Tuesday, December 14, 2010

African Americans protest Bahati’s US tour to promote “kill the gays” in Uganda

Bishop Zachary Jones (L) Pastor Joseph Tolton(C) Frank Mugishi(R) Photo Credit: Ocean Morisset

By Nathan James

GBM News Correspondent

As Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, the sponsor of a Draconian new bill making homosexuality a capital offense in his country, came to the United States this past week, seeking support for the legislation, an “Emergency Town Hall Meeting” was held Saturday, in New York City. Organized by the Black Faith Alliance for Global LGBT Justice, the event at Rehoboth Temple Christ Consciousness Church in Harlem featured a keynote address from Frank Mugishi, of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). At issue was the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act, whose provisions include life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of homosexual relations, and execution for anyone having previous convictions for homosexuality, is HIV-positive, or has gay sexual relations with a person under 18. In addition, the bill also makes failure to report a “known homosexual” to the authorities a crime, punishable by
7 years in prison, and creates an extradition process for Ugandans who are caught having gay relationships anywhere in the world. This extraordinarily harsh legislation against gays also highlighted, according to the meeting’s organizers, the involvement of the Christian Right here in the United States in the bill’s development.

Citing the “continued efforts of the religious right in turning blacks and gays against each other”, Bishop Zachary Jones of the Unity Fellowship Church spoke of how the Christian right in the US was heavily engaged in California’s Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage in that state, and on the use of Uganda as a “lab” in which the effects of anti-gay legislation could be observed. “The religious right,” Jones stated, “Is using Africans as pawns in a global chess game.” Jones was joined at the pulpit by Pastor Joseph Tolton, Rehoboth’s own presiding cleric, who read out the “call to action” on Uganda, imploring the United Nations and the US State Department to make decisive moves to address the plight of Uganda’s gays. Tolton cited a right-wing, Republican-based, American evangelical group, “The Family” with “exporting hatred to Africa, with a direct threat to the LGBT community in Uganda, by funding and sponsoring the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.” Tolton linked the situation in Uganda with American gays, saying, “We know that the freedom of our brothers and sisters in Uganda is clearly connected to our freedom here at home in the United States.” Pastor Tolton was followed by Frank Mugishi, who recounted in chilling detail the suffering of gays and lesbians in his home country.

Frank Mugishi, of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) Photo Credit: Ocean Morisset

Mugishi described forced hiding for gays and lesbians, “corrective rape” programs for lesbians, and the outright publication of the names and hometowns of gays and lesbians in local newspapers, creating a mob atmosphere in which gays feared being hunted down and beaten or killed. Mugishi stated that Uganda was “determined” to use all possible means to remove gays from its society, and the Anti-Homosexuality Act enjoyed broad public support. Mugishi and his organization have been operating underground in Uganda, and with the possible passage of Bahati’s bill, feared a catastrophic wave of anti-gay killings. GBM News asked Mugishi about the extradition clause in the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Mugishi confirmed that this would leave Uganda’s gays “little chance of escape”.

In a televised interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, MP Bahati cited “God’s Law” as justification for the proposed bill, and told viewers that “children were being recruited into homosexuality” by gay men in Uganda. When pressed to provide evidence of his claims, Bahati demurred, repeating only that “homosexuality is not of [Ugandan] culture.” While in Washington, Bahati stayed at a residence on C Street, also shared by numerous Republican members of Congress, and found receptive ears in several right-wing Christian organizations for his rhetoric. In Uganda, Bahati has gained the support of powerful allies such as Pastor Martin Ssempa, who showed scatological pornography as his “example” of gay sexual practices, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has said he will not oppose the bill if it passes Parliament. Bahati himself, in the documentary Missionaries of Hate, aired last summer on Current TV, stated that he would not hesitate to have his own daughter put to death under the law he authored, if she were found to be a lesbian.

In final statements at the Town Hall meeting, Pastor Tolton called upon all closeted gays and lesbians to “come out, wherever you are”, because “now is the time”. He urged gays of color to engage in a “sustained response” to homophobia, decrying the “spiritual colonialism” of the “religious right”. The approximately fifty attendees were brought to the pulpit as a show of unity, singing We Shall Overcome, recalling the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s. An appeal was made for donations to help Mugishi spread his message about the Ugandan situation, and to support Uganda’s imperiled gay population. Whatever lies ahead for Uganda’s gays in the coming months, it was clear that this critical, complex issue involving the efforts of a modern state government to exterminate a minority within its population, will continue to call to the hearts and minds of the LGBT community the world over.

The Global Justice Institute, GLAAD, GLO TV Network, GayByGod.net, The Fellowship, MCC New York & Rehoboth Temple join efforts to mobilize the community.


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