focus on entertaining youth rather than taking on difficult issues such as how to deal with bullying and homosexuality. “We need people in church to be bold enough to stand up and to say ‘no’ [to bullying],” he said.

Marin recently revamped the whole website and added a page on youth resources which is heavy on bullying prevention. You will see the Golden Rule Pledge featured there.

With the Day of Silence and Day of Dialogue coming, the Golden Rule Pledge will be active as well advocating for nothing more than treating others well and an end to bullying. Take the Golden Rule Pledge survey here.

Uganda’s Parliament back in session March 22. Will Anti-gay bill be debated?

According to the New Vision:

THE Speaker of Parliament, Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi, has summoned MPs to report to the House on March 22.

Hellen Kaweesa, the public relations manager of Parliament, said the clerk to Parliament had already notified all the MPs to return and handle unfinished business.

Last year, Sekandi sent Parliament on recess to allow MPs get enough time for their campaigns. The Bills to be debated include the parliamentary pensions amendments Bill of 2010, the anti-homosexuality Bill and the retirements benefits authority Bill.

This sitting will be the first since the Constitutional Court kicked out 77 MPs from the House for refusing to vacate their seats before defected to other parties.

The 8th Parliament, whose term expires in two months time, has remained with only 255 MPs.

This is of concern given that The New Vision’s majority ownership is the Ugandan government. I suspect that opponents and proponents of the bill will be jockeying for their agenda over the next several weeks.

I reported recently that Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chair Stephen Tashobya was unsure if the bill would come up. In light of the New Vision report, I asked him if the bill might now make the agenda. He told me that the Parliament would indeed reconvene on March 22 but that the agenda had not yet been decided. He said, “What I can say is that we have a lot of work to get done and if there is time to get to that bill (the Anti-Homosexuality Bill) then we will look at it, but if there is no time, then we won’t be able to this session.” Tashobya added that the agenda would not be worked out until Parliament reconvenes and that he could not confirm anything at this point.

Perhaps other Uganda watchers could help handicap this situation but it seems to me that the public status is going to remain cloudy through the Spring.