Here are four things that happened, one after the other, over the course of the past three weeks. The sequence is undeniable. Whether that sequence means anything in terms of causality or of culpability I will leave for the reader to decide.
1. This happened: Remarks by President Obama and President Sall of the Republic of Senegal at Joint Press Conference, June 27, 2013, Dakar, Senegal
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think the Supreme Court ruling yesterday was not simply a victory for the LGBT community, it’s a victory for American democracy. I believe at the root of who we are as a people, who we are as Americans is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law. We believe in basic fairness. And what I think yesterday’s ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody.
… Now, this topic did not come up in the conversation that I had with President Sall in a bilateral meeting. But let me just make a general statement. The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they’re treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa. So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions. And when it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there.
But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally. I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view. And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.
So my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you — the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law — people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.
Every world religion has this basic notion that is embodied in the Golden Rule — treat people the way you want to be treated. And I think that applies here as well.
2. And then this happened: “African religious leaders reject Obama’s call to decriminalize homosexuality”
NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Religious leaders in Africa strongly rebuked President Obama’s call to decriminalize homosexuality, suggesting it’s the reason why he received a less-than-warm welcome during a recent trip to the continent.
In a news conference in Senegal during his three-nation tour, just as the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage, Obama said African nations must grant equal protection to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.
… But Obama’s words rubbed religious and political leaders the wrong way. In Senegal, the West African nation where Islam is the predominant religion, homosexuality is a crime.
Christianity and Islam are growing fast on the continent, and religious leaders in both faith communities responded with vehement denunciations.
Indeed, some clerics said Obama’s statements on gays spoiled the welcome religious leaders and their followers could have accorded the first African-American president.
3. And then this happened: Politically conservative Christians in America cheered African religious leaders for their rejection of Obama’s call for “equal protection to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.”
A few of many such examples:
- “Africa bristles at Obama’s same-sex marriage ‘morality’ lesson,” World magazine said.
- “Thank God for our courageous African counterparts who aren’t capitulating but are instead standing strong amidst this moral storm,” wrote Larry Tomczak in Charisma magazine, “Thirty-seven nations there outlaw homosexuality.”
- “Oh, to be Senegalese,” said Christian talk radio host Janet Mefferd.
- Self-proclaimed culture-warrior Bill Muehlenberg congratulates those African religious leaders for “falling down in subservience to [Obama's] deviant demands.”
4. And then this happened: “Cameroon’s Eric Lembembe: Gay rights activist murdered.”
Prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist and journalist Eric Lembembe has been killed in the capital, Yaounde, a rights group says.
Mr. Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken and his face, hands, and feet burned with an iron, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
The cause of the killing is not known, but Mr. Lembembe is the latest activist to be targeted in Cameroon, it added.
Homosexual acts are illegal in socially conservative Cameroon.
… Mr. Lembembe, the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for Aids, was a courageous activist who campaigned for equal rights, despite severe discrimination and violence, HRW said.
His friends discovered his body at his home in Yaounde on Monday, after being unable to reach him by phone for two days, it said.
This happened. And then that happened. And then that happened. And then that happened.