Exporting U.S. hate

American evangelicals played a key role in the creation of anti-gay measures in Uganda that remain viable — and very dangerous

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

What? Africa does not have enough problems already with the struggles with civil wars, food shortages, severe droughts and the hangovers of apartheid?

Apparently some Americans — self-styled guardians of faith and family — think those problems are insufficient. Apparently they think it is necessary to add fuel to the flames of Africa’s anti-gay movement.

Here’s a part of what has happened and continues to happen in Uganda, a southwestern African nation whose 31 million citizens are among the poorest on the continent. (Uganda has natural resources aplenty, including copper and cobalt, crude oil and natural gas, however. So poverty does not afflict the political elite.)

In March 2009, Stephen Langa, an evangelical Christian, organized a conference in Kampala, Uganda, entitled “Exposing the Truth about Homosexuality and the Homosexual Agenda.” Langa and his cohorts sought to concentrate the minds of that political elite on the efforts of the LGBT community to “recruit and/or lure children” into the homosexual lifestyle.

Here’s where the U.S. comes in: Three American evangelicals — Scott Lively and Don Schmierer, who are white, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who is black — were featured in speeches and workshops.

Let’s begin with Lively, who organized an entity called Abiding Truth Ministries and has long been an anti-gay activist. He has sought to have homosexuality itself, all expressions and any public advocacy thereof, declared felonies.

He is best known in anti-gay circles for co-authoring The Pink Swastika, a book that blames homosexuals for the worst atrocities of the Nazis. Perhaps it is redundant to note that he also denies the Holocaust.

According to Boston.com, Lively moved from Temecula, Calif., to Springfield, Mass., in 2008, determined to “re-Christianize Springfield.” His principal vehicles are the Redemption Gate Mission Society and the Holy Grounds Coffee House.

Lively still opposes LGBTs, of course, but he now claims to be caught up in serving and saving the poorest people in Western Massachusetts. He has been interviewed several times since the Kampala conference, and he has repeatedly said that he did not push for the death penalty, just for “reparative therapy” to make everyone straight.

Schmierer has also been a homo hater for a long time. His principal identification is with Exodus International, which describes itself as an ex-gay ministry. One of his several books is An Ounce of Prevention, which purports to teach parents how to “pick out” a gay or potentially gay child, and turn that child toward the straight and narrow.

More alarming — because it uses newer media and because it came out just months ago  — is an iPhone application designed to straighten its users. “Truth Wins Out” objected, collected more than 150,000 signatures on a petition claiming the app contained objectionable material, and submitted the petition to Apple. Apple promptly removed the app from the iTunes store.

No word whether Schmierer himself, who’s an old, white-haired guy, has used the app himself.

Brundidge is a whole ’nother thing. Young, tattooed and dreadlocked, he claims to have overcome his same-sex attraction through the National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). That’s a New Jersey-based organization run by a man named Richard Cohen.

You can see Brundidge and Cohen performing some of NARTH’s “ministry and healing” exercises on Internet video clips, which are laugh-out-loud funny.

In any event, Brundidge graduated to heterosexuality or a facsimile thereof and began giving Tender Loving Care seminars in Maryland. In 2006, he became a “Sexual Reorientation Coach” (who knows how), and in 2007 he moved to Phoenix, Ariz., for the “opportunities” presented by Extreme Prophetic Ministries.

He counsels online and via telephone and speaks at churches. Believers have called upon him to raise the dead, but to date the dead have not responded.

So in March 2009, these three Americans went over and presented their anti-gay message, and within a month, Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati submitted a bill calling for the death penalty for many same-sex acts, not just by males but by all LGBTs, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

International donor nations objected to the death penalty, and since Uganda’s elite wanted to keep the money coming, they saw to it that the act was softened to demand only life without the possibility of parole.

Then this year on Jan. 10,  the UK’s Guardian newspaper published an article entitled “We are free to be gay in Uganda — for the moment.” Exactly two weeks later, Uganda’s best-known gay activist, David Kato, was beaten to death with a hammer.

“David’s death is the result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” said his friend, Val Kalende.

Uganda’s Minister of Ethics & Integrity (yea, right!) James Nsaba Buturo has now told his nation’s gays to “forget about human rights.” The anti-gay bill remains very much alive.

What? We couldn’t send food or footwear, books or bed nets? We had to send hatred?

Must be that America has an oversupply of hatred against our community.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Don’t let story of David Kato’s murder die

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

A few months ago when I wrote about the draconian anti-homosexual laws being passed in Uganda, I had an ominous feeling that it would be the beginning of a very real nightmare for LGBT people in that African country.

Unfortunately, that is coming to pass.

LGBT activist David Kato was murdered, not by a sniper from a distance, but by an individual who brutally beat him to death with a hammer.

A Ugandan publication had published his photo and that of other LGBT activists on the front page; above the picture were the words “Hang Them.”

Already, the authorities in Uganda are trying to cloud the issue with talk of “thieves and gangs.” But to call his death anything but the hate crime it was is ludicrous.

Beating someone to death with a hammer is up close and personal and comes from a hate-filled rage.

Much of that rage has been fueled by clergy in Uganda. One man in particular — Martin Ssempa, a man with the dubious title of “reverend.”

If you don’t think you know him, you most likely do. Ssempa was the speaker in the YouTube video that went viral last year. In that clip he is describing how gay men “eat the pooh-pooh.”

Though to us it might have seemed comical and worthy of ridicule, in Uganda, Ssempa’s words are taken seriously.

Ssempa is a well-known preacher in Uganda, and he has a lot of well-funded U.S. ties. You see, anti-gay evangelists who can’t find an audience for their hate here in this country have fanned out to proselytize in countries where their message might have more traction.

Rick Warren, the author of “A Purpose Driven Life,” was one of Ssempa’s supporters. Though he now distances himself from the Uganda situation, funds from Warren’s church helped fuel this mess. U.S. evangelicals and the ex-gay movement are big players in Ssempa’s push.

Ssempa has wrapped his hate in the banner of AIDS activism. But don’t be fooled. His brand of activism led him to burn cases of condoms “in Jesus’ name” and to sponsor gatherings with U.S. speakers like Scott Lively, who blames homosexuals for the Nazi Holocaust.

Other U.S. interlopers include Don Schmierer, who is on the board of Exodus International and who spoke at a conference in Kampala in March, 2009, where he endorsed the anti-homosexual laws that caused such an international stir.

Now as David Kato is being laid to rest the controversy continues.

A pastor speaking at his funeral lashed out at homosexuality, prompting a strong reaction from Kato’s friends. Scuffles broke out before the event was over.

Things turned so ugly that villagers refused to bury his body, and it was up to his friends to carry the coffin to the grave and complete the burial themselves.
And all this just adds fuel to the fires in Uganda.

It is unfortunate that those fires have been stoked by citizens of the U.S. who traveled to Uganda to inflame passions there. Worse, this crime is going to fall from the front pages as events in Egypt take center stage in news from Africa. Besides, the story is somewhat old news, and falls well outside the attention span of U.S. news audiences.

That’s why it is up to the LGBT media to keep this urgent human rights story alive.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Peru jumps on South American equality bandwagon with proposed civil union law

Jose Vargas

A congressman from the ruling party in Peru will introduce a civil union bill in the legislature, according to the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.

The bill would give same-sex couples the same economic rights as married opposite-sex couples but would not allow them to adopt.

The bill will be introduced by José Vargas of the APRA ruling party, but he will do so as an individual, not on behalf of his party in, to avoid jeopardizing the current government. He urged support from all political sides.

According to the website Living In Peru, the gay movement in Lima was surprised about the legislation and said Vargas acted on his own without consulting them. The community fears a civil union law could prevent marriage equality in the future.

Last week Argentina legalized same-sex marriage. Uruguay began debating upgrading its civil union law to marriage. A marriage law was introduced in the legislature in Paraguay, and Chile began debating civil unions.

Translation assistance by Miguel Flores.

—  David Taffet

This JONAH has one whale of a story to tell

Jewish ‘ex-gay’ group is just another attempt to get money from conflicted gay men for ‘therapies’ that do nothing but let closeted gays get their jollies through others’ fears

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

JonahWith all the hubbub of the Fred Phelps Cult making a visit here and the oil spill continuing in the Gulf, one story seems to have dropped through the cracks. Luckily, Wayne Besen at the blog Truth Wins Out (TruthWinsOut.org)  has been on it like a dog on a bone. It involves a group called JONAH.

Aside from the biblical acronym, the group’s full name is Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, and it is part of the ex-gay industry.

Now before anyone corrects me and notes that it should be called the “ex-gay movement,” let me explain.

Not only has the whole “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” thing been debunked by the scientific community, no major scientific group actually approves “treatment” to change sexual orientation. No one, from the American Psychiatric Association to the American Psychological Association, even considers homosexuality something to be cured.

So what you have with the ex-gay industry is a bogus cure in search of a disease, and more to the point, several organizations who have found that the whole useless endeavor can generate a lot of cash.

So, far from being a grassroots movement, the ex-gay scam is a business, albeit “non-profit.”

Meanwhile, back to JONAH.

The group was co-founded by a fellow named Arthur Abba Goldberg. Seems he was known 20 years ago in the financial community as “Abba Cadabra” for his apparent wizardry with money. That wizardry turned out to be a scam, and Goldberg was convicted of federal mail and wire fraud as well as a conspiracy to sell worthless bonds.

The guy is a real peach, and now he has reinvented himself as the leader of an “ex-gay” therapy group.

One of his “life coaches,” Alan Downing, recently has been implicated in something a bit more touchy-feely than you would expect from an ex-gay. According to men who went to Downing, part of his treatment involves having clients strip naked in front of a mirror while touching parts of their bodies, including their genitals.

The activity is observed by the “therapist” while he encourages the subject to “internalize his masculinity.” If this sounds like a voyeurs’ delight, you haven’t heard anything yet.

Downing and Goldberg are part of another bunch called “People Can Change.” A big part of their “therapy” is participating in a retreat near Phoenix, called “Journey into Manhood.” According to a writer, Ted Cox, who secretly attended one of the sessions, for $650 a pop you get to participate in a group grope for the weekend.

Now if this sounds homoerotic, what goes on there seems even less like therapy and more like just plain sex. Participants make the journey to manhood by hugging, touching and lying on each other in a “cuddle room.” Manly stuff!

If this were a Body Electric retreat I could understand it, but for something that is supposed to “cure” homosexuality, it seems to be far off the mark.

My whole point is that the “ex-gay” industry is rife with scandal. From George Rekers, the anti- gay activist who hired a “rent boy” for a European vacation, to John Paulk, former chairman of Exodus International who was photographed coming out of a gay bar in Washington D.C., the ex-gays just can’t seem to keep their gay from coming out.

I fully expect to hear about even more surprises from the reparative therapy scam in the future. But I shouldn’t be surprised.

It all stems from the greed of folks who see in gay men a vulnerability, especially if those gay men have not fully accepted their own sexuality. It is the worst kind of deceit, to prey on the psychologically vulnerable and manipulate them for cash.

It is unfortunate that they hide behind pseudo-religious organizations that protect their questionable programs as “free speech.” Maybe as more and more of these groups are exposed and debunked, their victims will see the futility of trying to change and embrace their sexuality.

That will also take society to change as well, but luckily it is already happening. Public opinion surveys show more and more Americans affirm the idea of equal rights including marriage for LGBT people.

It is my hope that some day those unhappy people who turned to groups like JONAH will emerge like the biblical Jonah from the whale into the sunlight. Then they can work on frying the bigger fish, accepting their sexuality and enjoying their lives.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens