‘Open Mosque’ in South Africa Receives Threats; ‘Blood Test’ for ‘Degeneratism’: Global LGBT Recap

Americans Abroad

The Human Rights Campaign has launched a social media campaign targeting American religious activists who promote anti-gay idea and legislation around the world. The campaign is grounded in a report, “The Export of Hate.”  Among those named in the campaign are Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International, and Scott Lively, who has traveled the globe promoting anti-gay policies.

RD Contributor Jay Michaelson has published a Daily Beast commentary on Rick Warren’s work in Africa, which he says “may well reflect the sense among Christian conservatives that America has already been lost, but Africa may yet be saved. Here, the culture war has been won by Satan; there, it may still be won by God.”

Churches, schools, and faith-based health services implement Warren’s evangelical vision, in Africa and here at home. Social conservatism is not the entirety of that vision, but it is an essential part of it. And the consequences of that conservatism—marginalization of LGBT people, gag rules on health-care providers, questionable partners to advance the agenda—are all part of the package.

To call Warren anti-gay, hateful, or homophobic is to miss the point. The image of a Ugandan lynched for being gay won’t be found in Warren advertising materials, or in his sermons. It doesn’t have to be. It just comes with the territory.

Africa: Theologians and Scholars Issue Declaration on LGBT Equality

“More than 30 African scholars, theologians, faith leaders, activists and students have issued a powerful declaration in support of LGBT equality on the continent,” reports Mamba Online. The group met in late August in South Africa at the invitation of Michael Adee, an elder in the US Presbyterian Church and Director of the Global Faith and Justice Project, and Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest and senior religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates.Countries represented included Cameroon, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The “call to reflection and action for the African continent” was named “The KwaZulu Natal Declaration.” Full text is available at Momba Online; excerpts below.

Aware of the traditional leadership roles that academics, religious institutions, and churches in Africa have played in promoting social justice and human dignity,

Troubled by the misuse of religion to further marginalize and exclude sexual minorities from society and faith communities,

Noting the recommendations on human sexuality from the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly to the Central Committee, and the subsequent approval of the Terms of Reference for the Human Sexuality Reference Group to walk together in a pilgrimage of Justice and Peace from 2014-2021,

Observing the resolution on violence and other human rights violations based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa issued in April 2014 by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights,

Acknowledging the deaths and threats of death, the violence, discrimination, that sexual minorities, women, and children face on the continent,

We call on all religious institutions, especially Christian Churches

  • To care for the least amongst us as Christ has done,
  • To create safe spaces for encounter with the sexual diversity within the body of Christ,
  • To talk openly about sexual diversities and adversities in human sexuality,
  • To break out of the vicious cycle of shame, secrecy, violence, and silence that demeans, demonizes and kills,
  • To openly condemn violence against sexual minorities.

Vatican: Reading Papal Tea Leaves on Marriage, LGBTs as Family Synod Approaches

Last Sunday, Pope Francis married 20 couples from the diocese of Rome, an event that was newsworthy because some of the couples had broken traditional Catholic rules about marriage by, for example, having lived together and had children. Some Vatican-watchers saw the move as a deliberate signal from the pope in advance of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. Elisabetta Povoledo wrote in the New York Times that “in Francis’s new, more forgiving church, these otherwise familiar domestic arrangements were not considered an impediment.” No same-sex couples were included.

Vatican watchers said the public marriages, the first by a pope since 2000, were meant to send a message, something Francis has done previously to soften the church’s image on social issues. During his return trip from World Youth Day in Brazil in July 2013, for example, the pope said he would not condemn — or judge — priests because of their sexual orientation.

“Cohabitation is a big issue, and how it is dealt with at the parish level is a big concern, so the pope is sending a signal,” said John Thavis, a veteran Vatican reporter….

“It’s a pope willing to say that if you want to be married in the church, we’ll find a way to do it. It’s the ‘who am I to judge?’ pope, who doesn’t want to turn people away and instead wants to find a way to bring people in,” Mr. Thavis said.

Speaking of the upcoming Synod on the family, Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry has put together a bit of intelligence on the LGBT-related records of some of the bishops who will be attending:

DeBernardo notes that some others on the list of 250 appointees, which include both bishops and laypeople, have long anti-gay records.

From my perspective, the most important feature from the list of lay observers is that no publicly LGBT person or couple is named.  The Synod will be examining pastoral responses to families headed by same-gender couples.  Didn’t the Vatican think it would be good to hear from some of them?  If the Vatican has invited heterosexual couples to participate, why did they not invite lesbian and gay couples, too?

Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, a columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, offers a critical view of the list in an essay entitled “The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing.”   Reese is disappointed that so many Curia officials will be participating, and he notes that they should be “staff, not policymakers.”  He explained:

“They have all the other weeks of the year to advise the pope. This is the time for bishops from outside of Rome to make their views known.”

Reese observes that the choices of who will be advising the bishops also seems lopsided.

“Half the experts are clerics, which seems strange at a synod on the family. None of the 16 experts is from the United States; 10 are from Europe (including five from Italy), three from Asia, and one each from Mexico, Lebanon and Australia.

“There are more laypeople among the 38 auditors, including 14 married couples, of whom two are from the United States. Many of the observers are employees of the Catholic church or heads of Catholic organizations, including natural family planning organizations.

South Africa: “Open Mosque” Generates Threats; Leaders Shrink from LGBTI Human Rights Advocacy

Today a mosque in South Africa will invite men and women, people of different strains of Islam, and openly LGBTI people to worship together. Its founder calls it South Africa’s first gender-equal, non-sectarian and interracial mosque. Not everyone is welcoming it opening.

Despite death threats and severe backlash on social media calling it a “gay temple”, plans on behalf of Dr Taj Hargey to open an “all welcome” mosque will go ahead. This will be the first time openly LGBTI people will be able to attend services in a mosque in South Africa.

Male and female Muslims will worship together, interfaith marriages will be endorsed and Sunni and Shias will be allowed to worship at the same service.

Cape Town born Dr Hargey is an Imam and director of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford. He returned to his hometown in hope of generating a “religious revolution”. Hargey said,

“You go to churches and often see the sign ‘All welcome’. This is the single mosque in the whole country that sadly has the words ‘All welcome’ underneath it.”

“I decided that being Cape Town-born I had to do something. We had a political evolution in this country 20 years ago and what we need now is a religious revolution, especially in the Muslim community.”

“You enter the mosque, do I ask you the question who did you sleep with last night? No. It’s not my business who you slept with,” said Hargey….

Although Hargay is strongly in favour of embracing the gay community into Islam, he is not gay himself and says he is prepared to take legal action over anybody who accuses him as a ‘homosexual’ for opening the mosque.

The country’s Muslim Judicial Council is reportedly investigating the mosque in an effort to “protect the integrity and purity of our deen (faith).” Hargey’s response: “We wanted a mosque that reflects 21st century South Africans not some seventh century utopia that never existed.”

Other news reports cited Hargey’s response to the mosque’s critics:

“I guess the Muslim clergy is not pleased with an independent new mosque that will challenge their authority,” Taj Hargey, a professor of Islamic Studies and African history at Oxford University, told Cape Times on Monday, September 15.

“I preach an Islam that is enlightened, erudite and egalitarian.”

Also from South Africa, BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports on concerns among activists that the nation’s leaders are pulling back support for international efforts to promote the human rights of LGBTI people:

“We currently have leadership that fails to represent the ethos of what the constitution says and the equality principles they have to uphold,” said Mmapeseka Steve Letsike, a lesbian activist who chairs the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum. “We have leadership going out of this country putting their personal beliefs before its own people. We have leaders that fail to protect their own.”

South Africa’s pullback on LGBTI rights internationally comes as homophobia has become an increasingly common political tool across Africa, framed as a form of standing up to the West. Nigeria and Uganda both passed sweeping bills criminalizing LGBTI rights advocacy this winter, the governments of The Gambia and Chad both have pending proposals to stiffen laws against homosexuality, and LGBTI people are being targeted by police from Zimbabwe to Egypt to Senegal.

Italy: Church Objects to Mayor Registering Gay Couples Married in Other Countries

On Monday, the city of Bologna began to register the unions of gay couples married in other countries.  Mayor Virginio Merola moved to implement his June directive over the objection of Bologna’s Prefect (the Italian state’s administrative representative) Mario Ennio Sodano.  The Catholic diocese of Bologna denounced the move, calling it a “surprise attack.” While opponents seek to nullify the registrations’ legality, activists hope the mayor’s move will spur the Italian parliament to move the country toward European standards for LGBT equality. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said he would follow Bologna’s lead and start the process in Italy’s capital city “for the recognition of marriages contracted abroad, both heterosexual and homosexual couples”.

England: Priest’s Same-Sex Celebration Gets Backing as Bishops Meet on Sexuality

Dominic McClean, an Anglican priest who has entered a civil partnership with his same-sex partner, has stirred additional controversy with his plans to hold a “thanksgiving” ceremony in a church. Some people have objected, saying the service amounts to the celebration of a gay wedding in violation of an official ban on same-sex marriages by the Church of England. But the Archdeacon of Loughborough and Bishop of Leicester have supported the priest.

Archdeacon David Newman told the Leicester Mercury: “This is not a gay marriage and this is not a blessing of a gay marriage.

“The Church of England gets involved in services of thanksgiving with regard to many areas of life.

“This is a service of thanksgiving for the committed relationship between two people. It is entirely appropriate for this to happen.”

The Church of England’s College of Bishops is meeting this week to discuss issues of sexuality and high on the list will be the marriage for same-sex couples.

Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, today warned Bishops ahead of this week’s meeting that a final decision cannot be stalled forever.

He said: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.

“When we get to the process beyond the shared conversations, decisions will have to be made, because we can’t leave it in this space forever.

“The way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ.

“Even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.”

Serbia: Former Orthodox Monk Stirs Opposition to Pride

Serbian officials won praise from some activists for their quick denunciation of an attack on a German gay-rights activist – three arrests were made this week – as plans moved forward for the Belgrade Gay Pride Parade later this month. For the past several years, the parade was cancelled when police said they could not safeguard marchers from right-wing violence.

The march went ahead only in 2010, but several thousand young people, including football fans and members of right-wing organisations, caused mayhem on the streets of the capital, throwing stones and missiles, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.

According to Balkan Insight, controversial former Orthodox Church monk Dragan Davidovic is responsible for flyers inviting people to join an “Orthodox March” protesting the Pride celebration.

The leaflets invited people to join an “Orthodox March” against Gay Pride on September 27. The protestors are planning to walk from Cathedral Church to the building of the parliament and then to the government buildings.

“Bring icons, crosses and Serbian flags. Honorably and with dignity, for the survival of a healthy spiritual foundation of our fatherland,” the leaflets wrote.

A second protest is scheduled for the day of Gay Pride itself.

“With peaceful, but resolute protests in downtown Belgrade we should postpone the obscene wave of gay madness that could sink the roots of the moral and biological existence of the Serbs,” wrote the leaflets.

Davidovic has previously run afoul of both church courts and civil authorities.

Davidovic was expelled from religious orders in May 2010 for two years. A Church court found that Davidovic had refused to obey the Church hierarchy and follow the guidelines of his superiors.

The court also stated that he had slandered the Patriarch and bishops and had behaved as “no Christian, and especially not a monk” should.

In October 2010, he was briefly arrested and kept in custody for participating in banned protests organised in support of far-right activists who had previously been arrested for participating or organizing riots that followed Gay Pride that year.

Bangladesh: Officials Will Oppose UN Proposal on LGBT Rights

According to Gay Asia News, “Bangladesh says it will veto the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) proposal to provide rights for lesbian and gay people.”

“It goes against our values. Like many other countries including those Muslims and Christian, we opposed it,” Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Abdul Momen told the Dhaka Tribune….

Momen said it took exception to the ICPD texts on gender discrimination.  “If you look at the texts, they talked about ‘eliminate discrimination’ or ‘acts of violence,’ which sound very good but if read carefully, one can find that it actually preaches rights of the LGBT,” he reportedly said.

“It goes against our values and laws, and we cannot endorse it,” he added….

He said Bangladesh also objected to the ICPD proposal to provide children aged 12-13 years comprehensive sexuality education programs. “If we allow comprehensive sexuality education programs, then we have to teach our school-going children, with video presentation, how to have sex,” he said.

According to Gay Asia News, 90 percent of the 155 million people in Bangladesh are Muslim, and same-sex relations are banned under the penal code “left behind by the British colonial authorities.”

Caribbean: Activists Say Region Lags Far Behind Latin America

Last week we noted the historic gathering of LGBT activists from Latin America and the Caribbean which took place in Peru earlier this month. The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers interviewed a number of  Caribbean LGBT advocates who agreed that “the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in their region continues to lag far behind that in Latin America,” partly because there has been a longer experience of independence in Latin American countries.

Erin Greene, director of advocacy for SASH Bahamas, told the Blade that conservative religious beliefs have an influence over the politics of the English-speaking Caribbean. The Blade notes the role that American activists like Brian Camenker, Peter LaBarbera, and Piero Tozzi of the Alliance Defending Freedom have played in defending laws that criminalize homosexuality.

“They’re akin to terrorists,” Greene told the Blade as she criticized Lively and other anti-LGBT American Evangelicals. “They’re spiritual terrorists and it’s unfortunate that our respective states don’t regard them as such.”

Kazakhstan: Politician Wants to ID Gays with Blood Test for ‘Degeneratism’

We reported earlier this month on an advertising poster that generated outrage in Kazakhstan for portraying a gay kiss between Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly and Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Now politicians are calling for bans on homosexual “propaganda” and other legal restrictions, with one claiming that gay people can identified through “blood tests for degeneratism.”

Tengrinews reports that Dauren Babamuratov, the 30-year old leader of a nationalist movement called Bolashak, held a press conference on September 11.

The activists urged the Parliament to introduce changes into the country’s legislation to ban gay “propaganda” and prohibit the people known to be gay from holding public offices and serving in the Kazakh army.

The lawmakers are now working on a new version of the Marriage and Family Code that already bans people known to be gay from adopting children. This is where the anti-gay changes are expected to appear soon.

The legal ban is highly called for, according to Bolashak’s leader Dauren Babamuratov, 30, because the Kazakh society has been experiencing a lot of pressure from its gay members over the past several years….

“We have stooped so low that LGBTs no longer hide their orientation. One can see a lot of people in the city’s malls and other public places — these are young people in coloured pants. This means they no longer hide their (sexual) orientation. I think it is very easy to identify a gay person by his or her DNA. A blood test can show the presence of degeneratism in a person,” Dauren Babamuratov, the leader of the Kazakh national movement, said…

Head of the Youth Policies Department of the Akmaty Akimat (Municipal Authorities) Sanzhar Bokayev, who was the only representative of the city administration at the meeting, declared that Kazakhstan’s gay community was “supported and funded from abroad”. “This is a big problem that concerns our society,” he said.

Secretary of the People’s Communist Party Yelnur Beisenbayev supported the speakers and went as far as saying that gay people were not sick, they were criminals and deserved a much harsher treatment. “Besides the legal ban of the propaganda we should also adopt an anti-sodomy law like the one we had during the Soviet time. We need these laws, to makes these (gay) people ashamed of themselves in our society,” he said. The anti-sodomy law he was talking about was cancelled in Kazakhstan only in 1998.

Nagashybay Yesmyrza, a journalist known for calling Hitler a war hero, tagged representatives of LGBT degenerates and returned to his favourite rhetoric: “To preserve the Aryan race it was important that be blood was not mixed. Hitler was against all those gay people,” he said. But when asked by the journalists how a same-sex union could possibly “mix blood” and produce a child, he had no adequate answer.…

Earlier, Aldan Smayil, a Member of the Parliament’s Lower Chamber, the Majilis, said that Kazakhstan needed a legislation that would enable it to close down gay clubs and bringing their owners to justice. He also declared that the idea of gay pride parades in Kazakhstan was unacceptable.

Ugandan Activist Recommended for Asylum in U.S.

John Abdallah Wambere, “believed to be the first Ugandan LGBT rights advocate to seek asylum in the U.S. since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill took effect in February,” has been recommended for asylum by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services pending the results of a background check, reports the Washington Blade.

Ireland: Gender Recognition Bill Coming by Year’s End

The Irish government announced this week that it will publish a bill to legally recognize the gender of trans people by the end of this year.
France: Mayor Celebrates 2000 Same-Sex Couples Marrying in Paris
In spite of the fervent opposition to marriage equality by France’s La Manif Pour Tours and its American allies, Paris Mayor Anne Hildalgo this week declared herself “delighted” that 2000 same-sex couples have been married in the city since the marriage equality law took effect in May.

Australia: Independent Territory Set to Pass Marriage Equality Law

Last year, Australia’s High Court struck down marriage equality legislation that had been passed by the Australian Capital Territory, saying it conflicted with federal legislation that does not recognize marriage by same-sex couples. But this week the self-governing territory of Norfolk Island – about halfway between Australia and New Zealand – announced that it would vote on marriage equality bill next month. Advocates told the Star Observer that the legislation has been crafted to withstand a court challenge.

Jamaica: Parliamentary Committee Begins Review of Sexual Offences Act

We have reported in the past on U.S. and British religious conservatives’ efforts to stop Jamaican officials from repealing the country’s colonial era “buggery” law. This week, a joint select committee of the Jamaican Parliament began an official review of the Sexual Offences Act, a 2009 law that further criminalized same-sex relations. In a June interview, Jamaican LGBT rights lawyer Maurice Tomlinson had accused Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of a “blatant betrayal” for having refused to move to abolish Jamaica’s buggery law.

Russia: “QueerFest” Kicks Off in St. Petersburg

“QueerFest,” which calls itself one of the largest public LGBT events in Russia, is scheduled to run September 18-27 in St. Petersburg with the theme, “the Art of Being Yourself.” According to organizers, the event “celebrates its sixth year in the context of increasing pressures on civil society and the LGBT community. In view of ever diminishing spaces for freedoms, ‘QueerFest’ becomes an island for safety and self-expression for many.

We expect bomb threats, visits from extreme right group members and orthodox activists, “provocations” with minors, and harassment of the organization. Threats already fill the internet. And yet, it feels that we’ve already succeeded, as the spirit of celebration and pride is in the air and will be with us these ten days. Everything is so gloomy throughout the year, it feels good to set aside a time when the LGBT community, our supporters and allies, can join together to openly and publicly celebrate our work, our identities, and our lives!” says Polina Andrianova, one of the festival organizers.