Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered, US Evangelicals Must Take Responsibility

In Uganda, David Kato, an advocacy officer for the gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), has been beaten to death in his home. Despite being among those listed in a newspaper late last year as gay with the headline “Hang them!” the police say Kato’s death is not related to his politics.

”It looks like theft, as some things were stolen,” Judith Nabakooba, a police spokeswoman said.

Gay activists disagreed and said Mr. Kato was singled out for his outspoken defense of gay rights.

“David’s death is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals in 2009,” Val Kalende, the chairwoman of one of Uganda’s gay rights groups, said in a statement. “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood!”

In a statement today, Political Research Associates condemned the murder and demanded an end to “the export of homophobia to Uganda by American conservatives.”

“Kato’s murder is a heavy blow to the international human rights community,” said Rev. Kapya Kaoma, the director of PRA’s Project on Religion and Sexuality. “Those U.S conservatives who have lit the brushfire of homophobia in Africa have to bear some responsibility for this tragic death and for the conflagration that now threatens to consume all gay Ugandans.”

Those U.S. evangelicals include Scott Lively, the former head of the California affiliate of the American Family Association. He and two others, including Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, have led conferences and workshops about the evils of homosexuality in Uganda. A direct result of all this anti-gay evangelical rhetoric was the Anti-Homosexuality Bill introduced into the Ugandan legislature in 2009 which would prescribe the death penalty for gays and lesbians, though it has yet to be made into law.

Kato was included in a list of 100 homosexuals whose names, addresses, and photographs were published in a Ugandan paper called Rolling Stone. The paper urged readers to kill those on the list. A Ugandan court ruling prevented the paper from publishing more names.

Hopefully, Kato’s death will serve as a wake-up call to conservative evangelicals in the U.S. who have attempted to wash their hands of the matter. Today, a gay activist is dead in a country where gays and lesbians are actively persecuted, where the law may soon allow them to be legally executed, and it’s a hatred they have fueled. No matter how much they may want to distance themselves, there’s no escaping responsibility for this tragedy.

“The blood of David is on the hands of American preachers who came to Uganda,” said Frank Mugisha, the executive director of SMUG. “They share much of the blame for presenting us as less than human.”

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)