In 2009, Ugandan Parliamentary member David Bahati proposed an anti-gay bill that would impose life imprisonment on LGBT Ugandans and the death penalty on serial offenders of homosexual acts. If passed, all Ugandans would be required to report suspected homosexuals to the police within 24 hours. Inciting fear and sanctioning homophobia, the bill has already caused LGBT Ugandans to be hunted in their communities and forced into exile.
The West has vocally denounced the bill. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton condemned it in their addresses at the Nation Prayer Breakfast, an annual event hosted by an elite network of American evangelicals called The Fellowship Foundation. But neither Obama nor Clinton publicly acknowledged their host's close ties to Bahati or the role The Fellowship Foundation played in inflaming radical homophobia in Uganda.
This month, the public television documentary series In The Life exposes faith leaders with close ties to Capitol Hill whose faith-based initiatives sanction homophobia here and abroad. In it, In The Life looks at The Fellowship Foundation and other powerful evangelicals using their political and financial influence to export an anti-gay agenda to Uganda.
The Fellowship Foundation, better know as "The Family", is among the oldest and most powerful conservative Christian organizations in Washington. According to Jeff Sharlet, a writer whose in-depth investigation into The Family informed his book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, the group has had close ties to Uganda since 1986, forming a political alliance with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Musereni, and David Bahati.
Though they've distanced themselves from Bahati since the political fall-out from the bill, Sharlet says, "Bahati is very clear. He says, 'Yes, I am a part of this group,' and that '[The Family] helped us in Uganda to manage society according to Jesus.' And he's frustrated. He doesn't know why when the bill went public, The Family didn't rally round him. Bahati says, 'Well, it's because the gays are so powerful in America. I know my friend Senator Inhof [long-time Family member Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)] would like to stand with me but he can't.'"
According to Wayne Besen, Executive Director of the non-profit organization defending the LGBT community against anti-gay misinformation Truth Wins Out, "The important thing to remember about what's going on in Uganda is all these right wing, fundamentalists in America that have been trying so hard to pass their agenda and persecute us here -- they haven't been able to. So they're exporting this agenda overseas."
To learn more, watch this month's episode of In The Life, Intersections of Church and State. To watch it online, or find out when it will air on your local PBS station, go to: http://www.inthelifetv.org.