Can I get a (Ugandan) witness?

questionNews Flash: The New York Times believes that a small group of powerful U.S. evangelicals are forcing Ugandan policy makers into something they didn’t already want to do. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the front page article from yesterday on the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. The dateline says Kampala, but the article appears to be strung together from blog posts and could have been written from Antarctica.

Starting at the top, reporter Jeffrey Gettleman spends three paragraphs on a conference in March on “the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.” Wait for it. He’s setting us up to demonstrate how these evangelicals are the reason why Ugandans are considering a bill on homosexuality. But where’s the proof?

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

The summary of the bill completely glosses over the details. The bill does not impose a death sentence for just any homosexual behavior; it is for those who have homosexual sex with minors, the disabled or while being HIV-positive. That doesn’t erase many of questions people are asking about this bill, but that kind of information is called context, my friends. The next paragraph, though, is where the reporter made his first mistake.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

There is no indication that the reporter attempted to contact this “previously unknown Ugandan politican.” This is like journalism 101, folks. You contact the people you write about, right? His name is David Bahati, and the reporter should have asked him whether evangelicals prompted this legislation. There’s a audio feature that includes quotes from Bahati, but the interviews are not very compelling and do not shed any light on the legislation.

Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

Why does this reporter choose to not include the names of the people he’s writing about? Where and in what context did Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, make this statement about homosexuals?

The Ugandan government, facing the prospect of losing millions in foreign aid, is now indicating that it will back down, slightly, and change the death penalty provision to life in prison for some homosexuals. But the battle is far from over.

Instead, Uganda seems to have become a far-flung front line in the American culture wars, with American groups on both sides, the Christian right and gay activists, pouring in support and money as they get involved in the broader debate over homosexuality in Africa.

It still appears at though the reporter did not contact anyone in the government about the legislation. Why can’t The New York Times act more like Bloomberg, which did reporting based on interviews indicating that the supporters of the bill may drop the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Also, how are American groups on both sides? Have you seen any American groups in favor of this legislation? Where does this reporter get his information that the Christian right is pouring support and money into the debate? He found a gay rights activist to quote, but it appears that he couldn’t find someone on the Christian right to quote. Strange, don’t you think?

The story notes that strict civil laws opposing homosexuality are common in many African nations. Someone needs to ask if the more powerful legal force on the continent — take the battles inside Nigeria that the reporter mentions, for example — is Sharia law, as interpreted by many, but not all, Muslims. The Sharia factor is a powerful influence, but certainly not the only one.

Towards the end, the reporter returns to those American evangelicals who spoke at the conference back in March. What’s interesting is that the story quotes a board member of Exodus International who says he “feels duped” and had no idea Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty.

So how again is he being connected to the legislation? The reporter writes, “But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill.” Why not quote any of them? The only person the reporter quotes connecting evangelicals to the legislation is a Zambian who apparently chronicled the relationship between the bill and American evangelicals. If the bill is in any way linked to the work of U.S. evangelicals, someone in Uganda should be able to verify that, right? But no one in the story verifies this. How can the entire story hinge on a connection with no proof?

The story then brings the Rev. Rick Warren into it. Why is Warren relevant, you ask? Here’s what’s written:

Some of the best known Christian personalities have recently passed through here, often bringing with them anti-homosexuality messages, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who visited in 2008 and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia.

Anyone else miss the connection between a bill proposed by Ugandans to a pastor from California who visited at one time and on a separate occasion he said something else about another issue linked to homosexuality? What did Warren said, on the record? What is the source of this quote? We went over this before. If there’s reason to connect Warren or other evangelicals to this legislation, reporters must find better links. Again, this Times article seems to have been based on information from blogs.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Calling Gettleman a reporter is giving him too much credit.

  • tmatt


    Don’t settle for a cheap shot.

    Please provide links to other stories or online commentaries on his work to try to make your point.

    We don’t appreciate insults. We like information.

  • R Hampton

    There is good reason to investigate American Evangelical support of Ugandan public policy:

    The Government has explained that the anti-homosexuality Bill was introduced by a private member, David Bahati, and not the Government.The New Vision, Uganda, December 21, 2009

    American pastor, Dr Rick Warren has said he supports the decision by Ugandan bishops to boycott the forthcoming Lamebth conference in England, United Kingdom … Dr Warren said that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right. “We shall not tolerate this aspect at all,” Dr Warren said.The Monitor, Uganda, March 29, 2008

  • Peter

    but that kind of information is called context, my friends.

    Well, you’ve misstated the law too. While Ssempa told your magazine in his letter to Rich Warren that’s what the law states, critics say Ssempa is understating the law and that it could be applied to people who have been convicted of being gay on multiple occasions and therefore is a repeat offender. It also applies to situation where the “vitim” says they didn’t consent or drugged, something easy to argue in a country whose judicial system lack due process.

  • Bob Smietana

    It’s a bit odd that the Times story mentions three American evangelicals in the lead–and then doesn’t give us their names until the 10th graph.

    It’s worth reading Kapya Kaoma’s report, which does raise questions about links between the anti-gay/anti liberal efforts of groups like the Institute for Religion and Democracy and anti-gay sentiments in African churches.
    The Anglican Church in Uganda, as far as I can tell, has not renounced the proposed legislation, and has expressed some sympathy towards it.

    Warren did reference incest, polygamy, and child marriage when talking to Beliefnet about gay marriage.

  • Elizabeth

    Bob, the Ugandan Anglicans aren’t monolithic on this subject.

    What I wish Gettleman had spent more time exploring is the complicated, not to mention sometimes tortured relationship some liberal and conservative American Christians have with some churches in Africa. That’s the smoking gun here, not trying to pin an anti-gay bill on a few visitors.

    My cynical view is he waited until ten paragraphs into the story to give us names because these guys may be devout Christians, but they,er, aren’t Rick Warren.

  • Mollie

    I hadn’t realized that the Kaoma report was funded by Political Research Associates. That’s interesting. Their research perspective would certainly focus on criticism of conservative American evangelicals. Perhaps that explains why the MSM is taking the same tack?

  • Bob Smietana


    Good point. Though the Archbishop in Uganda hasn’t said much. And the secretary of the province think gays should be send to jail for life.

  • Ugandan

    What an American-centered view of the situation! The New York Times article makes it sound like, without the anti-gay Americans’ visit & conferences, We Ugandans never would have come up with this anti-gay sentiment on their own. Like we’re a bunch of idiots with no original thoughts; blank slates just waiting to be indoctrinated by the white man. What a completely condescending view of Africans! The truth is, many Africans, all over the continent – without the proselytizing of the American evangelicals, have such views. Why not analyze this fact? Why do you always make it about YOU, America?? Get over yourselves!

  • kristy

    Front page of the New York Times devoted to advocacy/opinion journalism?! No! Say it isn’t so!

  • Perpetua

    I see this as successful PR work by Mai Kiang and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. I am sure paragraph nine had many people sending money in:

    “It’s a fight for their lives,” said Mai Kiang, a director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a New York-based group that has channeled nearly $75,000 to Ugandan gay rights activists and expects that amount to grow.

    But what is missing until the end is any local context. And even then the Martyrs of Uganda and how that part of Ugandan history plays into Ugandan attitudes about homosexuality are not mentioned. Here’s how Regeneration Ministry tells the story of the Martyrs of Uganda:

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, the ruler of Uganda, King Mwanga, had a large number of Christian boys and young men serving as pages in his court. A number of these young men were committed Christians, some Roman Catholics, some Anglicans. The king wished to use these young men to satisfy his homosexual cravings. Most of the Christian pages resisted his advances, and although they had seen their leader killed for similar disobedience, they declared that they could not engage in such behavior because it violated their Christian beliefs.

    This infuriated King Mwanga, and on June 3rd, 1886, he had the boys and young men executed-burned to death. Twenty-two of the martyrs were Roman Catholics, 12 were Anglicans.

  • gayuganda

    You do want a Ugandan witness?

    Well, I am here. In person.

    I got an email from these guys for an interview. I passed them on to someone else. I did follow their interviews from far. But, I was there. I actually did see them a few times, without revealing who I was. I was there. I saw them. They were here.

    And, for more witness? I also followed the conference as it was happening.
    Factually, the NYT article is true. I am a Ugandan who is gay and have necessarily been following what has been happening in Uganda. Frankly because my life depends on it.

    The inferences that are drawn from the facts are also reasonable. I know them to be true.

    The previously unknown Ugandan politician is David Bahati. You cannot say that he didnt contact him. I mean, there are audios of him. And, I do recognise his voice.

    Please, please,

    for me as a Gay Ugandan living, working in Uganda, the situation is too tough and real for the witness of someone I know was here and did what he says he did to be called into question.

    I have known for years what the anti-gay faction in Uganda was capable of. These things are facts.

    It is too cynical when you take my reality and examine it in your reality and find me wanting. Because I dont measure to your reality.

    Genttlemann was here. In Uganda. What he writes about is factual. I know it. I have lived it.

  • Ben

    Perhaps the NYT report would have been a little more convincing if it mentioned some more of Scott Lively’s background. This guy co-founded a hate group called Watchmen on the Walls that was involved in stirring up anti-gay sentiment both in Latvia and in the Slavic immigrant community of Sacramento. The rhetoric help fuel tensions that many locals believe contributed to the killing of a gay man in Sacramento.

    See Southern Poverty Law Center reporting on this:

    Basically, it appears to be Mr. Lively’s MO to address communities where existing prejudices are strong and whip up emotions. Then when something horrible results, he distances himself from the outcome. Maybe he and these other guys could be given the benefit of the doubt the first time this happens, but in Lively’s case, this is at least the second time. As for the guy who says he was duped, he should have read up a little on Lively’s background and maybe turned a few pages of his book “The Pink Swastika.”

  • Andrea Bohnstedt

    Unfortunately it’s taken a while until this topic has gathered enough international interest, but Gettleman’s article is a actually a good summary, and if you put the topic through or, there is plenty more information.

    The research paper by Reverend Kapya Kaoma is a very good read, not the least because it devotes attention to the different Christian influences in Uganda, and the differences between programme-focused funding from mainline churches in the past and some recent funding from US evangelical churches that is given directly to individuals (and often does not have to be accounted for). There is a shorter version on the Huffington Post website ( ), although I doubt that publication will have much credibility in this forum.

    One of the many problematic issues with the proposed law is that it sets higher penalties for the same offences for gay offenders. Uganda already has a legislation against pedophilia, so there is no need to introduce a different standard.

    The law would also oblige family members, friends, and professions who usually have an obligation to retain confidentiality (like doctors, for example) to people they suspect or know to be homosexuals (just for being homosexual, not for any offence) – anyone who doesn’t is liable to prosecution themselves.

    This is ethically quuestionable in itself, but also creates a huge problem e.g. for fighting HIV/AIDS – for which the Ugandan government has received vast amounts of funding from Western governments and NGOs. It is commonly recognised that this would cut off a part of the population from seeking medical help or councelling etc., and therefore undermine the signficant investments already made.

  • MattK

    One of the many problematic issues with the proposed law is that it sets higher penalties for the same offences for gay offenders. Uganda already has a legislation against pedophilia, so there is no need to introduce a different standard.

    Isn’t Andrea’s unspoken presupposition here that homosexual acts are in equal to heterosexual acts? I think the widespread acceptance of this presupposition among media professionals is what is really driving this story. I don’t think that the law recognizing the difference between the two is problematic at all.

    Did anyone catch Terry Gross’s show on this the other day? She had on some guy from an organization called “The Fellowship” that has been blamed for some of what is happening with Uganda and legislation regarding homosexual behavior.

  • Lynn David

    If you desire a timeline on this see the blogs of:

    Box Turtle Bulletin:

    And Dr Warren Throckmorton:

    Both of their coverages start in February of 2009, when both warned the ex-gay ministry Exodus that their board member Schmierer was walking into a minefield (so to speak). Dr Throckmorton later joined with Exodus as signatories to a letter to President Museveni which condemned criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda. Eventually, Don Schmierer’s name was also added to the letter (see:

  • James

    I’ve seen Kapy Kaoma’s report and it suffers from being misleading advocacy scholarship. For example – many here are concerned about this guy Scott Lively. Indeed, his work “The Pink Swastika” is … troublesome, and has been shown to have a number of problems – Dr. Throckmorton has published a number of short pieces about how it is problematic. However, Kapy Kaoma describes Lively in the introduction as a “holocaust revisionist” – I suppose, in an effort to “whip up sentiment” – much like he himself is accused of in some of the comments above. Scott Lively does not deny any widely-accepted account of the Holocaust – the term is usually by LGBT organizations when attempting to discredit him, and does not have the connotation one usually associates with the word. It’s highly inflammatory and highly misleading.

    This “Political Research Associates” seems to function at times like an unofficial branch of The Episcopal Church – it used to be headed by Rev. Catherine Ragsdale, famous for her “abortion is a blessing” speech, and you’ll find that it’s the usual Episcopal sources that are warmly thanked in the report’s first pages – e.g., Jim Naughton.

    Kapy Kaoma’s report thus seems to me more like a somewhat-informed attempt at smearing Evangelicals and Anglicans than a reliable, non-partisan “report.” Like The Pink Triangle, it’s advocacy scholarship which is taintedly partisan – and needs re-evaluation from a more reliable source before the material presented can be taken seriously. Though I would not go so far as to try to smear Mr. Kaoma with an epithet like “holocaust revisionist.” Many other flaws surfaced in the first few pages I read, I won’t recount them here.

    For proof that homosexuality is not “foreign” to Uganda, Mr. Kaoma chooses to quote an Anglican bishop, who points out that king Kabaka Mwanga practiced homosexuality – which probably all Ugandans know – but he fails to recognize that this is also very illuminating for demonstrating differing attitudes toward homosexuality cross-culturally – for King Kabaka Mwanga is known for having executed 45 Christian young men who, amongst other things, refused to pleasure him sexually. Glossing over this important cultural fact shows how little concerned Kaoma is in helping his readers understand the cultural situation of the areas he is describing, compared to his passion for pointing the finger of blame.

    An interesting parallel could be drawn here – albeit in a different direction. Mr. Kaoma brings up a “holocaust” – I recently read an article regarding this incident at – (allafrica is not good at keeping old articles, so if you want this for future reference, copy it to your own computer).

    Mwanga’s immaturity played into the hands of his ill-intentioned advisers. In his book, African Holocaust, J.F. Faupel says: “He was merely a boy, brought up without discipline and surrounded by evil counsellors who, taking full advantage of the kabaka’s youth and gullibility, launched an intensive campaign of vilification against the missionaries,” he writes.

    At the heart of this vilification campaign was the chancellor (katiikiro), Mukasa and other chiefs who feared that Christianity if not checked, might destroy the pagan social system to which they subscribed.

    Ugandans are indeed worried about U.S. “Imperialism,” but mostly cultural imperialism – i.e., a situation in which Ugandans are helpless – like Americans – to regulate the flow of porn and sex into their own media and culture. There is a great deal that gay organizations could do to make clear that the type of gay lifestyle they promote is one which is not predatory nor imperialist – e.g., by making clear that they do not back attempts at making public areas available for gay cruising or public sex acts (where this distinction is often blurred in the promotion of “gay culture” – and we (gays included) often don’t know what gay culture is – does it include “public sex” and “cruising”? is one Anti-gay if one doesn’t approve of public sex?). However, some such attempts are backed by organizations defending gay rights. GLAAD, instead of crying out “discrimination” when Adam Lambert’s appearances are cancelled, could instead acknowledge that the public doesn’t approve of simulated fellatio on public television, and that it does not advocate simulated man-man fellatio on public television as part of its provision for full LGBT rights. But instead it defends Adam Lambert and calls for boycotts of the networks that don’t invite him, as being “discriminatory.”

    I’m afraid that this report will help fuel Ugandan suspicions of foreign “vilification” of its religious leaders, just like Christians were afraid of being vilified under Kaoma. This would be less the case, were Kaoma’s report less vilifying, and more informative, in tone, and had he been more faithful in portraying those he undertakes to describe.

    I think this report is more accurately read as an account of those things Jim Naughton and other leaders of The Episcopal Church would like one to believe about Rick Warren and the Anglican Church of Uganda. But coming largely from a church whose main-selling author is Spong (also loathesome scholarship), and whose Presiding Bishop doctors her CV without complaint – I’d be about as willing to trust a report published by the Church of Scientology.

  • James

    Another rather disturbing fact here is this:

    I am very happy that work like “The Pink Triangle” doesn’t make it into mainstream news sources like The New York Times. We should be informing our journalists with better scholarship than this, especially when engaging sensitive matters like homosexuality and history.

    However, a piece of rather blatant advocacy scholarship which makes clear in its opening pages that it will be unfairly vilifying the persons and organizations it describes – this makes the front page of the Times? This is disheartening, and indeed gives pause for reflecting on the concerns of the Ugandans. Perhaps, like this bit of proposed Ugandan legislation, the gay rights movement has also gone too far in its assumption that gay rights should include this type of far-reaching media manipulation. I am with gay rights advocates with the passionate decrying of the draconian nature of certain articles of the proposed legislation – but if unsubstantiated vilification and increased toleration of public sex acts are part of what it means to not be anti-gay, I am afraid I am becoming increasingly anti-gay.

    Americans need to be more questioning when engaging in gay-rights advocacy, which is increasingly looking like the kind of “crusade” which Ugandans fear.

  • Ben

    James wrote:

    There is a great deal that gay organizations could do to make clear that the type of gay lifestyle they promote is one which is not predatory nor imperialist – e.g., by making clear that they do not back attempts at making public areas available for gay cruising or public sex acts

    Ugandan gay groups did issue a statement unequivocally denouncing sexual abuse/exploitation of minors since that seemed to be the fear that was going around in Uganda: See statement here.

    I’m just curious — I really don’t know — have Ugandan gay groups actually pushed for public sex areas? Are you calling for them to denounce things that are actually happening there frequently, and if so, can you pass along objective reporting on that?

  • Chris Bolinger

    Terry, here’s a summary of the first four paragraphs of the article:
    * For three days, three American evangelicals spoke to thousands of Ugandans on “the gay agenda” and “the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family”.
    * “what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior”

    Is that what passes for reporting in an MSM publication there days?

    Every reporter and editor knows that most people read the headline and the first few paragraphs of an article. You can backpedal or explain all you want after the opening, but it’s the opening that “sells” the article.

    I’ll concede that what I wrote was a cheap shot. Gettleman actually is a skilled reporter. But he’s not an MSM reporter. And a publication that runs blatant advocacy pieces (with statements like “the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws”) on Page 1 is not an MSM publication…as much as you wish it were or remember it to be.

  • Peter

    I’d argue that this is the flip side of the debate this summer over the MSM being too late to follow stories developing in the conservative blogosphere and press. The Uganda/Evangelicals connection has been made by the progressive blogosphere for months, but it took this long for the NYT to finally write about.

    Whether you take the onnection seriously, I sense, depends on how much you share the ideological viewpoint of the progressive blogosphere. Very much like this summer’s battle between the conservative blogosphere and the MSM.

  • Suzanne

    Just wanting to say how impressed I am with the discussion on this topic. It’s always good after reading a story like the one in the NYT and come here to find it dissected with such sophistication.

    I particularly appreciated the posting from gayugandan.

    One thing did strike me in reading the original post, though.

    Where and in what context did Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, make this statement about homosexuals? (that statement being: “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

    Is there actually a context that would change the meaning of that quote? Seems straightforward enough to me. I don’t know why he wasn’t quoted by name either, but unless the implication is that he was misquoted, the statement pretty much speaks for itself.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Thanks for weighing in, everyone. There’s a lot to go through here, and please note that I will delete comments that have nothing to do with media coverage.

    Suzanne, I could not find the original quote anywhere. I’m not saying Buturo didn’t say it, but I couldn’t find proof that he did. It seems odd that the Times wouldn’t include context.

    Some of you raised whether Political Research Associates is too advocacy-based for the story to be based on. I would agree, and I keep wondering why the reporter could not quote someone from Uganda making the same connections if they are there.

  • Jeff Walton

    As someone who works at the Institute on Religion & Democracy, I’ll note that the Political Research Associates report is deeply flawed. The report identifies tenuous connections between various conservative groups, and then assumes a top-down structure of control. The report is laden with allegations of conspiracy. An overview I have written can be viewed at:

    That being said, the IRD is tangential to this discussion. The real issue here is that the NY Times article says U.S. Evangelicals were ultimately responsible for the Ugandan legislation, but the journalist offers no quotes backing that up. It’s a major flaw in the coverage.

  • tmatt


    Please note the byline. Sarah wrote this post.

  • tmatt

    OK, I just spiked a comment that made the claim that evangelicals discussed in the NYTs piece are on the record as being in favor of the Uganda legislation.

    Has anyone produced an annotated list, complete with on the record quotes in mainstream publications, of anyone who has endorsed the Ugandan legislation?

  • Paul Vitello

    “OK, I just spiked a comment that made the claim that evangelicals discussed in the NYTs piece are on the record as being in favor of the Uganda legislation.”

    tmatt, you confuse me. Having had the alleged statement above and two others spiked this evening, I request some explanation. None of my comments made the statement above. All were coherent; and you never allowed anyone to answer the points raised in them — in particular: while many of your commenters’ defended the behavior of the evangelicals and criticized the story for its supposedly unfair portrayal of their role in this affair, the comments were not based in the reality of the story’s sentences. As I pointed out in two of my posts, the facts of the story were clear and present — I gave citations by partagraf, I believe. It is a false premise to base this discussion on whether the piece blamed the evangelicals for being “ultimately responsible” for the Ugandan hate-law, or whether my comment claimed that the men “are on the record as being in favor of the Ugandan legislation.”
    Those are ridiculous straw man premises.
    There is quite a lot of ethical territory between being “on-the-record-as-being-in-favor-of-the-legislation” and bearing some responsibility by reason of unconscionable behavior.
    You do not even permit a discussion of the second issue.
    — and to say that GetReligion is a journalism site is again, missing the point. In the guiise of journalism criticism, your readers have defended these evangelical men’s acts. So be it, But don’t call THAT journalism criticism, please.
    Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I’d be most interested in hearing from you. Thanks.
    Paul Vitello
    The New York Times

  • Karen Vaughan

    Today on Leonard Lopate’s radio show, Jeff Shalit spoke on the role of The Family (aka The Fellowship)in encouraging the legislation, although he points out that they seem to be discouraging it now, along with Ugandan specialist Msia Clark and Scott Long of Human Rights Watch.

    Among other things they discuss how differently Warren was speaking in Uganda saying “things they don’t let me say at home”.

    You can hear it at:

    Paul Vitello makes good points about the issue of bearing some responsibility by reason of unconscionable behavior.

    James, in what way are Lively’s ideas that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi hierarchy were homosexual a “widely accepted history of the holocaust”?

  • Chris Bolinger

    Yes, Terry, I know who wrote the post. You responded to me; I responded back to you.

  • Peter

    Some of you raised whether Political Research Associates is too advocacy-based for the story to be based on.

    But it’s not based on that. It’s based on months and months of netroots and liberal press investigation, which have just reinforced what was in the original PRA analysis. The NYT talked to the Evangelicals, who admit speaking with Ugandan leaders about stopping the “gay agenda” and then those leaders proposing a bill that includes the death sentence.

    There are flaws in the story, but those flows don’t undermine the reality of connection between U.S. Evagelicals and the Ugandan leaders that ultimately proposed a death sentence.

  • Elizabeth

    Mr. Vitello –

    You may know that I’m a former GetReligion writer. I’m also a native New Yorker and turn to the Times before I read any other morning news.

    I admit to being a little confused as to the intent of your comments with regard to the ethical dimensions of Mr. Gettleman’s article and the Ugandan situation in general –as confused as I am by readers who see criticism of a particular article as an opportunity to slam the New York Times for all sins considered. I doubt that you change any hearts or minds by engaging in that kind of debate.

    I assume that making a point about the “unconscionable behavior” of these three conservative Christians wasn’t the main message of Mr. Gettleman’s story — but rather to draw some connections as he sees them and let the reader make up his or her mind for themselves. At least, I hope that’s what he was trying to do.

    Is there any chance you could ask Mr. Gettleman to comment and explain the intent of his story?

  • reader

    i find it funny that the poster demands more proof from the nyt’s writers in their accusations. why? because you offer no proof of god that would stand such a test.

    you want proof? we believe in it really strongly. we pray for the nyt. we have faith in homosexuals. we don’t need proof because you don’t.

    you want to play with proof and evidence? really? we can go that route, can you?

  • C. Wingate

    Peter, the issue is an old one, going back at least a decade. It is an old Anglican liberal talking point that all of these controversies, wherever they pop up, are really due to the machinations of American political right-wingers, who are enmeshed with American fundagelicals, and that by implication there would be no controversy if those people lost influence (that is, money) to push their ideas. PRA is part of that, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (see under “Naughton, Jim”) is part of that, Integrity and other homosexual lobbies are part of that, a lot of other liberal power points are part of that. I deeply do not buy the implied claim that, if the western troglodytes were sent away, the African nations would evolve as the liberals would have them evolve. But the matter is obscure, because the story of Uganda is only told through Americans and through Ugandan homosexuals or their activists, whom I would guess were introduced to the NYT reporters by Americans.

  • Chip Smith

    Sarah wrote:

    The New York Times believes that a small group of powerful U.S. evangelicals are forcing Ugandan policy makers into something they didn’t already want to do.

    and Jeff wrote:

    The real issue here is that the NY Times article says U.S. Evangelicals were ultimately responsible for the Ugandan legislation, but the journalist offers no quotes backing that up.

    I know it might ruin the fun of smearing the NY Times, but the article does no such thing. And while Sarah goes on to point out other weaknesses of the article, she never demonstrates her opening statement.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Hi Chip – that was a bit of sarcasm. I have no idea whether Ugandans were already planning this legislation. Take a look at this from the article:

    Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it.

    It seems as though Ugandans may have already been drafting this proposal before the Americans did the conference.

  • Chip Smith

    Thanks for the response. I guess when you wrote in the very next paragraph

    He’s setting us up to demonstrate how these evangelicals are the reason why Ugandans are considering a bill on homosexuality. But where’s the proof?

    it was tough to recognize the repeated sentiment as sarcasm.

  • James


    I am not advocating Lively’s scholarship, as I think I’ve made clear above that I find it rather horrid.

    I can’t find the first reference to Mr. Lively in Mr. Kapa’s report, as it’s been put out in PDF format, making it unsearchable. Anyways, it’s something like this:

    “Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist, participated in a conference …”

    Your average reader, when coming across this sentence, will assume that Lively is sort of a David Irving type of fellow, denying key, widely agreed-upon, elements of the holocaust, while what he says about the holocaust is – aside from being wretched scholarship – not what we generally think of, when we use the term “holocaust revisionism.” Furthermore, though this one book did get a lot of attention, it’s not Mr. Lively’s main life pursuit, nor even close.

    Others have argued that Hitler was a homosexual without having their identities reduced to this single phrase, “holocaust revisionist.” We should not use this word lightly, out of respect for the victims of the holocaust, or it will lose its value as another term trotted out for anyone we are trying to smear, who has written something about WWII Germany. That homosexuals were present in Nazi hierarchy is a fact known by many, including myself, before the appearance of Mr. Lively’s book. But it certainly doesn’t deserve to be treated in the way that Lively treats it. I can understand Mr. Lively being “tarred” in such a way on sites targeted at gay audiences such as box turtle bulletin, especially because of the tenor of his own book, but the use of this epithet in this manner in what is supposed to be a fairly objective report for general consumption is … indicative of advocacy scholarship, instead of scholarship with a sense of aiming at objectivity.

    I do not particularly like Mr. Lively, and am very happy to see him criticized. But the means by which Political Research Associates chooses to vilify an ideological opponent say a great deal about the organization, and this should also be apparent to the casual reader of the report – as it seems rather apparent that Mr. Lively’s main vocation does not consist in holocaust denial.

    Suppose I wanted to cast suspicion upon the fitness of Mr. Gettleman’s article here, and wrote “Jeffrey Gettleman, a gay rights advocate, published a front-page article in the New York Times which attempts to link leading Evangelicals to the Ugandan law on homosexuality.” This would be eminently unfair to the Times, even though Mr. Gettleman does advocate gay rights – since this seems to imply that this is his primary preoccupation – and would undermine faith in the objectivity of the Times – and one would rightly question my intentions in “smearing” the Times for its choice here. It would be better if I wrote, “Jeffrey Gettleman published a front-page article …” and then later added “Jeffrey Gettleman is a known supporter of gay rights.” This would be completely non-objectionable and much more honest. And by the way, since you seem to be quoting me out of context … I am also very happy that Jeffrey Gettleman supports gay rights.

  • James


    I was suggesting that American and European organizations’ aggressive stance on a number of issues are public knowledge, and also available to Ugandan policy makers, not that Ugandan gay organizations are calling for protection of cruising areas or the protection of gay artists’ rights to simulate fellatio on public television. I am also not saying that American or European gay organizations do not have the “right” to call for such things, or that they might not have good reasons to do so. But this can indeed have an effect on the perception of the entire debate of what “gay” consists of, and be counter-productive for gay people in countries such as Uganda. In Europe, I sometimes read of very silly proposed legislation in some Southern states of the U.S., and Europeans get concerned about “all that’s going on in America” – when, knowing America better than most Europeans, I also know such legislation has no chance of reaching further than the tiny town being reported on. What I am suggesting is that gay rights advocacy, having “gone global,” has similar consequences. Just as we are concerned with political advocacy in Uganda, some Ugandans are also likely to be concerned about advocacy in the United States and Europe.

    I also made the comment with reference to the situation in which the United States in particular finds itself with the polarization of this debate, and my own perception that advocacy journalism and scholarship in favor of certain aspects of gay rights is gaining wider popular acceptance. I support gay rights, but I do not support advocacy scholarship in the public sphere, even if it is in the cause of gay rights – or any other rights, for that matter. If this article is, indeed, largely based on advocacy scholarship, as I believe it is, then it seems that along with “gay rights” we are accepting something which I would vehemently urge that we avoid – even if, for the moment, it seems like we are accepting it for the very worthy cause of raising a voice against this legislation. Somewhere on the horizon there must be a limit to this increasingly encompassing epithet “anti-gay.”

    [editor - if this comment should be spiked, please also spike Ben's comment above - I realize it's partially OT, but the comment is addressed at me].

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Please let’s focus on the journalism. As I suggested on another forum, what ways can journalists still work on this story that answers questions we might still have?