09 Feb

U.S. pastors are exporting bigotry to Uganda, with brutal results.

Dear The McGlynn,

Frank Mugisha
Frank Mugisha 

I’ve heard some Ugandans falsely cite a “study” that one in four homosexual men have sex with children. This view is no accident. It’s pure propaganda straight from the most extreme parts of the American right wing.

Is it any wonder that we are beaten, and attacked, and raped? Is it shocking that our own government sanctions cruelty and murder? With such hate flooding in from overseas, is it any surprise that gay Ugandans who dare to speak up – like my friend David Kato – have lost their lives?

I have seen the ugly extremism of a few anti-gay Americans, but I have also witnessed kindness and courage from many more. Hundreds joined me this week in vigils for the Ugandan dead. And my friends at the Human Rights Campaign tell me that since they sent the message below more than 36,000 of you have signed a petition calling on radical American pastors to stop exporting hate abroad. I cannot tell you how much I thank you.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, I hope you will do so now. To all those who have raised their voice already, I hope you will continue to fight by passing on the message below to your friends and family. Thousands of Ugandans are counting on you.

We simply want our neighbors to understand that gay and lesbian Ugandans deserve dignity and respect. My organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda, has fought the “kill the gays” bill and will continue to advocate for the freedom to be who we are. But we need your help to stop American extremists who are making our struggle so much harder.

Thank you for speaking up.

– Frank Mugisha

Human Rights Campaign

Dear The McGlynn,

Stop exporting hate.

Stand with HRC’s Religion and Faith program. Tell American right-wingers to stop hateful proselytizing in Africa.

This is an issue close to my heart, because I’ve spent over a decade working for equality as a lay leader in my own church, and now, as acting director of HRC’s Religion and Faith program – which helps religious leaders of all stripes speak out for equality and fight back when hatred is promoted in the name of religion.

On Thursday, that perversion of faith cost Ugandan gay rights advocate David Kato his life. He was bludgeoned to death in his home after his name was among those listed in an anti-gay magazine, under the headline “Hang them!”

Since at least 2009, radical U.S. Christian missionaries have added anti-gay conferences and workshops in Uganda to their anti-gay efforts in the U.S. – and now they’re beginning to ordain ministers and build churches across East Africa focused almost entirely on preaching against homosexuality.

These American extremists didn’t call for David’s death. But they created a climate of hate that breeds violence – and they must stop and acknowledge they were wrong.

We’ll deliver your signature to three men who have gone out of their way to promote hatred:

  • Scott Lively of Massachusetts held an anti-gay conference in Uganda with two other U.S. pastors. A few months later, a bill was introduced in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable by death.
  • Lou Engle, a Missouri preacher whose rallies draw tens of thousands in the U.S., spoke at a rally in Uganda this year that focused on praying for the bill’s passage. (Engle claims not to support some parts of the bill, but internal documents show he came to speak about “the threat of homosexuality,” and defend the Ugandan government’s efforts to “curb the growth of the vice using the law.”)
  • And Carl Ellis Jenkins of Georgia is presiding over a group that’s opening 50 new churches in Uganda to “help clean up bad morals, including homosexuality” according to his staff.

They have been stirring up hostility in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, violent attacks are common, rape is used to ‘cure’ people of their sexual orientation – and a shocking law has been proposed that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death.

And they’re in lockstep with some of the largest and wealthiest right-wing groups in the U.S. When the U.S. Congress considered a resolution denouncing the grotesque Ugandan death-penalty-for-gays bill, the extreme-right Family Research Council – now classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – spent $25,000 lobbying to stop the resolution from passing.

Religion should never be used to spread hate. These men do not speak for me or the millions of diverse religious people who support equality not in spite of our faith, but because of it.

That’s what our Religion and Faith program is all about: helping people of faith from all different traditions speak out so we can reclaim the core religious values we hold dear in America.

At the heart of every religious tradition is love of humanity and love of creator – not hatred for our neighbors. Creating a climate of hate runs contrary to the very idea of faith – but that’s exactly what the right wing in America is doing.

Whether or not we’re people of faith, we cannot stay silent or stand idly by while a radical minority pushes a hateful agenda in God’s name. Please stand with us and speak out today.

Sharon Groves
Religion and Faith Program

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