If U.S. evangelicals don’t denounce the new law, then they share responsibility for the evil committed.
Anyone who saw the movie "The Last King of Scotland" knows at least a little about Uganda, or more specifically, it’s former dictator, Idi Amin.
Amin was capricious, brutal and staunchly militaristic and feared by his supporters and detractors alike. Rumors about Amin abound, including stories of cannibalism, so it’s no surprise his record on human rights was somewhat lacking.
But Amin is long gone now, and Uganda seemed to be on a bumpy road to better days. But not for gay men.
Current President Yoweri Museveni has been arguably better than Amin. But he is still no friend of gays. In fact, a pending law titled the "Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009" has chilling provisions.
Current law in Uganda makes homosexuality a crime punishable by life in prison. The new law goes a step further: All HIV-positive gay men are condemned to death.
Gay men who have been accused as "repeat offenders" are punished by death. Anyone who knows a gay man but fails to report him to the government can be imprisoned for three years. The same penalty is indicated for people knowing transgendered people, lesbians or bisexuals and not informing the government. I can safely say Uganda will not be in the "Damron’s Guide" anytime soon. But there are larger issues.
Our government, in response to this and other human rights abuses has told Uganda, "If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda. We urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention."
To which Uganda’s Ethics Minister James Buturo responded, "They have come to me in great numbers, and we are discussing it diplomatically, but we are also telling them to mind their own business."
I know many folks would be tempted to just walk away and shake their head saying, "Well, it’s Uganda’s problem."
But here is the catch. The guy who introduced that horrible law is sponsored and guided by American hands.
According to "The Family," a new book by Jeff Sharlet, the same folks pushing the Anti-Homosexuality Law also are members of the team organizing the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast. That group gets money and guidance from powerful fundamentalists in the U.S.
Sound crazy? It does until you check out the connections between this group and foreign governments.
David Kuo, former special assistant in George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and a former member of The Family, says, "The reach into governments around the world is almost impossible to overstate or even grasp."
This group is also known as "The Fellowship," and several of its members have been involved in sex scandals in Washington, D.C., including the "C Street Center" residents Sen. John Ensign and Congressman Chip Pickering.
Author Sharlet, in an interview on NPR, summed up the activities of this allegedly Christian group with the following: "… the very people — America’s elected officials who believe in human rights — we would expect to pressure Uganda’s lawmakers not to make such a bill law are turning out to be its biggest supporters."
So what can we do?
First we can write our representatives and senators and suggest that trade with Uganda be halted. Currently we do approximately $141 million in two-way trade with the country.
Next, we can ask that our diplomatic relations with this country be suspended as a signal that we mean business.
What the Ugandan government is proposing is effectively genocide for LGBT people in their country. They seek to destroy or imprison all LGBT people and their friends and relatives.
This is not only unacceptable, but inhumane, and so we must also demand that our spiritual leaders condemn this activity as well.
And that brings me to Pastor Rick Warren. You remember him? The homophobic guy who gave the invocation at the inaugural?
He was asked point-blank on "Meet the Press" if he condemned the Ugandan law and he replied, "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides."
Of course, he has encouraged Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who is one of the endorsers of the Anti-Homosexual law by having him as a guest speaker at his church!
If I sound like I am upset, it’s because I am. What upsets me most is that our country’s leaders, both spiritual and governmental, have not spoken out. It seems obvious that they will not speak out, either, unless we encourage them to.
"Drat! You mean we are going to have to write or call politicians and other leaders and actually demand that they do this?"
I ask the rhetorical question: If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
That question was asked by Rabbi Hillel almost 20 centuries ago when he said, "If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I care only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?"
It’s a question we should ask ourselves on a regular basis.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 4, 2009.