When American Christian evangelicals export hate not love

Masked Kenyan LGBT supporters at a protest against Uganda's anti-gay bill in front of the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill into law Feb. 24.

Eventually, the idea that it’s OK to be against gay marriage because of your religious beliefs is going to seem as silly as opposing interracial marriage because you weren’t raised that way.

Eventually gay marriage will be as normal as interracial marriage, which, don’t forget, was illegal in many states until 1967.

Even conservatives, despite the pronouncements of party elders, are coming around.


Last week at the CPAC conference, the generational divide was on vivid display. Ben Carson, 62, a surgeon who is popular with the tea party, told his audience: “Of course gay people should have the same rights as everybody else. But they don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”

And Sarah Palin, 50, delivered a robust defense of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robinson, 67, who was briefly suspended by A&E in December after spouting to a magazine reporter about the evils of homosexuality. (“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman … and those men.”)

It’s pretty clear that the young conservatives coming up after Carson and Palin do not exercise themselves too much over gay marriage and gay civil rights. In some circles, gay marriage is even being described as an intra-party “wedge issue” for Republicans.

But some Christian evangelicals, having basically lost the fight at home, have exported intolerance overseas.

On Friday, the editor Tina Brown, who has reinvented herself as a conference impresario, hosted a luncheon for about 200 women in Beverly Hills featuring conversations with a number of international women activists as part of her “Women in the World” series.

Speakers included Clare Byarubaga, a gay Ugandan activist, who discussed the draconian anti-gay measure signed into law last month by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. When the law was first proposed, it was dubbed “Kill the Gays,” as it called for the death penalty. The new law calls for up to 14 years in prison for homosexuality.

Byarubaga was joined by American filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, whose 2013 “God Loves Uganda” correlated the explosion of homophobia in Uganda to the missionary work of American evangelical megachurches. After Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979, American missionaries poured into the country, building schools, orphanages and hospitals. And of course, spreading their interpretation of the gospel. This Guardian story explores the phenomenon.

Williams singled out American pastor Scott Lively, who has called himself the “father” of Uganda’s anti-gay movement. Lively is president of the Massachusetts-based Abiding Truth Ministries, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2009, he spearheaded an infamous conference in Uganda that helped inspire the country’s current homophobic fervor.

(At least three American evangelicals, including a representative of the now-defunct Exodus International were there. This New York Times story elucidates their role in helping poison the atmosphere against gays, despite their denials.)

Just as in the U.S., where gay rights have been used so often as a wedge issue between the parties, there is a convenient political component at play in a place like Uganda.

“This is a dictator using the gay community as a scapegoat,” Williams said. “Museveni is up for reelection in 2016, so this is kind of a smart political move on his part to distract the public from the real issue, which is corruption and survival, and focus it on a vulnerable population. Everyone in Uganda is frustrated, so they can take out their frustration on the LGBT community.”

In January, a federal judge in Massachusetts allowed a lawsuit filed against Lively by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Ugandan gay rights group to proceed. The suit contends that Lively, who has also written a book claiming the Nazi movement was inspired by homosexuals, has aided and abetted crimes against humanity by encouraging the persecution of Uganda’s gay minority.

“That’s about as ridiculous as it gets,” Lively told the New York Times in 2011. “I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue.”

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