Have US evangelists helped to inspire Uganda’s anti-gay laws?

Pastor Scott Lively is an ex-junkie and alcoholic from Massachusetts, who lists his hobbies as the Bible, history and classic films. His other big pastime – depending on who you ask – is inciting hatred against gays in Uganda.

Unless you move in US evangelical circles or the Kampala gay scene – and I suspect not many Telegraph readers do – you may not have heard of Pastor Lively until now, much less read his book, the “Pink Swastika”, an expose of homosexuality in the Nazi Party.

Preaching to the unconverted – Pastor Scott Lively wants Ugandans to avoid America’s embrace of gay rights

You may, though, be aware that Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, this week approved some very stern laws outlawing homosexuality, allowing up to 14 years in prison for a first “offence”.

It’s already been condemned by President Obama as a “danger to the gay community”, although judging by Museveni’s comments yesterday – demonstrating what some would say was the classic homophobe’s mixture of horror and fascination – that seems pretty much the idea.

First of all, he professed red-blooded astonishment that any man could not be “attracted to “beautiful women”. Then he went into a detailed discussion about the health risks of gay fellatio, warning his nation: “You push the mouth there, you can come back with worms”. It’s hard to imagine even Julian Clary going into that level of detail in public.

But why is that Mr Museveni – and Uganda in general – is so exercised about gay rights, when it has so many other things to worry about? Like me, you may have assumed that Ugandans would not be not much different to other Africans on the matter: ie not very “progressive”, nor very interested.

But there is another factor in the Ugandan equation, namely the visit by Pastor Lively and two other US evangelists to Kampala in 2009. There, they gave a series of talks warning against the “mainstreaming” of homosexual lifestyles, warning God-fearing Uganda not to become the permissive, licentious land that the US had become.

About a month after their visit, which included addressing the Ugandan parliament, a Ugandan politician introduced the now-notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which, after various amendments, became law on Tuesday.

Oddly, enough, Pastor Lively himself, despite his avowed disapproval of homosexual “sin”, has been among the bill’s critics. His intention, he insists, was to encourage Ugandans to focus on “rehabilitation” rather than punishment. Indeed, he claims to have been shocked when the original version of the bill proposed the death sentence.

But now that it’s a mere 14 years’ jail instead, he seems fairly relaxed. First, he says, Ugandan law is generally very “lenient” in practice, and no convicted gay will spend “anything close” to that length of time in clink. Secondly, he argues that there’s an easy way of avoiding prosecution in the first place – namely, abstinence. Or, as he puts it, “homosexuals are no more compelled to commit sodomy with each other than a married man is compelled to cheat on his wife”.

Needless to say, this has not gone down very well among gay rights campaigners in Uganda, who have spent years trying to counter the notion that homosexuality is some imported Western disease.

Frank Mugisha, who heads Uganda’s leading gay rights group, now has a lawsuit out against Lively in the US, alleging that he has helped “spread propaganda and violence” against the country’s gays.

And while Mr Scott denies any culpability, describing the lawsuit as “absurd” and “frivolous”, he may not be very happy if he sees yesterday’s copy of Red Pepper, a Ugandan tabloid not known for its subtlety.

Under the “Uganda’s 200 top homos named,” it reveals a long list of prominent Ugandans who it says are gay, including not just activists but priests and pop stars.

The paper’s story has already been widely condemned as irresponsible, given that in 2011, another prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner, David Kato was bludgeoned to death not long after a different newspaper ran a similar stunt.

True, it remains in dispute whether Mr Kato actually died as a direct result of that publicity.  But one thing does seem clear. If a Ugandan newspaper can name 200 people just among its “top homos”, it would seem the country’s gay scene is indeed thriving – with or without Pastor Scott.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: