Last week on NPR’s Fresh Air, Jeff Sharlet reported that The Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) supports an organization in Uganda called Cornerstone Development which, according to Sharlet, is linked with the main government officials behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. Is this accurate?
According to their IRS 990 tax forms, the Fellowship Foundation indeed does support Cornerstone Foundation in Uganda. Less clear is what, if any, relationship exists between Cornerstone and the authors and supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. On the recent NPR program, author Sharlet linked Cornerstone with the prime sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, David Bahati and Minister of Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Buturo. However, a review of the Cornerstone website finds no references to either David Bahati or Nsaba Buturo. There is one 2007 news report which links Bahati to the Ugandan prayer breakfast (held in October of each year) and is ambiguous about a relationship to the African Youth Leadership Forum. The AYLF is a program conducted by Cornerstone.
Even though Mr. Sharlet did not say the Family was behind the bill, some blame the Fellowship Foundation and Cornerstone for the bill. In contrast, as the result of my investigation thus far, I do not believe that Cornerstone Development is behind the bill or supports it. And I am aware of one prominent associate of the Fellowship Foundation who opposes the bill. More on that in a later post.
To explore these issues, I spoke via email with the Director of Cornerstone Development, Tim Kreutter. Mr. Kreutter has lived in Africa most of his life and oversees a staff of about 150 people.
When asked about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, he told me that Cornerstone “had zero input on that bill.” Furthermore, Mr. Kreutter pointed out that Cornerstone has intervened in death penalty situations, saying:
In particular, we are opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and have played a part in working to stay all executions here for the last 10 years or so.
Kreutter also explained that the sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, David Bahati and the outspoken government minister who supports it, Nsaba Buturo, currently have no involvement in Cornerstone programs. As noted, a review of their website confirms this statement.
Regarding Bahati’s involvement in the Africa Youth Leadership Forum, Mr. Kreutter pointed out that the forum that day included three Ugandan politicians: Cecilia Ogwal, Mugisha Muntu and David Bahati. Ogwal is involved in the Uganda People’s Congress Party of former Pres. Milton Obote, Muntu is a major opposition leader of the Forum for Democratic Change Party and a likely Presidential candidate in the next elections and then Bahati is a loyal ruling party member. I should also point out that the Deputy Secretary for International and Regional Affairs of the Forum for Democratic Change, Anne Mugisha (no relation to Muntu), opposes the bill.
As Mr. Sharlet noted, it seems clear that the Fellowship Foundation is quite active in Uganda (as are many other Western interests) in several ways. However, it seems to me that the Cornerstone Development organization is doing some good things with youth and does not appear to be behind the recent Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Rather, Kreutter advocates a different policy, saying:
I believe that means loving them [gays] just as we are called to do for all ‘our neighbors’ and for me personally that means seeing them as my brother…or my sister – created in the image of God our father – despite their sexual orientation.
There are US influences to be found, however, and I will report more on those in future posts. I have already reported on one American influence which I will discuss more in an upcoming post. Also, there are internal factors at work independent of Western influence. See Anne Mugisha’s post today for one such possibility.