"The Family" Behind Anti-Gay Act in Uganda
Africa has increasingly become a battle ground in the global proxy wars
led by the American Religious Right. An important dimension of the struggle was discussed yesterday, by Jeff Sharlet, Talk to Action
contributor and author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power
on the nationally syndicated NPR program, Fresh Air
, with Terry Gross. In the course of the interview, Sharlet discussed the role of such prominent Family members in the news as Sen. John Ensign, Rep. Bart Stupak and Rep. Joe Pitts.
Sharlet also revealed that the sponsor of the notorious proposed, Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act, David Bahati is a member of The Family, as are other leading advocates, as well as President Museveni. There is a growing international effort to stop the bill.
Here is the relevant section of the interview, from the transcript
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to our interview with Jeff Sharlet, the author of the bestseller �The Family,� about the secretive fundamentalist group that promotes its anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-free market ideas with the help of several Congressman and Senators who are connected to the group, including John Ensign, Bart Stupak, Joe Pitts, James Inhofe, Tom Coburn, Charles Grassley and Zach Wamp. The Family is active in America and around the world.
Let's talk about The Family's connection to Uganda, where there's, really, a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that's aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be - I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex - in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you're subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don't report it, that could mean - you don't report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.
And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it's really kind of a perfect case study and the export of a lot of American largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.
GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn't been signed into law. So it's not in effect and it might never be in effect. But it's on the table. It's before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Uganda?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.
GROSS: So you're reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story - this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?
Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it's - I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It's not so invisible anymore. So that's how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family's work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni's kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family's National Prayer Breakfast. And here's a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda's executive office and has been very vocal about what he's doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.
GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You've described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.
Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family's 990s, where they're moving their money to - into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, �invisible family binding together world leaders,� and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads - graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO's through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media - which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?
Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it's important that you said it, yeah, it hasn't gone into law. It hasn't gone in to effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it's very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa.
They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They've since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.
He's come out just this - just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he's been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.