Groups with ties to John McCain, Billy & Franklin Graham support key sponsors of harshly anti-gay measure
While revelations concerning the role that American conservatives played in spawning Uganda’s “anti-homosexuality bill” have focused largely on Rick Warren, the pastor at California’s Saddleback Church, and groups that offer purported cures for homosexuality, many US right-wing organizations are promoting their ideology in Uganda and across Africa.
“We use the words US conservatives in our report,” said Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest and author of “Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia,” a study by Political Research Associates.
The Massachusetts think tank originally set out to document the influence of African conservatives in the US, but uncovered instead the extensive reach of American right-wingers on that continent.
“This was wider than we originally thought,” Kaoma said at a December 10 press event in Manhattan sponsored by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the global rights group. “Their intention is to convey their conservative ideology… That is what they are doing in Africa wherever they go.”
The report found that US conservatives are using peers in Africa to attack progressive churches in the US. African churches, for example, have joined other conservative churches, including some in the US, in the Anglican Communion to oppose electing openly gay and lesbian bishops in the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion.
The “anti-homosexuality bill,” if enacted, would punish gay men and lesbians with the death penalty or life in prison in some cases. The bill would require doctors, priests, and others to report homosexuals to police. The Ugandan government has said it may remove some of the harsher provisions. (On December 19, <a href=”http://dcagenda.com/2009/12/19/ugandan-president-committed-to-blocking-anti-gay-bill-officials/”>the DC Agenda </a>quoted a US State Department spokesman as saying that the Obama administration has twice received assurances from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni that progress on the measure would be blocked, though a vote in Parliament is widely expected early next year.)
The bill was introduced at the urging of religious conservatives in Uganda, notably Stephen Langa, who heads the Family Life Network in Uganda. Langa has been campaigning against homosexuality, pornography, and other things he views as social ills for years.
Earlier this year, the Network organized a conference on homosexuality in Uganda that drew three Americans — Scott Lively, head of the Abiding Truth Ministries, Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of the International Healing Foundation. Exodus and the Foundation offer purported cures for homosexuality. Lively joined Langa on a 2002 anti-pornography crusade in Uganda, according to reports by Africa News.
All three groups have, to varying degrees, distanced themselves from the “anti-homosexuality bill.” Warren, who was linked to Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who promoted the bill, belatedly rejected the proposed law.
But other right-wing groups associated with the bill’s Ugandan champions have remained entirely silent.
Langa, who did not respond to an email seeking comment, also heads the East Africa Office of the Transforming Nations Alliance (TNA). That group is affiliated with the Arizona-based Disciple Nations Alliance (DNA), a Christian group that promotes a dominionist theology, which seeks to have civil society governed by a politically conservative understanding of the Bible. That same theology is in evidence at Watoto Church in Uganda, where Langa is part of the leadership.
At least two of the sessions at this year’s homosexuality conference were held at the Watoto Church, according to an invitation distributed online by Langa.
Gary Skinner, Watoto’s founder and pastor, said, “We condemn all inhuman practices including homosexuality, prostitution which people are pushing for their legalisation,” in a 2007 interview with the Monitor, a Ugandan news outlet.
Langa and the Watoto Church have been associated with Arizona’s DNA since at least 2000 when Bob Moffitt, a DNA founder, and Scott Allen, a DNA officer, held a conference there. DNA held another conference at the church in 2001.
TNA is also affiliated with Samaritan Strategy Africa, also a DNA affiliate, which has another six coordinators, in addition to Langa, in offices spread throughout Africa.
In December 2006, Darrow Miller, also a DNA founder, posted a letter from Langa on his blog, <a href=”http://darrowmiller.com”>darrowmiller.com</a>, in which Langa wrote that they had convinced the Ugandan Parliament to alter an “Equal Opportunities Bill” because “we discovered that homosexuality had been cleverly disguised in the bill.” Darrow cited this as “an example of a national impact to strengthen the family from our co-laborer and good friend Stephen Langa in Uganda.”
Yet another Arizona Christian charity, Food for the Hungry, is associated with Langa. In its 2007 annual report, that group lists Langa’s Family Life Network and Samaritan Strategy Africa as partners and Langa as an “honorary advisor.”
The Arizona hunger charity gave just under $340,000 to the Watoto church’s child care ministry for “medicine/ machinery/ supplies” in 2008, $70,000 for “medical equipment and supplies” in 2007 when Watoto was known as the Kampala Pentecostal Church, and just over $230,000 in 2006 to the child care ministry. The purpose of the 2006 donation was not listed.
In 2008, the hunger group gave just over $126,000 to DNA. That donation accounted for roughly 20 percent of DNA’s contributions that year.
In an email, a spokesman for the hunger group said they were unaware of the proposed law against homosexuality and of Langa’s political work.
“We can only surmise that Mr. Langa, as an independent Ugandan, holds political views that he has not communicated to our global leadership,” wrote Greg Forney. “Family Life and Samaritan Strategy-Africa are African-led organizations with their own decision-making processes.”
Forney added that the support for Watoto was unrelated to the church’s politics.
“Any grants to Watoto have been solely based on the merits of the ministry’s accredited ability to care wholistically for orphans, something we care about deeply as a relief and development organization that reaches out to the vulnerable and disadvantaged around the world,” Forney wrote.
In a 1999 press release, Ted Yamamori, then the president of Food for the Hungry, noted its relationship with US Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican.
“The McCains are special friends of Food for the Hungry, having long devoted their time, and resources to our programs throughout the world,” Yamamori said.
In 2005, Langa, Ssempa, and several other Ugandan religious leaders were the subjects of an article in Citizen, a magazine published by Focus on the Family, a right-wing group, that praised their work at promoting abstinence-only education in Uganda. Among those mentioned were Samuel Mugote, pastor at the Deliverance Church, a supporter of the “anti-homosexuality bill,” and director of the AIDS Intervention Program.
That program, which is described as a “para-church organisation” on its web site, identifies Samaritan’s Purse as a sponsor. That charity was founded by Reverend Billy Graham and is now run by his son, Franklin Graham. The program is also sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is generally a more liberal denomination.
Scott Long, director of HRW’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, said the anti-gay animus on exhibit in Uganda was imported.
“Hate is not an African value,” he said at the press conference. “The violence and the homophobia that are sweeping Uganda didn’t just develop inside a vacuum. Their roots extend abroad and they trace back here to these shores.”
The other pastors and organizations mentioned in this story did not respond to emails and calls.