Originally published: Dec. 1, 2009, 10:45 a.m.
Updated: Dec. 12, 2009, 1:26 p.m.
Two U.S. House members from North Carolina have been connected to “The Family,” a secretive, conservative organization with ties to Ugandan leaders pushing for a new law criminalizing LGBT people.
Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family,” an expose of the group, told NPR’s Tony Gross that Democratic Reps. Heath Shuler (NC-11) and Mike McIntyre (NC-07) are connected to the group. Other high-profile politicians with ties to the organization include Nevada Republican U.S. Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
“The Family” has been tied to Ugandan politician David Bahati, who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.
According to LGBT faith activist Jim Burroway of BoxTurtleBulletin.com, the Ugandan bill “provides the death penalty for conviction of homosexuality under certain circumstances, provides a lifetime imprisonment for all other cases, and a seven year sentence for “attempted” homosexuality,” Burroway wrote on Dec. 3.
Burroway also reported the bill would criminalize with a seven-year prison term all advocacy and free speech on behalf of LGBT people. He wrote the bill also “criminalizes all acquaintance of gay people (failure to report gays to police within 24 hours of learning someone is gay brings a three-year prison sentence).”
Equality North Carolina (ENC) is calling on their members to contact Shuler and McIntyre and ask them to denounce their association with “The Family.”
“As members of this group, Shuler and McIntyre have a moral obligation to speak out against [the Uganda bill],” Ian Palmquist, ENC executive director, said in an email message Dec. 1 “It’s time for them to stand up to The Family and publicly denounce this bill and any attempt to criminalize homosexuality.”
Leaders across the world, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have condemned the anti-gay bill and other draconian laws discriminating against LGBT people.
Clinton addressed the issue at a press conference on Nov. 30.
“Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it but also to combat discrimination more broadly,” she said. “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.”
On Dec. 12, The Advocate‘s Kerry Eleveld reported on a White House statement regarding the bill.
“The President strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history,” the statement read.
Sweden, which has provided some $50 million in aid to Uganda, has announced it intends to cut their development assistance if the proposed bill becomes law.
“I’m doubly disappointed,” Swedish Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson told Radio Sweden, “partly because Uganda is a country with which we have had long-term relations and where I thought and hoped we had started to share common values and understanding. The law itself is wretched, but it’s also offensive to see how the Ugandans choose to look at how we see things, and the kind of reception we get when we bring up these issues.”
The U.S. offers the African nation close to $250 million in aid. Despite condemnations from Clinton, government officials had not made a decision to cut that funding by press time.
In Uganda, high profile Anglican Canon Gideon Byamugisha called the proposed bill “genocide.” The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, head of the global Anglican Communion, has remained quiet on the issue publicly. London Times columnist Ruth Gledhill reported Dec. 3 that Canterbury was in private discussions with Ugandan church and government officials.
“It has been made clear to us, as indeed to others, that attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive,” the statement from Canterbury read. “Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private.”
Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity responded to international criticism on Dec. 3.
“Ever since the Bill on Homosexuality was presented in Parliament, there have been various reactions as well as over-reactions from countries which are annoyed at our independence to enact our Laws,” a statement from Nsaba Buturo read. “Consequently, we hear they are threatening to take action against Uganda. It is revealing that support to Uganda literally translated means that it is on condition that Uganda should do the bidding of givers of such support regardless of what Ugandans themselves think. It is also revealing that support which would benefit countless number of orphans, children and mothers can be withdrawn simply because Government is protecting its citizens against vices such as homosexuality.”
Conservative pastors have ties
In addition to connections between Uganda and “The Family,” other reports indicate conservative American pastors and religious leaders also have ties to others pushing for the anti-gay legislation.
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who delivered President Barack Obama’s inaugural invocation, has invited Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa to speak at his church, where he was “embraced warmly,” according to Newsweek. Ssempa has advocated for the law.
In another exposé from Bruce Wilson, Rick Warren’s doctoral dissertation advisor, C. Peter Wagner, is linked to several anti-gay religious leaders in Uganda. Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation counts Lou Engle of TheCall among its “inner circle of ‘prophets.’”
Engle helped to lead the Concord-based Coalition of Conscience, founded by anti-gay activist Dr. Michael Brown, in a protest prayer and worship rally at this year’s Pride Charlotte festival. A month prior to the event, Engle appeared at Brown’s FIRE Church. At the time, this writer reported on his InterstateQ.com:
“Describing his prayers to root out the ‘homosexual Jezebel spirit’ in California, Engle said he prayed everyday with a ‘focused, laser beam.’
“‘There’s power in that kind of prayer,’ Engle exclaimed. ‘That’s a prayer,’ he said, making machine gun sounds and adding, ‘Shoot everything!’”
Asked for comment on or condemnation of the proposed law by Q-Notes, Brown said in an emailed statement: “While I do not pretend to understand the dynamics of Ugandan culture and law, and while I share the government’s concerns with the goals of homosexual activism and the dangers of homosexual practice, I have very serious issues with the proposed law as currently constructed. I believe it has the potential to hurt far more people than it could possibly help, potentially inflicting great suffering on many.”
Warren initially refused to “take sides” in the debate over the law, but recently condemned it and urged Ugandan pastors to speak out with compassion.
takeaction: Sign onto Equality North Carolina’s petition to Reps. Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre: eqfed.org/campaign/thefamily