The Southern Poverty Law Center has a new report about a bevy of American religious right groups and the fact that they often work in other countries to support the continued criminalization of homosexuality. Uganda is the most famous case, but it’s happening in many other countries as well.
In places like Uganda, where legislators since 2009 have been pushing a law that would impose the death penalty for the Orwellian offense of “aggravated homosexuality,” U.S. religious ideologues have given aid and comfort to the authors of barbaric legislation. More and more, they are doing the same in other countries around the globe.
Now, this international battle over the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws has moved to Belize, a Central American country where the government and an array of far-right religious forces are defending the draconian statute known as Section 53, which punishes same-sex “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with 10 years in prison. Though Belize is tiny, the battle has attracted numerous American groups — including the prominent Christian legal powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — on the pro-criminalization side, providing advice to anti-gay bigots in Belize.
The ADF is a serious organization. Founded in 1994 by 30 prominent Christian leaders in response to what they saw as “growing attacks on religious freedom,” the organization has an annual budget of more than $30 million, a staff of 44 in-house lawyers and 2,200 allied lawyers. Its board is stacked with luminaries not only from the religious right, but also with partners from powerful law firms and captains of industry.
The ADF believes that religious freedom is under attack worldwide. It has in recent years built an international legal network and placed staffers overseas because it sees “a risk of winning a domestic battle while potentially — in time — losing the world.” Its website states that it is active in 31 foreign countries and describes a number of global initiatives. But it makes no mention of its criminalization work.There is great hypocrisy here. Surely such work, providing legal or other counsel to keep a law on the books that lands gay people in jail for consensual sex, violates the oft-stated principle of the religious right that their theology teaches to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Perhaps that is why neither the ADF, nor any of the other American religious groups involved in Belize, say a word about their involvement in the Belize case on their websites. They also refuse to speak to the press about the case.
Their work is fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred that already exists in many of the countries where they are injecting themselves. As in Uganda, American groups have been propagandizing about the “recruitment” of young schoolchildren, the allegedly depraved and diseased lives of LGBT people, the pedophilia that is supposedly common among gay men, and the destruction of Christianity and the institution of marriage that they seem certain ending anti-LGBT laws will lead to. This vicious propaganda, born and bred by American ideologues, has found fertile soil across the globe.
Just ten years ago, the Supreme Court overturned state laws that put gay people in jail for the “crime” of being gay. That decision was greeted with all the usual right-wing rhetoric about “black-robed tyrants” and “judicial activism.” Most anti-gay organizations in the US maintain to this day that the Supreme Court was wrong and that gay people should still face official punishment, but that is no longer possible here so they’ve turned their attention to other countries.
But remember, they don’t hate gay people and they aren’t bigots. They just want to ruin their lives and put them in prison, that’s all. Gosh, why would anyone think they’re bigots?