FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, Nov. 2, 2009

Contact: Wayne Besen
Phone: 917-691-5118
E-Mail: wbesen@truthwinsout.org

American Evangelicals Have a Moral Duty to Speak Out Against Witch Hunt, Says TWO

NEW YORK – Truth Wins Out today urged Congress to deny financial aid to Uganda if the country passes a draconian bill that would trample on the fundamental rights of the nation’ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 threatens sexual minorities with cruel and usual punishment for simply existing, says TWO.

“The United States should have no part in funding a government that promotes cruelty, while opposing basic freedoms and human rights,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a New York-based GLBT organization. “We thank the members of Congress who have spoken out and strongly urge other lawmakers to follow their lead before it is too late.”

Ileana 735282 197x300 TWO Urges Congress to Suspend Aid To Uganda If Anti Homosexuality Bill PassesOn Friday, four members of Congress wrote a powerful letter (full text below) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express alarm over the proposed law.

“This egregious bill represents one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country and would create a legal pretext for depriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans of their liberty, and even their lives,” said the bipartisan letter, signed by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla., pictured). “Particularly given the United States’ substantial contribution to Uganda through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we believe swift action is necessary to ensure Ugandan leaders understand this bill is wholly unacceptable and antithetical to democratic values.”

Last week, the US pledged to give Uganda $246 million in aid. Truth Wins Out wrote members of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs today urging a reconsideration of aid to Uganda if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is passed.

The United States embassy in Uganda spoke out last week against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, calling it a major setback in the promotion of human rights.

“If adopted, a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda,” the embassy’s public affairs officer Joann Lockard said in an email. “We urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention.”

“We commend the Obama administration for standing up to injustice and tyranny against sexual minorities in Uganda,” said TWO’ Besen. “We hope that leaders in Uganda understand that their efforts to persecute GLBT people is a moral affront to core American values.”

Unfortunately, The American Free Press (AFP) reported last week, Ugandan Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo said the country would not relent, even as international protests mounted.

“They have come to me in great numbers and we are discussing it diplomatically but we are also telling them to mind their own business. They have no mandate whatsoever to come and say: ‘Your values are wrong, mine are right’,” he said. “We are really getting tired of this phrase human rights. It is being abused. Anything goes, and if you are challenged? ‘Oh, it’s my right’. Anal sex? Human rights. Robbery? Human rights. All sort of nonsense? Human rights,” Buturo said.

Asked about donor nations and human rights campaigners opposed to the bill, Buturo was again defiant, according to AFP.

“We have told those sources we are not going to compromise our integrity. And they are appalled. They cannot believe that Uganda says, on certain issues we are not going to sell our soul,” he said.

Truth Wins Out called Buturo’ attack on international concern disingenuous and untruthful.

“Uganda’ President Yoweri Museveni has allowed American evangelical groups to use his nation as a laboratory for socially conservative policies,” said TWO’ Wayne Besen. “So, it is outrageous and dishonest for Ugandan leaders to suddenly protest human rights advocates as meddling outsiders.”

According to Public Research Associates, Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, is friends with Archbishop Henry Orombi and Pastor Martin Sempa, who are pushing for passage of this bill. While in Uganda in March 2008, Warren said that that homosexuality is not a natural way of life and not a human right.

The Fellowship, (aka The Family) one of America’ most powerful and secretive fundamentalist organization’, converted Uganda’ President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity, which is the “intellectual” impetus behind the anti-gay crackdown. The clandestine organization’ leader, Doug Coe, calls Museveni The Fellowship’ “key man” in Africa, according to Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family.”

Last Spring, a U.S. delegation of anti-gay fundamentalists attended a conference in Kampala that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Americans who were present include Don Schmierer, an Exodus International Board member, holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and the International Healing Foundation’ Caleb Lee Brundidge.

“For the past decade, evangelical leaders in America have claimed that they love gay people,” said Besen. “It is time they back up their syrupy words with action. If they fail to act, they will be held responsible for their spread of ignorance and intolerance that helped light the fuse for this oppressive law.”

FULL TEXT OF HOUSE LETTER

Dear Madam Secretary:

We write to raise serious concerns about the “Anti-Homosexual Bill” introduced in Uganda’s parliament earlier this month. This egregious bill represents one of the most extreme anti-equality measures ever proposed in any country and would create a legal pretext for depriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans of their liberty, and even their lives. Particularly given the United States’ substantial contribution to Uganda through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we believe swift action is necessary to ensure Ugandan leaders understand this bill is wholly unacceptable and antithetical to democratic values.

As you may know, the “Anti-Homosexual Bill” would increase the penalty for “same sex sexual acts” to life in prison, limit the distribution of information on HIV through a provision criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality,” and establish the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by death for anyone in Uganda who is HIVpositive and has consensual same-sex relations. Further, the bill includes a provision that could lead to the imprisonment for up to three years of anyone who fails to report within 24 hours the identities of everyone they know who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or who supports human rights for people who are, to the government.

Last year, PEPFAR spending in Uganda amounted to almost $300 million, representing approximately 2.60% of the total Ugandan economy. According to these estimates, the U.S. spends approximately $12 dollars per person in Uganda through PEPFAR. Dr. Eric Goosby, Ambassador atLarge and Global AIDS Coordinator, has made it clear that he believes efforts to combat discrimination against LGBT individuals are an important part of PEPFAR’s mission to combat global HIV/AIDS. During his Senate confirmation hearing in June, Dr. Goosby stated, “if confirmed, I look forward to working with field and headquarters staff, Congress and others in the Administration to ensure that PEPFAR effectively targets the most at-risk and vulnerable populations – including LGBT populations – with culturally appropriate prevention, care and treatment interventions.” The “Anti-Homosexual Bill” would clearly impede Dr. Goosby and PEPFAR’s goals by seriously compromising efforts to reach LGBT communities in Uganda. We believe it would undermine the substantial U.S. contribution to Uganda through PEPFAR and raise serious questions about the effectiveness of this global health investment.

Madame Secretary, we applaud your leadership on LGBT issues and steadfast commitment to human rights. It is our fervent hope that you will use every means possible to convey to Ugandan leaders that this bill is appalling, reckless, and should be withdrawn immediately. We stand ready to work with you in addressing this matter and look forward to your response. If you have any questions, please contact Amber Shipley of Rep. Baldwin’s staff at 202-225-2906.

Sincerely,

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Tammy Baldwin

Howard Berman

Gary Ackerman