A view inside Martin Ssempa’s anti-gay campaign

Since October of last year, Uganda has been the focus of international attention due to a proposal in their Parliament which would ban homosexual behavior of any kind via the death penalty for HIV people who engage in homosexual behavior and life in prison for others who attempt such behavior. One of the chief supporters of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been Martin Ssempa, a pastor in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala and well-known among Western evangelicals. Rev. Ssempa this week has called for a “million man march” which he hopes will bring large crowds out to support the harsh legislation. In addition, Ssempa has organized several news conferences in order to rally support among Ugandans for the bill. On such conference was reported in Uganda’s Daily Monitor. Reporter Rodney Muhumuza described the scene. 

Pastor Martin Ssempa on Tuesday plumbed the depths of notoriety when he offered graphic images of gay sex as proof of the need for tough penalties against homosexuals. 

The images were disturbing enough that an American college group visiting in Kampala, left in the middle of his presentation.

But midway through his presentation, saved on a computer, most of his audience walked out, some visibly disturbed, leaving him to wonder if he had done anything wrong. The cleric seemed genuinely rattled when he asked: “Why should I be traumatised?”

One man, who was part of a group of American students invited to the press conference by Rubaga North MP Beti Kamya, was seen crying, his colleagues consoling him as the group left the National Theatre.

The college group was from Pacific Lutheran University studying in Kampala. One student, Kelsey Hartsell, was in the presentation and gave me a brief description of the slide show.

Pastor Ssempa also crossed a line when he decided to display pornographic pictures of two white men from about the 70′s doing what he considered to be dangerous acts in the bedroom as to why homosexuality is dangerous.

In other presentations like this, Ssempa has shown pornographic images of men engaged in various sadomasochistic activities, while alleging that all gays do the activities depicted. He also accused gays of raping boys in order to turn them into homosexuals. Ms. Hartsell continued:

Pastor Ssempa’s main argument was that homosexual cults were kidnapping children and raping them and drugging them to brainwash them and turn them gay. He also used the words sodomy and rape as if they were equal. He accused same sex boarding schools and promoting homosexuality. As far as I know the cults have never been found or proven to exist.

I have asked Hon. Bahati and Pastor Ssempa for evidence of these allegations but nothing has materialized. Even if they were true, the gay advocacy groups agree with all others everywhere that any such cults or activities should be aggressively prosecuted. Ssempa’s rhetoric had a very negative effect on Ms. Hartsell and her classmates. She said,

I can’t speak for everyone, except that everyone was upset and for all different reasons. Regardless of my position on homosexuality and/or the [Anti-Homosexuality] bill I can tell you what upset me was that ‘Pastor’ Ssempa was preaching against people encouraging hate and intolerance. He shamed himself as a pastor by disregarding what he thought of as sin as an action, and turned the people doing what he calls the sin into something less than human. From where I stand a pastor should be teaching forgiveness because no person as the right to judge another so even if he disagreed with their actions that doesn’t disqualify them from humanity.

Rev. Ssempa did not reply to my inquiries about the news conference. When the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced, he told me,

I am in total support of the bill and would be most grateful if it did pass.

It is very clear that Pastor Ssempa endorses the harsh tenets of Ugandan proposal. What is not clear is how it furthers the Gospel for ministers to demonize homosexuals. Such stereotypes are rarely ever correct, and are harmful because they hinder an engagement of others as humans bearing the image of God. To at least one American student, Pastor Ssempa’s campaign backfired.

Here is another eyewitness account from a student on the PLU trip.

And another…

Now he has taken his show and tell program to church.

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  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    Pastor Ssempa is the kind of guy that makes me thankful that I am not a Christian. I know enough about the values of Christ to know that he is not representative of Christians.

    But, Ssempa is something out of hell, a true hater that glories in the hate and vile discussion that he produces. He has been doing it for years. He has surpassed himself this year. But, it is nothing new.

    But, the most frightening thing about it is that the guy is held in awe by so many, because of the charisma of his speech.

    He is charismatic. But, he is the worst Christian that I have ever heard of. Maybe he is no Christian, because it is unbelievable…. but, I am no Christian.

    And, Bishop Lawrence Chai of Mombasa Kenya, who is actually leading cleansing pogroms would disagree with me. And, who am I to say otherwise, when two men of God are doing a godly thing like cleansing a people of homosexuality?

  • http://www.TaylorSiluwe.com Taylor Siluwé

    All true followers of Christ’s message should not only be appalled by Ssempa, but they should also make their feelings known. Because extremists Christians, like all fundies, need to be checked by their own denomination as they make all those who claim affiliation look like nutcases. All other dissent will most often will be dismissed out of hand as coming from unbelievers influenced by Satan.

    Here’s another perspective on the Ugandan matter.

  • http://someguysarenormal.blogspot.com Brady

    These types of tactics and accusations from Ssempa are really reminiscent of the hysteria over child rape and satanic ritual accusations that tore communities in the US apart in the 1980s.

  • Jayhuck

    Yes – outside support for the death penalty for gay men and women, there is something very familiar about the anti-gay attitudes Mr. Ssempa spouts

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  • James

    My name is james. I must admit that Dr. Warren has finally found where he can “rest”. The aging professor who ideologies have never been a welcome to his own students has taken on Ssempa like a lion baying for one’s blood. Warren has based most of his research on hearsay. there has hardly been any accurate information he has published about Dr. Ssempa. For goodness sake, I was in that press conference were Ssempa allegedly showed porn saved on his computer. In that conference, it was only the group of Whites who left the place because either they it was time for them to leave or they were embarrassed with the actions of their fellow whites. The rest of us stayed till the end. Out of the 30 journalist who were there, 6 of them left and the other 24 stayed back. Was that a walk out at all. I think, yes i think Warren is a respected man in the homosexual world. Exporting that influence to the Heterosexual world might be unwelcome. Please give us accurate facts and have an accurate report of what happens in Uganda. You live in America, we in Uganda know and see what happens. How come we in the New Vision, Red Pepper and several other radio stations never saw what Rodney saw?

    Support Uganda to walk in the path of morality. Ssempa, Bahati deserve to be supported all the way. Your provocking actions have never gone well with Ugandans. When we pass that bill, the light will finally be on you.

    James

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    James – Three of the American students gave reasons for their walkout and many in Uganda have criticized Ssempa – including some religioous leaders. Because you like gay porn is no reason to insist that others sit through it.

    Your quote of the Red Pepper as an accurate source is reason enough to dismiss you. You are aware I assume that the Red Pepper has said that Benny Hinn’s divorce filing includes revelations of gay sex. I have spoken to people who have seen them and there is nothing like that in them. It appears the Red Pepper has no trouble making up information here.

    I say let the light shine.

    Oh and please report what the Anti-Homosexuality Bill actually says and not just what Martin Ssempa says about it. If you are interested in light, then why don’t you just print the entire bill in whatever news source you write for?

  • anteros

    @ James:

    Actually, I first found out about Ssempa’s failed conference at the National Theatre from a poster for the Daily Monitor that was outside Standard Chartered’s main branch in Kampala. It read, “Anti-Gay Meeting Flops”. The next day, I read the Monitor’s article about how the meeting flopped when Ssempa began showing porn. The article written by a Ugandan journalist.

    You sound so pathetic and racist pointing fingers at white people, blaming them for Ssempa’s mistakes.

    The Daily Monitor is a far more reliable source than the New Vision (state-run propaganda, unreliable) and the Red Pepper (homophobic tabloid, unreliable)… which would explain why they avoided reporting on Ssempa’s porn presentation and how the meeting collapsed.

    The fact remains, that Ssempa shows gay porn to the unsuspecting public. Here is hard evidence:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2010/02/18/bbc-news-ssempa-shows-porn-to-church-audience/

    Ssempa himself already admitted that he showed porn, and promised to do it again:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2010/02/22/martin-ssempa-defends-gay-porn-presentations/comment-page-1/#comment-236804

    You’ll be surprised to learn just how much the “homosexual world” and the “heterosexual world” you describe actually overlap… maybe you’ll learn that when you come back down to earth.

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  • Ann

    Dr. Throckmorton,

    James sounds a lot like another individual who posts here – I think his/her name is Mazzi NCO, if I have that correct. Do you think they are the same person?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Could be, although neither one has had much to say of late…