Ex-gay Message Exports Homophobia to Uganda

Fifteen years ago, lawmakers in Uganda passed a law that basically made it a crime to be gay there. It wasn’t just sex between same-sex individuals that was illegal, but knowing about someone who was homosexual without notifying the authorities was also a crime. The penalties were anything from a few years in jail to death for “aggravated homosexuality,” a term covering repeat offenders among other things. After much protest from around the world, this was amended to life imprisonment. The bill passed in 2014 and was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni . However, later that year the Constitutional Court of Uganda invalidated it on a technicality.

The law itself was certainly heinous, but what made it particularly damning to the West was the involvement of many notable evangelicals. They traveled to Uganda as orators of truth, and many Ugandans listened intently. They were convinced that our civilization had succumbed to the enemy of God, the Gay Agenda. The stage was set, in a country formerly colonized by western nations, for the fear that we were coming in to do it all over again — spreading our gay immorality (equality) in Uganda. They were resolved to not let that happen.

Scott Lively explains how the Nazis were actually “the gays.”

For those who are unacquainted, this was really crazy stuff and it was taken quite seriously. Scott Lively, an attorney and pastor, held a three-day seminar during which he went into great detail about how gays were responsible for the holocaust, and later he connected them to the genocide in Rwanda. The latter is very fresh in the minds of Ugandans and it struck the cord Lively was aiming for. He laid all this out as if he knew what he was talking about — very scholarly.

There is no way to cover all this here. You can review our writing about it from the time, where there are also references to excellent writing from others on the subject. It was quite an intense time for activism.

Now fast-forward to 2021 when another bill was passed. This one consolidated a number of existing laws concerning sexual crimes and also made same-sex relationships criminal. President Museveni vetoed this bill calling it redundant.

Now we are in 2023 and yet another anti-homosexuality bill (PDF) has been passed. The death penalty has been put back in and this time President Museveni signed it. Here are the highlights.

  • The Act criminalizes homosexuality, with penalties ranging from imprisonment to death. Those who “attempt” homosexual acts can also face imprisonment.
  • “Aggravated homosexuality,” including being a serial offender or acts with minors, persons with disabilities, etc., is punishable by death.
  • The Act criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality, including publishing information, providing financial support, or operating an organization that encourages homosexuality.
  • There are clauses about mandatory reporting of homosexuality, and penalties for those who do not report it.
  • Those convicted under the Act can be barred from certain types of employment.
  • The Act prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex.
  • Consent is not a defense under the Act, and confidentiality for victims is limited.

Overall, it imposes harsh penalties, including capital punishment, for consensual same-sex relations between adults. It also criminalizes advocacy for LGBTQ+ people, promotes discrimination and endangers human rights.

You may be wondering why all this should be important to us here when we have an ever growing list of our own serious problems. We are involved because so many evangelicals from (mostly) the US played a big part in all this. They went with the bible in one hand and a bunch of pseudo-scientific nonsense in the other and they gave both to receptive law makers, officials and leaders. This is real indoctrination.

The other reason is because a number of these evangelicals took with them the idea that homosexuality can be “cured.” They actually take pride in their attempts to remove the death penalty by replacing it with some form of conversion therapy. They offer this as proof of their compassion as if they entered after the damage had already been done and acted as a moderating factor. In the end, “rehabilitation” did make it into the Act, but so did the death penalty.

In response to this Act and the current climate against LGBTQ+ individuals in Uganda, the Strategic Response Team (SRT) has issued an extensive report. The SRT is “a consortium of five entities operating in Uganda that actively documents and coordinates community response and referral mechanisms to providers of safe shelter, legal, safety, and protective services to LGBTIQ+ persons across Uganda.”

This report is detailed and will give anyone interested a good look at the current state of affairs for sexual minorities in Uganda. We encourage our readers to examine this carefully. We in the West (as are most, but not all our readers) are closer than we ever expected to experiencing some of this. It would be foolish not to recognize the direction we are headed in.

Powerful concerns in the US are working to chip away at our rights, rights we fought hard for and which must not be discarded with the stroke of a pen. As for our part here, we need to broadcast the truth about the depraved practice of “curing” homosexuality. There are volumes of information which can be used to show that it is, at the very least, ineffective. Yet President Museveni has said that a big reason he finally supported the Act was because he was convinced by “experts” that homosexuality is a sickness requiring treatment.

If you are LGBTQ+ and live in Uganda, there is a target on your back. That is your home yet you are unwelcome there. Other countries are refusing asylum for such things — for just about anything. So what do you do? Where will you go? Actions have consequences. The Scott Livelys of the world are quick to condemn us, to lie about us, but look what they have done to Uganda.

It is worth noting that Scott Lively was sued in a US court by a Ugandan group, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), for crimes against humanity. The case was heard by Judge Michael Ponsor of the US District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts. After several years he ultimately dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds — the crimes were committed outside the US. However, the judge left no question about his thoughts on Lively’s guilt, saying for the record:

This crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that the Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.

Anyone reading this memorandum should make no mistake. The question before the court is not whether Defendant’s actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonize, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda constitute violations of international law. They do.

Judge Michael Ponsor

He also said that Lively aided “a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI people in Uganda.” These are incredible words on the record. Lively spent another year trying to get them removed as he was afraid they might be used against him in other lawsuits. One can only hope that he is, at some point, held accountable in a court of law. Unfortunately, this will afford LGBTQ+ Ugandans little comfort.

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