U.S. Evangelical Leaders Blamed For Uganda Anti-Gay Sentiment

Evangelical Pastor Scott Lively says the Ugandan Parliament invited him and other U.S. religious leaders to speak about the homosexual movement and how it should be addressed in the East African country. Lively says he recommended an approach rooted in rehabilitation, not punishment and says an anti-gay bill being considered by the Ugandan Parliament goes too far. But some say he and his peers are culpable for encouraging the anti-gay sentiment in Uganda. Rev. Lively explains what he told lawmakers in the African nation.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

In March of this year, as we said, the Ugandan Parliament invited a group of American Christian leaders to address them. Some people think that their words influenced this legislation. Scott Lively was one of the three. He is with us now from Springfield, Massachusetts. He is the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries, a conservative Christian organization. He is also the author of a very controversial book called �The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality In The Nazi Party.� Welcome, thank you for joining us.

Mr. SCOTT LIVELY (Founder, Abiding Truth Ministries): It's very good to be here.

MARTIN: So, can you clarify how you came to visit Uganda? How you came to be traveling there, and involved in matters there?

Mr. LIVELY: Well, I've been to Africa many times actually. I'm a missionary, and I was invited to speak at a conference in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. While I was there I had the opportunity to address members of the Ugandan Parliament regarding this bill that was proposed at that time. They were considering how to address what they perceive as a rise of aggressive political activism from American and European gay activists.

And my advice to the parliament was to go the other direction from what they did to actually go on a proactive positive message promoting the family, promoting marriage, etcetera, through the schools, and that if they were going to continue to criminalize homosexuality that they should focus on rehabilitation and not punishment. And I was very disappointed when the law came out as it is written now with such incredibly harsh punishments.

MARTIN: You say on your Web site, for example, that over the past decade, a growing pro-family movement has begun to insist that parliament do something about this problem. This year parliament answered the call. Unfortunately, the bill they are now debating represents a serious overcorrection, including, for example, the death penalty for certain forms of aggravated homosexuality. That's what you mean by taking a stand against this bill. But do you think that you and your words have something to do with the posture of parliament to begin with? For example, Stephen Langa, who heads the Family Life Network in Uganda, has on more than one occasion come publicly citing your writing and words about how unnatural homosexuality is and saying that that is in part why he supports this measure. Do you think that your views play any role in the bill?

Rev. LIVELY: I wasn't consulted on this law before they drafted it. I happened to be there for a conference dealing with the issue generally. They had asked me, you know, what is this homosexual movement? How come these people are coming into our country with this? How have they been able to achieve their advances in other countries, so that we can effectively prevent them from doing the same thing to our country?

My approach was proactive and positive on the side of promoting the family model, the marriage model.

MARTIN: What was your reaction when you heard that the death penalty was being proposed for so-called aggravated homosexuality, for certain acts, and that it was proposed to turn people into the police for not reporting what they believed to be homosexual behavior? But what was your reaction when you heard this?

Rev. LIVELY: My interest in this topic, and my opposition to homosexuality, is not coming from a place of opposition to individuals based on how they want to define themselves. It's based on the public policy ramifications of mainstreaming something that I believe is destructive to society and harmful to individuals.

MARTIN: Have you expressed these views to the members of the Ugandan parliament who are supporting this legalization? And I also want to note that many people will also know the name Rick Warren, who's a very prominent evangelical minister, who spoke at President Obama's inauguration, for example, who prayed - led prayer there, and he also spoke in Uganda and has subsequently spoken out, distancing himself from this legislation and saying that he doesn't feel these are appropriate penalties.

Have you expressed yourself to political leaders in Uganda?

Rev. LIVELY: I've communicated in the same way that I was introduced to them in the first place, through Martin Simpa(ph) and Stephen Langa. I did that through email, and I also followed up with the editorial that's posted on my Web site, and I asked them to pass that along to the legislators.

But I think that they've gotten the message, and I believe this law is going to be softened before they vote on it.

MARTIN: What would you like to see happen going forward in this legislation, particularly given that your input was solicited?

Rev. LIVELY: Well, just to put this in the right context, I'm really no different than someone that's invited to Capitol Hill to give testimony before the American legislature decides on what they're going to do in law. I don't have any special power to influence these people. They asked for my opinion, and I gave it. It's pretty racist to suggest that the Africans have no will of their own to produce public policy to suit their own values and that three little-known and not very influential figures from America could come in and basically dominate this process. I mean that's - it's pretty racist.

We don't have that kind of influence. We simply gave our opinion, and if it was true that our opinion was so weighty, then they would have backed off immediately upon hearing that all of us say that we don't agree with what they did.

MARTIN: Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Rev. LIVELY: Thank you.

MARTIN: Scott Lively is the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries. That's a conservative Christian organization. He's also author of "The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality In the Nazi Party." He joined us from Springfield, Massachusetts. We'll have a link to his Web site so you can see what I was quoting from. Just go to npr.org. Click on programs and TELL ME MORE. Mr. Lively, thank you again.

Rev. LIVELY: Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

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