Andy Kopsa, a terrific investigative reporter who briefly worked with my former employer, the American Independent News Network, has a long piece in the Nation about how the Obama administration has continued funneling huge amounts of money to Christian right organizations under the faith-based partnership programs, funds they use to proselytize and spread false medical information.
Much of that money has gone to organizations that purport to help prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa, but the money is used to tell people not to use condoms and that Jesus will heal them.
It’s not as if advocates haven’t sounded the alarm to administration officials. On that September 2012 call, participants raised concerns about other US-funded groups besides the Inter-Religious Council, notably the Children’s AIDS Fund (CAF), an American organization, led by the husband-and-wife team Shepherd and Anita Smith, that operates in Uganda.
The Smiths got their start working with Watergate crook Chuck Colson and his evangelical prison ministry; later, Shepherd ran Pat Robertson’s 1988 presidential campaign. They took on AIDS as their mission in the 1980s, fashioning what they saw as a love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin approach that focused on ministering to the sick, particularly children. Over time, they would articulate a more fulsome conservative evangelical approach to AIDS centered around praying people out of homosexuality, abstinence-only education, virginity pledges and robust criticism of condoms, laid out in their 1990 book Christians in the Age of AIDS. Even in recent years, Shepherd has pounced on modest failure rates to denounce condom efficacy against HIV.
“The first evangelical ministries to see AIDS and respond were those already in place in the gay community, helping heal sexual brokenness and bring gays out of their lifestyles,” the book reads. The Smiths go on to caution Christians against buying into “society’s attempts to make homosexuality an acceptable alterative lifestyle.”
Despite lacking any medical background, Shepherd and Anita were embraced by Bush officials: Shepherd was appointed as an AIDS advisor to the CDC, Anita was the co-chair of the presidential advisory council on HIV and AIDS, and Shepherd’s nonprofit, the Institute for Youth Development, was one of the first groups ever to receive funding through Bush’s faith-based initiatives. In 2004, a review panel determined CAF unsuitable for funding due to “outstanding technical issues.” In a memo to USAID officials, Representative Henry Waxman, then ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee, wrote that the funding of CAF was so out of bounds that it “raises serious concerns about the integrity of the PEPFAR grant review process.”
Yet CAF has received at least $45 million in since then through direct PEPFAR grants, and still more as a third-party grantee, subcontracting with Catholic Relief Services, for example. As recently as February of this year, CAF received $1 million for its New Hope clinic in Kampala.
Kopsa visited that clinic two years ago and documented that they do not teach about condom use at all and that the clinic is full of material that tells people to trust Jesus. And it gets worse:
In a 2001 speech to the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America (CWA), Anita said, “What we have here is a power struggle between homosexual white men who abuse all the government AIDS programs fundamentally to fund their subculture and their political activities.” And the Smiths continue to align themselves with right-wing “pro-family” organizations. In 2011, for example, the Smiths were featured speakers at the Moscow Demographic Summit, sponsored by the anti-gay World Congress of Families, where the couple spoke alongside representatives of CWA; the Population Research Institute, which promotes the threat of a “demographic winter” if white Christians don’t reproduce in greater numbers; and the Family Research Council. In Uganda, the couple became close allies of Pastor Martin Ssempa, best known for his public condom burnings and anti-gay diatribes, who strongly pushed the anti-homosexuality bill. In 2004, Ssempa became a PEPFAR subgrantee. The Smiths’ support helped his work get noticed in Washington, and in 2005 he testified on Capitol Hill.
Ssempa is an absolutely deranged bigot who has called on his followers to kill gay people and demanded a law to do exactly that. And he gets money from American taxpayers to push his vile agenda. Obama promised to fix these things but it’s clear that has not happened.