Bloody-Handed Evangelicals

In the U.S., the cause of gay and lesbian rights has made major advances in the last few decades. Anti-discrimination laws are in wide effect, including a recently passed federal hate-crime law; marriage equality is already an established reality in several states; and despite setbacks, the now overwhelming tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians among younger generations heralds further progress in the future.

But in spite of these hopeful signs, the hatemongers and bigots of the religious right aren’t giving up. As their cause slowly, but inexorably dries up at home, they’re spreading their poisonous seed to foreign countries where it takes root in more welcoming soil.

Such is the state of affairs in the country of Uganda, where American evangelicals have long enjoyed a disproportionate degree of influence over the government. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda and has been for a long time, but Ugandan religious conservatives have learned from their American counterparts that even an oppressed and politically powerless group can easily be depicted as a menacing enemy in propaganda campaigns intended to stir up fear and hate among their followers. Just such a campaign has led to a proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill“, which threatens to open the floodgates for the state-sanctioned mass murder of gay and lesbian people.

As previously discussed on Daylight Atheism, this bill would imprison homosexuals for life, and in some cases, would establish a crime of “aggravated homosexuality”, which is punishable by death. But what I haven’t discussed as much is the shockingly large role that American evangelicals played, both in the propaganda campaign that led up to it, as well as in the actual drafting of the bill itself. An article from the New York Times from earlier this month has the details, including the names of several key figures:

Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality”…

As the article explains, these missionaries visited Uganda in March 2009, giving a series of talks about how “the gay movement is an evil institution” which seeks to prey on boys, eliminate marriage and replace it with “a culture of sexual promiscuity”. And just a month later, a Ugandan politician introduced the bill, which threatens to punish gays and lesbians with death.

Naturally, these American evangelicals claim they never wanted this outcome and profess shock that anyone could have misconstrued them in this way. But before Western media picked up on it, they were far less reticent:

But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”

Whether Lively and the others knew specifically about the death penalty provision is uncertain – but to claim that they were entirely ignorant of what the government was planning is a claim that strains credulity.

In the face of Western threats to withdraw millions of foreign aid, the Ugandan government has backed down slightly – offering to change the death penalty provision to life imprisonment, as if that was an improvement – but whether the bill will pass, and what its final form will be, are still very much open questions. A hint of the attitude that still prevails comes from the Ugandan minister of ethics and integrity, who recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

If this bill passes, the evangelicals who played a role in its creation will have bloody hands. All their pious pleas of naivete and innocence cannot change what their actions have wrought. They chose to travel to an extremely anti-gay country and try to whip the populace up into a frenzy of hatred and fear. And they profess shock at the outcome, but they shouldn’t be surprised: all that’s happened is that the Ugandan government has taken them at their word and proposed a policy that’s the logical conclusion of their starting premises.

How else did they expect the government to react to claims, like these ones made by Lively, that the gay movement is raping and preying on children, that they’re recruiting and bribing young boys to engage in sexual relationships with older men, that they’re importing pornography “to weaken the moral fiber of the people”, that they want to abolish marriage and replace it with a culture that embraces “sexual anarchy”? They’ve systematically portrayed gays and lesbians as evil deviants defying the law and engaging in a malevolent conspiracy to destroy Ugandan society. Did they really think the Ugandan government would do nothing more than build some Christian therapy centers?

To be absolutely fair, I don’t doubt that Lively and the others are sincere when they claim they weren’t seeking the execution of homosexuals. It’s just that their brand of shrill, hysterical rhetoric is what they’re accustomed to using; in America, it often gets them their way. But in America, this intemperate language is counterbalanced by a strong feminist movement and an effective system of constitutional rights. In Uganda, neither of those things exist; and again, the Ugandan government didn’t treat their speeches as rally-the-troops political posturing, as American politicians and media usually do. Instead, they treated them as literal truth and acted accordingly. This potential theocratic horror is the result.

But this outcome was completely predictable, which is why the American evangelicals will have bloody hands if this bill does pass. If they haven’t acted with malice aforethought, they’ve shown reckless indifference at the very least. Like the right-wing pundits whose deranged rhetoric pushes some of their more unstable followers over the edge, they will bear moral responsibility for whatever may result. (A little more credit, but only a very little, goes to Rick Warren, who after weeks of silence and an onslaught of bad press was finally shamed into offering a grudging condemnation of the bill.)

So, the next time the gay-bashing evangelicals claim to know what’s best – the next time they claim to have moral authority over the rest of us – remember this moment. Remember their bloody hands. Remember their guilt and their responsibility. They’d clearly love for this whole sordid story to be forgotten. That’s an opportunity we should be certain to deny them.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://dsimon.typepad.com/ DSimon

    The minister of ethics and integrity said that a group of his citizens can “forget about human rights”.

    *BAM* Head asplode.

  • http://dsimon.typepad.com/ DSimon

    (Er, to be clear, that’s my head asploding due to the sheer hypocrisy of that jackasshole, not me advocating that said jackasshole should have his head asploded.)

  • Nathaniel

    “To be absolutely fair, I don’t doubt that Lively and the others are sincere when they claim they weren’t seeking the execution of homosexuals. It’s just that their brand of shrill, hysterical rhetoric is what they’re accustomed to using; in America, it often gets them their way. But in America, this intemperate language is counterbalanced by a strong feminist movement and an effective system of constitutional rights. In Uganda, neither of those things exist; and again, the Ugandan government didn’t treat their speeches as rally-the-troops political posturing, as American politicians and media usually do. Instead, they treated them as literal truth and acted accordingly.”

    But, but, you don’t get it! I know that we say that Gays are filthy disease spreading deviants who are going to be destroy the country, but how could we expect those ignorant brown people would take us at our word? People in America know that what we mean is that gays should acknowledge how horrible all that butt-sects they do is, and how much better we are for never even thinking about that awful, disgusting, dirty butt-sects is with big, muscle bound guys like my neighbor Chad. Ugandan’s need to get with the program. It’s about sending us money and feeling superior, not actually trying to actually do anything about the pink menace. Geez.

  • keddaw

    “…they’re recruiting and bribing young boys to engage in sexual relationships with older men”

    Sounds remarkably like the Catholic Church.

  • Ritchie

    To be absolutely fair, I don’t doubt that Lively and the others are sincere when they claim they weren’t seeking the execution of homosexuals.

    I damn well do!!!

  • Dan

    They’d clearly love for this whole sordid story to be forgotten.

    I don’t think that’s true at all. The radical religious right is going to revel in their “success” in Uganda and feel empowered to push a similar agenda in the US. They’ll have more of an uphill road in the US, but that won’t stop them.

    Rick Warren’s dissembling is disingenuous at best. You can bet that behind the scenes, he’s glad Lively and his ilk are taking the heat for something he supports with all his faith.

  • 2-D Man

    Rick Warren’s dissembling is disingenuous at best. You can bet that behind the scenes, he’s glad Lively and his ilk are taking the heat for something he supports with all his faith.

    I don’t think that’s true. I haven’t heard a damn thing about gay people from Warren that wasn’t disingenuous at best. That includes his condemnations and his retractions. I’m fairly convinced that the guy looks at the issue and applies a cold, if inaccurate, calculus summing up to “How does Rick do” before saying anything.

    Maybe I’m just cynical.

    Of course, I thought the “forget about human rights” bit was a sarcastic comment from a rational person, pointing out that the government of any nation shouldn’t be doing this.

    So maybe I’m not cynical. Maybe I just don’t like Rick Warren for only being consistent about his inconsistencies.

  • Polly

    First the witches, now this. Is it time to start batting around the word “Christofaschism”?

    Ugandans, guys, WTF?! A few of our nutters go over there and you decide to kill all teh gayz?! Don’t you have any sales-resistance?

    Imagine if we tried to sell them time-shares and home-gym-equipment or other equally useless crap. I think their economy would implode.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com/ Steve Bowen

    Time shares are expensive, but in Uganda apparently life is cheap. We shouldn’t be supporting any government that legislates for capital punishment, let alone one that considers it appropriate for being gay.

  • Nathaniel

    This mess in Uganda has provoked some thinking on my part on the difference between anti gay words and action in this country. A evangelical will hear a sermon condemning gays as Satanic perverts who are actively working to destroy the nation and are coming after your children. After the sermon is done, the evangelical will leave and go to lunch. They’ll then head home and relax after the mid day repast, and perhaps watch the news.

    What I’m trying to get at is that many evangelicals seem to fervently believe such nonsense, but their actions contradict their words. They seem content to live ordinary lives as though the country wasn’t being destroyed, as though going to a few rallies and sending money to the right evangelical organizations is enough to stem the Satanic pink menace. People in this country seem to instinctively know that panicked anti gay rhetoric is to be taken with a grain of salt, that its okay to simply feel superior to those sodomites rather than actually act as though there is A Great Threat To Our Nation.

    The Ugandan’s, on the other hand, have not absorbed such lessons of American politics. When they heard these evangelicals about this threat to the security of the nations morals and to its children, they acted to mitigate this “threat.” They simply don’t get it. Verbal gay bashing is about an easy way to feel superior and money raising, not about anything, you know, serious.

  • Paul

    Speaking of the Uganda issue, Ebonmuse, have you seen Bill Gates’s interview with the Seattle times? http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thebusinessofgiving/2010886633_bill_gates_goes_public.html

    Q: Looking at health efforts in Africa, such as HIV prevention and treatment, are you concerned about the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill, and have you spoken to anyone there about it?

    A: The spread of AIDS is a huge problem and obviously we’re very involved. I talk in my letter about the great success with this male circumcision effort, and preventative drug trials. There’s a tendency to think in the U.S. just because a law says something that it’s a big deal. In Africa if you want to talk about how to save lives, it’s not just laws that count. There’s a stigma no matter what that law says, for sex workers, men having sex with men, that’s always been a problem for AIDS. It relates to groups that aren’t that visible. AIDS itself is subject to incredible stigma. Open involvement is a helpful thing. I wouldn’t overly focus on that. In terms of how many people are dying in Africa, it’s not about the law on the books; it’s about getting the message out and the new tools.

    Emphasis mine. It’s not just the evangelicals that are causing harm here. It’s creepy: he won’t condemn the legislation because the important thing is “getting the message out”, even though it sends entirely the wrong message (heterosexual women are more at risk for HIV infection in Africa than gay men) and calls for death for homosexuals in consensual relationships (as opposed to the heterosexuals that rape virgins and children because of the myth that it is a cure for HIV). If a message is what is important, that message should be counteracting the Catholic Church’s lies about condoms, as well as the unrealistic folk wisdom about how to prevent or cure HIV.

    This is not meant to excuse the evangelicals with blood on their hands, of course. But I doubt anyone is going to argue that in the comments.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Ebonmuse wrote:

    They’d clearly love for this whole sordid story to be forgotten. That’s an opportunity we should be certain to deny them.

    I’m glad that you followed up on this, for this very reason. Thanks.

  • CybrgnX

    Uganda is a good example where ‘magic’ of any sort is BS that causes lots of trouble.
    So long as people live in extreme poverty and ignorance they will listen to ‘magic men’ of all types. I have found that most people will go with the solution that requires no thinking. Science requires thinking-organization-cooperation-manufacturing-distribution, etc to solve a major problem.
    Magical solutions only require acceptance-fear-hate-transfer of blame-and hopefully some bloody killing.
    Which do you think is easier? Working is optional.

  • Mark

    I’m thinking that Mssrs. Lively, Brundidge, and Schmierer are most likely (surreptitiously) practicing homosexuals themselves. That just seems to be the rule with the loudest critics of homosexuality. It’s such a pity they can’t just man up (no pun intended) about it, get on with their lives, and leave everyone else the hell alone. Guys – it’s ok, it really is…

  • JulietEcho

    Excellent summary, and an eloquent condemnation of people who acted recklessly and hatefully and are now trying to shirk any responsibility.

  • ArtyB

    I don’t know whether to call the acts of these religious leaders ironic or just plain disgusting. Ironic because on the one hand they preach about loving your neighbor as yourself and refraining from murdering “anyone”, and on the other their actions call for the hating and killing of homosexuals. Love your neighbor as yourself; however, hate the homosexual like there is no tomorrow is what they seem t be really preaching.
    Their behaviors are disgusting because their actions could potentially incite vigilantism in the community. Africa doesn’t need any more conflicts.

  • Katie M

    “As the article explains, these missionaries visited Uganda in March 2009, giving a series of talks about how “the gay movement is an evil institution” which seeks to prey on boys, eliminate marriage and replace it with “a culture of sexual promiscuity”. And just a month later, a Ugandan politician introduced the bill, which threatens to punish gays and lesbians with death.

    Naturally, these American evangelicals claim they never wanted this outcome and profess shock that anyone could have misconstrued them in this way.”

    Oh my, I only traveled to Uganda to tell them that gays are agents of Satan, and now I’m being blamed for them wanting to put homosexuals to death. The liberal media at work again!

    Thank you for following up on this, Ebonmuse.

  • Dan

    Nathaniel said:

    People in this country seem to instinctively know that panicked anti gay rhetoric is to be taken with a grain of salt, that its okay to simply feel superior to those sodomites rather than actually act as though there is A Great Threat To Our Nation.

    Some people get that it’s just rhetoric, but that rhetoric endlessly repeated from the pulpits creates an environment where anti-gay violence is tacitly condoned or even encouraged. And there will always be insecure guys who want to beat up gays and lesbians for fun, or to prove their own “manliness” in the face of their own sexual insecurities. Remember Matthew Shepherd.

  • TommyP

    Poor Ugandan gays. They must be living a nightmare right now.

  • Penguin_Factory

    This is why people should always be encouraged to view the world in the most realistic and sober way as possible, and why rationality and skepticism are so important. Abandoning realism to rhetoric and propoganda leads directly to crazy shit like this- look at any case of genocide over the years and it will always be preceded and accompanied by a campaign of demonization against the target group. That’s how you get people into a state where they’re willing to condemn innocent people to death and imprisonment, convince them that Group X poses a real, imminent threat to the safety of The People and that they need to be destroyed.

    I do agree that the evangelicals involved are genuine when they claim not to have wanted this to happen, but they’re still guilty of dishonesty. They know full well that their mad claims about homosexuals aren’t true (I have never seen even a shred of supporting evidence for any of them) but they’re making them anyway. You can’t claim homosexuals are a threat to a nation’s children and then act surprised when the populace over-reacts.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    They know full well that their mad claims about homosexuals aren’t true (I have never seen even a shred of supporting evidence for any of them) but they’re making them anyway.

    As a good illustration of this, note that Lively is also the author of a book called The Pink Swastika which claims that homosexuals were the architects of the Holocaust. How on earth he reconciles this with the fact that the Nazis included homosexuals as part of their Final Solution is something I’m almost curious to know, if I thought I’d have the stomach to read garbage like this.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The Nazis, who were secretly a madhomo-cabal (hence the fancy uniforms and love of parades), also killed “the gays” because “the gays” are so self-loathing, convicted by their own hearts of not serving the Lord.
    Geez, Ebonmuse, it’s like you’ve never readed history or something.

  • Nathaniel

    Dan said:

    Some people get that it’s just rhetoric, but that rhetoric endlessly repeated from the pulpits creates an environment where anti-gay violence is tacitly condoned or even encouraged. And there will always be insecure guys who want to beat up gays and lesbians for fun, or to prove their own “manliness” in the face of their own sexual insecurities. Remember Matthew Shepherd.

    I do know the reality of hate crimes and gay bashing, but I get the feeling that people such as the guy who killed Matthew Shepherd are sick people who would have done something like that anyways, if not to gays then to blacks, if not blacks then to women, etc. My statement still applies to a majority of the population.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Modus, you are queen or king of comments, across the blogosphere! You always warm my heart, bring a smile to my face. You are my laughter and my sunshine!

  • Polly

    And I thought it’d be nice and encouraging to tell Modus, “you crack me up.”

    But, Mathew Wilder, you are the King of Blogorific compliments! :)

  • Mathew Wilder

    Ha ha. Thanks! Sorry to de-rail this thread into a circle jerk of compliments, but Polly that cracked me up. Your comments are great too! I mean that sincerely. I always enjoy your thoughtful replies (and I think a compliment to me is included in that category! lol ;)

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    If you think I’m great over the internet, you should be me. Then you (as me) would see me in person. One word: fantastic!

    I should point out that my comment wasn’t entirely in jest. While (secret) homoNazis persecuting their own kind may seem crazy to the casual observer, one should note the less severe version of the exact same thing over the last 30+ years from America’s (secret) homoRight, specifically the (secret) homovangelicals and the (secret) homopublicans*

    *Note the considerable overlap between the two (secret) homogroups. You could say that, at this point, they’re virtually homogeneous. I wouldn’t. That would move my already low bar from using simple, repetitive wordplay for emphasis to a pun, and puns are the lowest form of humour. I do have standards, y’know.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I should illuminate my previous aside by pointing out that the logical leap from “self-hating members of a persecuted group zealously persecuting others in their own group” to “self-hating members of a persecuted group partitioning Poland and gassing six million Jews” is the giant gulf from “rational conclusion based on admittedly incomplete evidence, both historical and present” to “putting on a tinfoil cap to keep the voices away”.
    Pointing out that some people are willing to stick it to their in-group (or, as is occasionally the case with, say, former smokers to smoker) is considerably different than libelous gay-baiting by blaming homosexuals for the Holocaust.

  • Leum

    As a good illustration of this, note that Lively is also the author of a book called The Pink Swastika which claims that homosexuals were the architects of the Holocaust. How on earth he reconciles this with the fact that the Nazis included homosexuals as part of their Final Solution is something I’m almost curious to know, if I thought I’d have the stomach to read garbage like this.

    From what I’ve heard, he says the Nazis were against effeminate gay people, not the manly sort. Oh, and could you please not call us homosexuals, as the term’s been appropriated by the right to make us sound diseased. It’s not horribly offensive or anything, but it’s not a term disliked by most of the community.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Leum: Abandoning words just because somebody tries to use them for his own nefarious purposes is arguing from a position of weakness, not strength. You don’t win an argument or change minds by letting your opponent redefine what words mean.
    If we gave up every word stolen by the Right because they redefined it to mean “diseased”, we’d have to find new words for pretty much everything we believe in or support.
    I, for example am a vaguely “socialist” “progressive” “liberal” “atheist” who “reads” “books” on “history” and “science” and, occasionally “listens” to “NPR” or watches “PBS”. I like those words. They can’t have them. I want them back.
    Giving up words just gives them more words to use against you.

  • Leum

    Except that “homosexual” has never had positive connotations. At best they’ve been clinical. Considering that we have a perfectly good word that we choose to use, a word that is hated by the right, “gay,” there’s really no reason to use “homosexual.”

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com/ Steve Bowen

    Yes Leum, but you’re in danger of losing “gay” to the younger generation where it now has the connotation of “lame” or “sad” or generally an inferior thing. Language changes. At least Homosexual is a definition with a coherent etymology which we can agree on a meaning for, just like heterosexual. We don’t have to make value judgments based on them though.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I second the extravagant praise for Modus. :)

    Leum: I wasn’t aware that “homosexual” has negative connotations, but thanks for setting me straight. I had thought it could be used as an umbrella term, since “gay” is generally applied mostly to men.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    This comes up at a time when I am looking for a website that actively de-constructs homophobia. Can anyone suggest such a site? Something with a Q&A or Myth/Fact motif. For example, “Myth: Homosexuals are many times more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexuals…Fact: [deconstruction goes here][sources and references here].” That sort of thing.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    I’m a bit late but, Jim, facts about homosexuality and molestation illuminates the reality (which isn’t the reality the anti-gay brigade uses) behind that particular anti-gay smear.

  • Katie M

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/05/matata_sana_stop_the_kill_the.php

    The bill is apparently going to be voted on very soon. It’s likely to pass. The article has a link to a petition to try and stop it.

    “So, next time you drive by one of those suburban Mega-churches that are today’s legacy of the age old practice of funding missionaries to Africa … well, perhaps you’ll make a gesture of some kind.”

    Will do.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Thanks for the update, Katie. Here’s the direct link to the petition – please sign it if you can. Another very important step, I’d say, is to write to your senators and representatives and urge them to cut off aid to Uganda if they pass this horrible bill.

  • Katie M

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ugandas-anti-gay-bill-disappears-from-parliaments-agenda-after-global-outcry-against-bill/2011/05/11/AF1tkdoG_story.html

    “Uganda’s parliament on Wednesday was forced to drop plans to debate a controversial bill that once proposed the death penalty for some gays and lesbians, but officials indicated lawmakers would debate it on Friday.”

    It seems we’ve succeeded in merely delaying it. That’s not good enough.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Well, we’ve had a temporary victory:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/world/africa/14uganda.html