I’m going to bet that most of you, if not all of you, have seen the new viral video sensation called “Kony 2012.” The video was created by a San Diego-based charity called Invisible Children and has received nearly 74 million views, capturing the attention of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, and Rihanna. It calls for the apprehension and prosecution of former Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
But you probably haven’t heard about this: according to researcher Bruce Wilson and IRS 990 forms, Invisible Children receives major funding from far-right, anti-gay fundamentalist donors and organizations, chief among them the U.S.-based National Christian Foundation (NCF). The NCF has also provided significant funds to fanatical groups deeply tied to the persecution of LGBT people in Uganda, including that nation’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.
According to Wilson’s report, the NCF (which counts among its biggest donors Rick Santorum’s billionaire buddy Foster Friess, by the way) has emerged as the biggest funder of the anti-gay, dominionist Christian right over the last ten years. Groups receiving NCF grants include James Dobson’s Focus on the Family; the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center-certified anti-gay hate group; the Fellowship Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the subversive D.C.-based fundamentalist shadow organization known as “The Family;” and Harvest Evangelism, a California-based ministry whose founder, Ed Silvoso, has worked with Julius Oyet, a leading promoter of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
NCF also funds The Call, led by Lou Engle, a notorious anti-LGBT extremist who frequently uses violent imagery in his tirades against homosexuality. In 2010, Engle brought The Call to Uganda, where the legislature was already considering the infamous “Kill the Gays Bill” – authored and sponsored by MP David Bahati, a member of The Family. Engle’s rally, which Bahati attended, stoked the fires of homophobic hatred and helped to create an even more frenzied climate of intolerance in that country.
American anti-gay groups like The Family, The Call, and Harvest Evangelism are waging a global war on LGBT people, exporting their hateful bile abroad even as the tide turns against their dangerous views at home. While stopping a brutal warlord is an admirable and important goal, it should not be done at the expense of LGBT Ugandans. Invisible Children needs to account for the very disconcerting ties between their organization and the religious right. More fundamentally, though, they need to decide: are they going to be idealists or ideologues? If Invisible Children is a group that simply seeks to do good, it is incredibly irresponsible for them to be affiliated with the funders of anti-gay fanaticism.
The National Christian Foundation isn’t the only connection between Invisible Children and homophobic bigotry. Invisible Children also received contributions from Californians Terry and Barbara Caster and their foundation. The Caster family contributed heavily to the successful push for the passage of Proposition 8, California’s constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, in 2008.