U.S. Church Lends Help To Anti-Gay Ugandan Pastor Ugandan Rev. Martin Ssempa has become the face of Uganda's anti-homosexuality movement. He has organized anti-gay rallies and preaches that many homosexuals are pedophiles who deserve severe punishment, including death. In Las Vegas, a megachurch is giving money for Ssempa's cause.
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U.S. Church Lends Help To Anti-Gay Ugandan Pastor

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U.S. Church Lends Help To Anti-Gay Ugandan Pastor

U.S. Church Lends Help To Anti-Gay Ugandan Pastor

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

But as NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports, one U.S. mega church is standing by its Ugandan partner.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: You can't mistake what Pastor Martin Ssempa thinks about homosexuality.

MARTIN SSEMPA: This is sick and it's therefore deviant. We do not want it.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Michael Jones is a gay-rights activist in the United States.

MICHAEL JONES: Martin Ssempa makes no bones about going around to churches, to community centers, to different neighborhoods and saying things like gays and lesbians should be put in prison, they should be killed.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: So why does Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas - a mega church with some 6,000 congregants - financially support Martin Ssempa?

KEVIN ODOR: His heart is not to kill people. He is a pastor of the Gospel that believes in redemption and his heart is to redeem people.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Senior pastor Kevin Odor says Canyon Ridge began supporting Ssempa's huge campus ministry, which preaches abstinence to college students, in 2007. So does this mean Odor endorses the death penalty or life sentences for gay men and lesbians?

ODOR: Personally, no.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: So, why do you support someone who does?

ODOR: We want to help the AIDS problem in Africa, and we found somebody who is making a difference, and so we support him.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Odor says in March, after Canyon Ridge talked to Ssempa, the Ugandan minister reversed himself and now says he favors removing the death penalty from the bill, though he still wants to criminalize homosexuality. That satisfied Pastor Odor, and he sees no reason to condemn Ssempa or the bill.

ODOR: Why do we, as a church of America, need to say something about a bill in Uganda?

JONES: They're engaging in Ugandan politics whether they like it or not.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Again, gay rights activist Michael Jones.

JONES: Calling Martin Ssempa, who is one of the foremost religious and political figures in Uganda, a strategic partner is automatically engaging in Ugandan politics. There's just no way around that.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Pastor Odor says his church has, quote, "a heart" for gays. Canyon Ridge participates every year in a march for people with AIDS, and for the past two years the church has opened its campus for HIV testing day.

ODOR: We love everybody, including people with AIDS. There's two things: How you got AIDS and that you have AIDS. That you have AIDS is a matter of compassion.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College, says Odor is trying to have it both ways, seeking to look compassionate in the United States.

ODOR: And yet they are supporting a set of values and principles elsewhere that are very harsh and deadly, frankly, to the very community you say you want to reach. If you preach compassion here, you have to support compassion elsewhere.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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