East Texas pastor is caught on tape backing ‘Kill The Gays’ bill during trip to Uganda, then returns to U.S. and claims he doesn’t know what it says

PREACHING HATE | The Rev. David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, is shown speaking in support of the Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the country’s national NTV.

The Rev. David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, was in Uganda last week for a pastors conference where he managed to get himself on national television. “I’m extremely upset,” he told NTV, “that our State Department is putting pressure on Uganda to recognize homosexual behavior. And I’m praying that Uganda will say, ‘We don’t want your money, America. It is blood money. It is sin money.’ I hope that you will continue to stand strong on what the Bible defines as the definition of a real marriage.”

Of course, the pressing issue in Uganda is not same-sex marriage. Since 2009, they’ve been debating whether to hang gay people or just send them to prison for life. Right now, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill calls for the former if you’re HIV-positive, your partner is disabled, or you’re a “repeat offender” — and who isn’t, really? The so-called “Kill the Gays” bill would also imprison family members, doctors, landlords, lawyers, and anyone else who would assist or provide services to LGBT people, or who would “promote” homosexuality by not reporting them to police. Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga announced last month that she would ensure the bill’s passage as “a Christmas present for Uganda,” but last week Parliament adjourned until February without acting on it.

President Obama called the bill “odious,” and Secretary of State Clinton announced that nearly half a billion dollars in aid would be leveraged to protect LGBT people from this fate. I don’t know if those threats got Parliament’s attention, but they certainly put Dykes’ panties in a twist. Because, to him, working to avert a human rights catastrophe is “recognizing homosexual behavior,” and if Ugandans declined to kill or imprison gay people, they’re accepting “blood money.”

And that was unacceptable. “In America, Christians are going to put as much pressure as we can on our government not to cut the aid to Uganda over this issue,” he told Ugandans. And if the U.S. does cut funding, he promised that American Christians would make up the difference. “We hope to stand alongside the believers of Uganda during this time of crisis.”

Maybe Dykes thought that as long as he was 8,400 miles from home, nobody would find out what he said. But Uganda has the Internet and NTV has a YouTube channel. And now that we’ve heard what he said, he’s trying to walk it back. On Tuesday, he told a Tyler TV station he had no desire to kill gay people. “I’ve never read the bill. I don’t know what the bill says. My whole point was that I think it’s not right for our government to put pressure on any government about their moral decisions.”

That’s bullshit. If Uganda was making a moral decision about hanging or imprisoning Christians, you can bet that Dykes would be singing a very different tune.

And his claims of not knowing about the bill are astonishing. I’ve been following the bill very closely for three years now, which is why I have set up automated Google alerts to notify me about every news story about Uganda and homosexuality. I can assure you that whenever any news outlet, foreign or domestic, talks about homosexuality in Uganda, it always mentions the bill and describes what it does. And every statement, every discussion, every op-ed and news item about homosexuality in Uganda for the past three years uses the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a reference point.

But Dykes claims not to know about it. Which is staggering, because he’s not just some small-fry preacher from the East Texas sticks. He’s a big wheel, both at his 14,000-member megachurch and in missionary work generally. In 2008, the Southern Baptist Convention recognized him for raising nearly $13 million for foreign missions, and his church sponsors a group that specifically trains Ugandan pastors — which is why he was in Uganda last week.

But he would have us believe that he never read a newspaper article, never saw a TV report and never heard about the debate that has been raging there for the past three years. He would also have us believe that the whole time he was at that pastors conference in Uganda, the No. 1 subject on homosexuality — the anti-gay bill — somehow never came up. And he would have us believe that he just happened to be standing in front of a TV crew from Uganda’s largest independent network when he blurted out, apropos of nothing, that Uganda should refuse U.S. aid money rather than “recognize homosexual behavior” by not killing gay people.

I don’t believe any of that, and here’s why. If he really believes that gay people shouldn’t be hanged or imprisoned for life, and if he really doesn’t want their families jailed for not reporting their loved ones to police, then he should say so — to Ugandans, over there, and not to a TV station in Tyler.

Because I don’t think many Ugandans get CBS 19 on basic cable. Right now, they believe that he supports the “Kill the Gays” bill because they saw him denouncing efforts to fight it on national TV. And if they pass it and begin rounding up LGBT people, they’ll be taking him up on his offer of blood money.

Jim Burroway is a former Dallasite living in Tucson where he blogs at Box Turtle Bulletin. He can be reached at [email protected]

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 21, 2012.