Global LGBT Recap:Culture War Exports, Mob Violence and Kidnapping as Weapon of Homophobia

Culture Warriors Exporting Homophobia

A couple articles this past week look at the work of anti-gay religious groups overseas.  The National Journal’s Alex Seitz-Wald gives an overview of American evangelicals’ efforts to encourage passage of anti-gay laws around the world. Among the items mentioned is the work of Scott Lively and others to launch an anti-gay group in Latvia that believes “there is a war between Christians and homosexuals.”

At the Religion News Service, Gay Clark Jennings, an Episcopal priest, examines “Homophobia in Christian Africa.” Jennings notes that many political and diplomatic leaders have criticized passage of anti-gay bills in Uganda and Nigeria, but says, “Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.” She notes with sadness that Anglican leaders in Uganda and Nigeria “enthusiastically support” anti-gay legislation.

Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.

She quotes Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda saying that it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa. Jennings says missionaries promoted a particular literalist approach to reading the Bible.

The situation is not hopeless. Across Christian Africa, tools like contextual Bible study, developed in post-apartheid South Africa, provide new ways to read the Bible and what it has to say about sexuality and other central issues in the lives of African Christians. These new readings of old texts encourage Christians to accept LGBT people as God’s children.

Even so, progressive African Christians are fighting an uphill battle. The voices of strident homophobic leaders in Africa have been amplified by large infusions of money from American right-wing culture warriors such as Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., who has bankrolled homophobia on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make common cause between right-wing American Anglican splinter groups and the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda.

The Toronto Star also considers rising homophobia and anti-gay violence in Africa, suggesting that it reflects, in addition to the work of American evangelicals, a backlash by conservative forces against increasingly open advocacy for LGBT equality.

Vatican: Catholics Ask Pope Francis to Oppose Anti-Gay Laws

New Ways Ministry has launched the No More Triangle Nations project, which is encourages social media users to call on Pope Francis to speak out publicly against laws criminalizing homosexuality. 

The project encourages Twitter users to use the hashtag #PopeSpeakOut to ask Pope Francis to condemn laws in Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, India, and Jamaica, places that “legislate and enforce death dealing policies and/or the suspension of civil rights based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the campaign’s website.

“By sending tweets to the pope, we want to move him to speak out against these laws, many of which have been supported by Catholic leaders and people in these nations,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, the organization that launched the project, in a press release last week. “We need a powerful, faith-based statement from Pope Francis to support the freedom and lives of our LGBT sisters and brothers.”

As we reported last week, Catholic officials in Nigeria, including a Cardinal, have praised the draconian anti-gay law that is generating persecution and violence against gay people in that country.  In India, in contrast, Cardinal Oswald Gracias has opposed the Supreme Court ruling that recriminalized homosexuality. 

Catholics and others have also protested remarks by a newly-named cardinal, Fernando Sebastián of Spain. Colegas, an LGBT rights group, has filed a complaint charging that Sebastián’s comments violate Spanish law against acts that provoke discrimination, hate or violence against groups based on their sexual orientation. In Málaga, pro-equality activists protested the cardinal-to-be’s comments with a kiss-in at the cathedral.

Russia: Orthodox Church Pushing for More Anti-Gay Measures

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has asked lawmakers to ban “any attempt” to legalize same-sex marriage and portrayed a closer tie between church and state as a positive step:

When the state adjusts its every move in accordance with the “natural moral norms” it does not become religious, but instead turns into a “reasonable guardian of the common good.”

In addition the Patriarch noted that wider promotion of religious education could help the authorities tackle extremism and terrorism. Prepared citizens could offer ‘intellectual resistance’ both to Islamist extremists and to mass culture with its cult of hedonism and aggression, he added.

This follows, as we reported last week, a church official’s call for a referendum on criminalizing homosexuality.

In Washington, D.C. this week, Katrina Lantos Swett, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, mentioned the infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law as one of many repressive, anti-democratic laws that have been adopted in Putin’s Russia. She said that laws on “religious freedom” and “extremism” grant special favor to the Orthodox Church while giving the government wide latitude to discriminate against minority religions. That favored status is evident in the construction of new high-profile Russian Orthodox churches around the world whose construction costs are being paid by the Russian government.

The propaganda law has most recently been used to fine the editor of a newspaper in Khabarovsk in northeastern Russia for printing an interview with a local geography teacher who is gay; the court ruled that the teacher’s assertion that homosexuality is normal violated the law. Meanwhile, some Russian parliamentarians introduced legislation that would amend the propaganda law so that it would ban “propagandizing” sexual relations of any kind to minors. And more LGBT Russians are fleeing the country and seeking asylum in the west.

Over the past week, LGBT-rights advocates effectively took over social media campaigns of Olympic corporate sponsors like McDonalds and Coca-Cola.  The mayor of Sochi, by the way, said that his city has no gays that he’s aware of.

Nigeria: Anti-Gay Law Fomenting Mob Violence; Islamic Court Trials Suspended

We reported last week on the surge in arrests and trials in Shariah courts in the wake of President Goodluck Jonathan’s January 7 signing of a draconian anti-gay law there. Last Thursday, Associated Press reported, “Thousands of protesters threw stones into the Shariah court in a north Nigerian city Wednesday, urging the speedy convictions and executions of 11 men arrested for belonging to gay organizations.” This week, Agence French Press reports that two Islamic courts “have been forced to suspend the trials of 10 men accused of homosexuality because of fears of mob violence.”

Uganda: Museveni Wants Proof Gays Not Born That Way

This week Uganda’s President Museveni angered anti-gay members of parliament when he said he would only sign the draconian anti-gay bill passed by the legislature in December if the bill’s proponents can provide scientific evidence that people are not born gay. Equality advocate Kapya Koama at Political Research Associates, who has authored reports on the globalization of the culture war in Africa and elsewhere, wrote this week that he is not optimistic that Museveni will ultimately kill the legislation. Kaoma analyzes Museveni’s letter to parliament (which we discussed in last week’s recap) and concludes that “Museveni will certainly pander to religious leaders, who are demanding that some form of the law will be passed.” He also discussed the “transnational linkages” by which Putin’s anti-gay moves give credibility and momentum to similar efforts in African nations.

This week, charges against a retired British man who made been arrested in Iganda in October for possessing a pornographic video were dropped. His Ugandan boyfriend faces more serious charges and has received death threats.

Mexico: Church and Mayor Running Anti-Gay Billboard Campaign

Gay Star News reports this week that a Christian church has teamed up with a mayor to launch an anti-gay billboard campaign in the state of Chiapas, opposing laws on abortion, gay marriage, and legalization of marijuana, which the billboards say violate God’s law. The billboards include a Bible verse that says the wages of sin is death.

One of the logos on the billboard is of Chilo mayor Leonardo Rafael Aguilar Guiraro’s Chiapas Green Foundation and the billboard also bears the website address of the Espiranza Segura Jesus Christ church headed by Pastor Joshua Perez.

Mennonite Pastor in International Kidnapping Case Appeals Sentence

Lisa Miller is an American woman who kidnapped her child and, with the help of Mennonites in the U.S. and Nicaragua, fled the country rather than obey court custody owners regarding the child she had with her former partner. Miller describes herself as an ex-gay born-again Christian; she was represented in her custody battles by lawyers at the right-wing evangelical group Liberty Counsel.  Last summer, Kenneth Miller, a pastor who helped her flee to Central America via Canada was sentenced to 27 months in prison, but was allowed to remain free while he appealed. This week he filed an appeal of his sentence, saying that he should not have been sentenced by a court in Vermont, where Miller’s former partner lives.

UK: Jail Terms for Siblings Who Attacked, Tried to Kidnap Sister’s Female Partner

On Friday, six members of a Muslim family were given jail terms for the assault and attempted kidnapping of their sister’s female partner, who was threatened with death. Closed circuit TV cameras captured the assault, which the judge called a “carefully planned ambush.”  According to ITV, “The court has been told that Nazma Ditta’s family could not accept that she was in a gay relationship and that they had arranged for her to marry her cousin.”

Kuwait: Crackdown on Trans Women

Journalist Dan Littauer reports on a Kuwaiti crackdown on transgender women, and in particular on a case of a trans woman arrested in a salon for “imitating the opposite sex” and “entering a space dedicated to women-only.” A 2007 law against “imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex” was criticized in a Human Rights Watch report from 2012. Littauer cites a newspaper’s publication of an open letter to written by a psychologist to the Minister of Education complaining that LGBT people are converting others into their “ways against nature and God.”

Indian High Court Declines to Review Decision Re-Criminalizing Homosexuality

On Tuesday, the Indian Supreme Court dismissed petitions that it review its recent decision that reinstated a colonial-era anti-sodomy law. A “curative petition” by the government is still pending.

Cyprus: Last European Law Criminalizing Homosexuality Repealed

Thirty-three years after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that laws criminalizing homosexuality violate the European Human Rights Convention, lawmakers in Northern Cyprus abolished the last such law in Europe.

Lithuania: Push for Ban on Adoption

In Lithuania, one of the countries in which American evangelicals have encouraged the adoption of anti-gay legislation, legislator Petras Gražulis drafted legislation to ban adoption by same-sex couples, including foreign couples. His justification had echoes of the infamous Regnerus study that has been widely discredited but is nevertheless in wide use by anti-equality advocates.

“Lithuanian children are taken away and given to homosexuals in other countries under the veil of laws of foreign countries; however, no one protects the rights and legal interests of children. Such situations remind me of child trafficking to perverts. Various researches show that children raised by the so-called families of gays or lesbians suffer from more negative social, economic and emotional consequences compared to the children raised by healthy biological families,” said Gražulis.

A Russian-style “propaganda” law has also been moving through the legislature.