Photo credit: Alisdare Hickson
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling for international pressure on Uganda to stand up to American Christian fundamentalists and reject an anti-gay law that the country’s Parliament passed this week.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has 30 days from the date that the Parliament approved the “2023 Anti-Homosexuality Law” to veto it and thereby protect the lives and well-being of LGBTQ-plus Ugandans.
The bill, which builds upon Uganda’s ban on same-sex relationships, creates severe penalties for “promoting and abetting homosexuality and conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.” Included in these penalties is a death sentence for anyone convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as having same-sex relations with anyone under the age of 18, or having sex while HIV-positive. Already, same-sex conduct is punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda.
More than 30 countries throughout Africa ban same-sex relationships, but Uganda is the first on the continent to ban homosexuality entirely, according to the Human Rights Watch.
“These terrible laws are the direct result of centuries of Christian missionary work,” notes FFRF’s Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow Kat Grant.
Attitudes across pre-colonial African societies were much more open and accepting of homosexuality and gender fluidity, and many historians consider homophobia and transphobia to be cultural imports brought by European colonizers. The law passed by Parliament is not simply the lasting echo of a bygone colonial era, however.
For decades, the torch of global white Christian supremacy has been taken up by American evangelicals, who have established a stronghold of influence in Uganda and other African nations. More than 20 Christian groups from the United States, including the Fellowship
Foundation, Bethany Christian Services and Focus on the Family, have funneled more than $50 million into opposing sexual reproductive rights across Africa since 2007. The Fellowship Foundation (the recently-ousted sponsor of the National Prayer Breakfast) alone has poured over $20 million into Uganda and was heavily involved in the writing of the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, which was not passed but built the foundation for this latest bigoted iteration.
“Religion — and its ceaseless demand to dictate civil laws — is the problem in Uganda as it is today in the United States, where we’re facing a full-frontal assault on LGBTQ rights,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s beyond shameful that U.S. ministries are pouring their tax-exempt millions into Uganda and other African nations in order to spread hate, division and violence.”