US preachers export anti-gay ideology to Africa

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The lawsuit filed by The Center for Constitutional Rights against evangelical preacher Scott Lively is not an attack on speech, insists Pam Spees of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“We are talking about him trying to remove the freedom of expression rights of others,” she said. “It’s not just his speech, it is his conduct. You cannot just do and say anything you want to, and say its part of religion.”

Spees, who serves as senior staff attorney in the Center’s International Human Rights docket, said their reasoning for the lawsuit has been mistaken.

“Lively is much further beyond speaking opinions. He is trying to implement a plan that, once implemented LGBTs will not have any rights,” she said. “Lively has set out a game plan and is very specific and explicit about wanting to strip people of their rights.”

Wednesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit against Lively. The suit, filed on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, alleges Lively has waged a decades-long campaign to persecute gays in Uganda. The suit has been filed under a statute that allows non-citizens to file actions in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

Lively, most recently known for his work with Redemption Gate Mission Society in Massachusetts, is also known for his work with the American Family Association. He has decade long anti-gay/pro-family platform. In addition to his work in Uganda, Lively has also spread his message to parts of Moldova and Russian.

His ideas, Spees said, take hold in other countries because he knows how to hit the cultural soft spots. Claims of Lively’s, like the gay movement in Germany was responsible for the Holocaust, do not take hold in the United States.

“Lively has a different appeal in other places,” she said. His main message, that homosexuals are a menace and danger to children, becomes the basis for everything. “And he will say that America is a loss cause.”

Then he goes much further than just speaking about it and stirring it up. According to Spees, Lively has met with like-minded legislators and religious leaders in these countries. In these meetings he expresses the importance of silencing the LGBT movement.

“You have to criminalize any form of advocacy,” Spees said Lively has argued. “You have to cut back on the rights of LGBT persons and criminalize their existence.”

Lively is not the only American based evangelical preacher spreading this message overseas. According to Sharon Groves, PhD, director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, there are several others including: a known “right-wing leader” named Lou Engle, Georgia-based pastor Carl Ellis Jenkins, and Paul Cameron. In response, the HRC recently created a petition here in the United States to garner awareness of the globe-trotting actions of these evangelical preachers.

“They are causing great harm to LGBT people, to Uganda, and to the church here. It is having a horrific effect,” Grover said, adding that these preachers are interfering in a way that is deeply problematic and in some cases changing the nature of a very important dialogue.

To date, over 15,000 people have signed their petition. Even though the HRC is a domestically focused organization, Grover said they started the petition to send the message that Lively and others do not represent all Christians in America.

“These people are not preaching the gospel message, they just are not. This is not the ministry of Jesus Christ,” Grover said. “Jesus Christ stood with the marginalized and was about increasing love among communities, not about division and terror and violence, and fear and shame.”

Grover added that wherever you fall on the issue of LGBT rights, it would be a very hard stretch to say that what Lively is doing is reflective of the gospel message.

“It is important for religious people to be able to say that. It is harming to religion because it is giving religion a horribly bad name,” she said. “This is not what people of faith are about.”

At the same time, Grover feels it is important to state that Lively and these others are just the ones they have been following most significantly. She considers these few to be a rogue group of individuals, not the totality of mainstream evangelical thought.

But how is what they are doing having such an impact in these other countries?
Grover has an idea. They simply just added fire to a flame that may have already been present, but was not raging.

“Before they got involved it was safe to say that while the country was not open and welcoming, they were figuring out how to deal with LGBT people,” she said. “They did not have this level of terror that is now associated. The dialogue changed tremendously as a result of Lively and others and LGBT individuals became a threat. It rose to a level of threat.”

Spees believes there is a need for accountability. That is why they took this course of action. And she adds that there are no plans at present to go after Lively’s “conspirators.”

“It is not just Lively. We know that others are doing it,” she said. However, she said they have to be able to prove there is a more systematic strategy at play. “Otherwise it’s just about prestige.”

It is important to name what Lively and others are doing is a form of persecution and to be very clear about that, Spees adds.

“The hope is that it will wake folks up, even if not the actual the leaders of the conspiracy but those who have gone on with it – those calling for extermination, etc.” she said. “We need to help them to realize what is happening. You cannot take away rights, not basic fundamental rights available to everyone.”

Follow Mashaun D. Simon on Twitter at @memadosi