Yesterday Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death in his home just weeks after his photo was emblazoned on the cover of a local newspaper with the accompanying headline “HANG THEM!” The newspaper articles and Kato’s murder came after months of international outrage over Uganda’s proposed and still-pending “kill gays” bill, legislation that orders the death penalty for homosexuals in some cases and life imprisonment in others.
The inspiration for Uganda’s gay death penalty bill, and surely, Kato’s murder, arises from the work of American evangelists, chief among them the repulsive anti-gay activist Scott Lively, whose infamous book The Pink Swastika blames the rise of the Nazi Party and the Holocaust on gay men. One year ago, the New York Times profiled Lively’s hand in Uganda’s burgeoning pogrom against homosexuals, which began after Lively hosted a three-day meeting attended by thousands of Ugandan police, teachers, and politicians.
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.
“I feel duped,” Mr. Schmierer said, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children. He acknowledged telling audiences how homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, but he said he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality. “That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”
Mr. Lively and Mr. Brundidge have made similar remarks in interviews or statements issued by their organizations. But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Later, when confronted with criticism, Mr. Lively said he was very disappointed that the legislation was so harsh. Human rights advocates in Uganda say the visit by the three Americans helped set in motion what could be a very dangerous cycle. Gay Ugandans already describe a world of beatings, blackmail, death threats like “Die Sodomite!” scrawled on their homes, constant harassment and even so-called correctional rape.
Yesterday Scott Lively’s “nuclear bomb” against Ugandan gays went off in the form of the iron bar which crushed the skull of David Kato. In some countries, it’s possible that Lively would be under arrest today. Also complicit in this murder is Peter LaBarbera, who for years has worked to publicize and praise Scott Lively’s evil agenda. Then there’s Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, who last year paid lobbyists $25,000 to convince members of Congress to block a planned resolution denouncing Uganda’s gay death penalty bill. And let’s not forget Pastor Rick Warren, who supported, funded, appeared with, and publicized the work of Uganda’s leading anti-gay activist, Pastor Martin Ssempa.
Today we mourn David Kato, a brave LGBT activist who paid the ultimate price in defense of his brothers and sisters. But we’ve also got start looking at some serious legal remedies to the actions of American anti-gay activists in other countries. Outside of the United States, many legals systems are not so constrained by the American concept of freedom of speech. What can we do to leverage that difference to end this madness? Lawsuits? The Hague?