A Murder in Uganda

rolling stoneThe riots in Egypt obscured the chaos which erupted in Uganda at the January 28 funeral of murdered gay activist David Kato. Kato, 46, a prominent LGBT rights advocate in the east African nation, was beaten to death with a hammer on January 26. Last October, his name and photo were printed under a banner headline of the Ugandan tabloid “Rolling Stone” calling for gays to be executed. (Not affiliated with America’s “Rolling Stone.”) The banner read: “Hang them.” The men’s addresses were also listed causing attacks on some while forcing others into hiding. David didn’t hide. The government’s cover story? David was murdered during a home robbery.

At David’s funeral, the presiding pastor used the tragedy to actually rebuke homosexuals saying that “they would go to hell.” Incited sympathizers stormed the pulpit and grabbed his microphone. “David’s funeral spiraled into chaos,” said witnesses. Police whisked the pastor away and “a sympathetic Anglican bishop stepped in and laid Kato to rest.”

To his credit, President Obama quickly condemned the killing and urged authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.

This modern-day African witch hunt is deeply entwined in the universal fight for understanding and equality for heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, pansexuals, asexuals and any other sexual persons. Another words, all of us. Just as there is no one shade of black, or of white, red, yellow or brown, there is no one shade of sexual orientation. As with diverse color, which embraces people from all walks of life, all economic levels, all societies, races, cultures and religions, the same is true for diverse sexual orientation. God created diversity.

A spokesperson for SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), where David served as an advocacy officer, said, “SMUG and the entire Ugandan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Community stands together to condemn the killing of David Kato and call for the Ugandan Government, Civil Society and Local Communities to protect sexual minorities across Uganda.”

In 2007, David made contact with Other Sheep, a “Christian multicultural ministry dedicated to empowering sexual minorities through the unconditional love of…Jesus Christ.” It’s name comes from the Bible, John 10:16, where Christ says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also.”

Jose Ortiz, Other Sheep Coordinator for Africa, said, “Ugandans, who are followers of Mr. David Bahati, the member of Parliament in Uganda who is pushing a bill calling for the execution of gays, spurred by the evangelical religious right…must wake up and realize that horrible acts of inhumanity invariably follow hateful and bigoted rhetoric…” Bahati’s bill imposes the death penalty for the crime of homosexuality, under certain circumstances, including being HIV-positive.

As if all of this is not sordid and tragic enough, it’s not the whole story, i.e., the “evangelical religious right in the U.S.” being involved in Uganda.

david kato
David Kato

Enter MSNBC broadcaster Rachel Maddow and Washington’s evangelical C Street House. Rachel has been leading the investigation into the activities of C Street House and its conservative backer Doug Coe. (Peter J. Boyer in his Sept. 2010 New Yorker article called it a “Frat House for Jesus.”) She has interviewed author Jeffrey Sharlett who has written about the “Family,” a euphemism for the living arrangements between C Street and some members of Congress. Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Nevada Senator John Ensign, both recently involved in high-profile extramarital affairs, lived at C Street House.

Coe has a close and influential relationship with converted Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Bahati. What binds Coe and these American and Ugandan politicians is their pledge to “hold one another to a life lived by the principles of Jesus.” In one interview, Coe has said that “imposing the death penalty and criminalization of homosexuality is contrary to the principles of love and compassion that Jesus taught and lived.”

Obviously Museveni and Bahati didn’t get that memo. Also not signing onto the principles of Jesus is American evangelist Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries. Scott has proven to be virulently anti-gay and has led an anti-gay conference in Uganda. After this conference Bahati introduced his bill to execute gays. The Southern Poverty Law Center regards Abiding Truth Ministries as a hate group.

America’s leaders, from the right and the left, aspire to positions of leadership because of their desire to keep America strong and support the concept of America’s exceptionalism. There is no greater guide to America’s exceptionalism than our Declaration of Independence which promises to all, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

carl matthesExcerpt from an unpublished editorial by David Kato:

“It must be said again and again in any society where religious teachings on homosexuality dominate, that the view of the religious majority is not to be legislated onto the views and practices of the sexual minority. As long as a gay man or woman does not infringe upon the rights of other individuals, the homosexual (who is often Christian) has the same right as his heterosexual counterpart, to interpret the Bible according to his or her understanding and to answer only before God (and not to the government or to the church).”

Carl Matthes

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