U.S. Pastors Export Bigotry to Uganda

U.S. pastors are exporting bigotry to Uganda, with brutal results.

This is an issue close to my heart, because I’ve spent over a decade working for equality as a lay leader in my own church, and now, as acting director of HRC’s Religion and Faith program – which helps religious leaders of all stripes speak out for equality and fight back when hatred is promoted in the name of religion.

On Thursday, that perversion of faith cost Ugandan gay rights advocate David Kato  his life. He was bludgeoned to death in his home after his name was among those listed in an anti-gay magazine, under the headline “Hang them!”

Since at least 2009, radical U.S. Christian missionaries have added anti-gay conferences and workshops in Uganda to their anti-gay efforts in the U.S. – and now they’re beginning to ordain ministers and build churches across East Africa focused almost entirely on preaching against homosexuality.

These American extremists didn’t call for David’s death. But they created a climate of hate that breeds violence – and they must stop and acknowledge they were wrong.

“Stop Exporting Hate.” Sign our petition to Carl Ellis Jenkins, Lou Engle, and Scott Lively.

We’ll deliver your signature to three men who have gone out of their way to promote hatred:

  • Scott Lively of Massachusetts held an anti-gay conference in Uganda with two other U.S. pastors. A few months later, a bill was introduced in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable by death.
  • Lou Engle, a Missouri preacher whose rallies draw tens of thousands in the U.S., spoke at a rally in Uganda this year that focused on praying for the bill’s passage. (Engle claims not to support some parts of the bill, but internal documents show he came to speak about “the threat of homosexuality,” and defend the Ugandan government’s efforts to “curb the growth of the vice using the law.”)
  • And Carl Ellis Jenkins of Georgia is presiding over a group that’s opening 50 new churches in Uganda to “help clean up bad morals, including homosexuality” according to his staff.

They have been stirring up hostility in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, violent attacks are common, rape is used to ‘cure’ people of their sexual orientation – and a shocking law has been proposed that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death.

And they’re in lockstep with some of the largest and wealthiest right-wing groups in the U.S. When the U.S. Congress considered a resolution denouncing the grotesque Ugandan death-penalty-for-gays bill, the extreme-right Family Research Council – now classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – spent $25,000 lobbying to stop the resolution from passing.

Religion should never be used to spread hate. These men do not speak for me or the millions of diverse religious people who support equality not in spite of our faith, but because of it

That’s what our Religion and Faith program is all about: helping people of faith from all different traditions speak out so we can reclaim the core religious values we hold dear in America.

At the heart of every religious tradition is love of humanity and love of creator – not hatred for our neighbors. Creating a climate of hate runs contrary to the very idea of faith – but that’s exactly what the right wing in America is doing.

Tell missionaries and radical hate groups: “Stop exporting hate.”

Whether or not we’re people of faith, we cannot stay silent or stand idly by while a radical minority pushes a hateful agenda in God’s name. Please stand with us and speak out today.

Sharon Groves
Religion and Faith Program
Human Rights Campaign,
Washington DC