Where do homophobic hate mongers go when their condemnations fall on deaf ears across the US: Uganda apparently. Scott Lively, an evangelical pastor from Massachusetts adept at articulating his anti-gay beliefs, who failed at persuading his increasingly progressive American audience, has taken his prejudice mission against homosexuality to a place sadly ignorant enough to listen. Demonizing his own fallacy of the homosexual to a god-fearing crowd, Lively has managed to manifest the beginnings of a nation against homosexuality. Persuaded Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently signed into law a preposterously inhumane anti-gay bill that will jail openly-homosexual men and women 14 years for their first offense, and life in prison for their second. It would seem this conniving pastor is potentially the new anti-gay Hitler, and Uganda his newly-appointed Third Reich.
When Lively first visited Uganda in 2002, he quickly forged ties with the preexisting anti-gay movement. It is no secret that homophobic sentiments are prevalent across Africa and its conservative-minded Christian and Muslim populations. Thirty-eight of the fifty-four African countries have bans on same-sex relationships already in place. As recent years have shown the US making monumental strides towards equality and open-mindedness, Lively knew he was preaching to the wrong crowd.
When the first draft of this new anti-gay bill hit the scene in 2009, Lively was there with bells on doing elaborate presentations in its support. He warned to captivated onlookers that homosexuals were villains and deviants who were out recruiting innocent children for their sinful and Hell-bound lifestyles. Whereas this ridiculous statement in all likelihood would have made any moderately progressive person laugh hysterically and simply write him off as fanatical, his words somehow inspired great fear in his new naive fans and he quickly gained prolific support for the heinous movement, including that of President Musevini.
Tragically manipulated by Lively’s passion, Musevini is potentially risking losing all the foreign aid his impoverished country receives just to stubbornly back this globally condemned legislation. The US, which gives a substantial 400 million dollars every year to the country, has publicly deemed this new law “abhorrent” and claims to have no choice but to reconsider their relationship and funding for Uganda if the bill is not repealed. England, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden are among the same list of charitable countries who have also spoken up about their disappointment and repulsion over the law.
So when Uganda no longer receives any financial aid or support from the leaders of the free world and the local authorities are out rounding up the gay community for life in prison, will Scott Lively be proud of his influential work and the destitute Uganda left in its wake? Will Uganda sadly start to resemble a newly-resurrected Third Reich with Lively’s Hitler-like ideals at the helm?
It is both incredible and terrifying that there are still places in the world that give nourishment to archaic beliefs like Lively’s. Blinded by misinformed fear and without the privilege to explore any alternative, Uganda has proved to be the perfect pedestal for Lively to shout his hate from. The consequences of this law do not apply exclusively to gays, however. Without the monetary aid Uganda so desperately needs, the whole country suffers on top of the repercussions in the widely-needed treatment of HIV/AIDS. Luckily, there are a few left in Uganda with the courage and sensibility to fight this offensive assault on human rights.
Frank Mugisha, leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, is fighting back with a vengeance. Not only has he and his affiliates filed a petition with the constitutional court of Uganda, claiming the new law flagrantly violates the basic inherent human rights every Ugandan is granted according to the National Constitution, but he has also filed an unprecedented law suit in the US Federal court against Scott Lively for his international hate crimes that so instrumentally aided the creation of the law in the first place. Seen as these benevolent groups strive for the ideals shared by Uganda’s disillusioned donors, perhaps the US and the rest of the countries on the list should be giving them financial aid instead.
When one lives in a reality, like the one in the US, where freedom is increasingly granted indiscriminately and judgment is seldom passed outside of internal monologue, it is easy to forget that there are still places in the outside world where egregious wrongs still thrive. These places, like Uganda, do not receive the same education, experiences, and mainstream access that first world countries do. That, sadly, makes them vulnerable to deceitful manipulation when one has the audacity to take advantage of such shortcomings. Scott Lively is one such man, and he has groomed a new flock to follow his oppressive doctrine. If this new law, unbelievably supported by President Musevini, starts imprisoning people for their entire lifetimes simply because they are gay it would be the most blatant violation of human rights since concentration camps. The world cannot and will not idly standby and let Uganda morph into the unsuspecting home of a new Third Reich.
Commentary by Brandon Duringer