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Ugandan gay activist killed in cold blood: Were Christians accomplices in his murder?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Prominent defender of gay rights in Uganda, David Kato, was murdered in his home by two blows with a hammer last Wednesday.

David Kato

Kato, 40-something at the time of his slaughter, was a well-known voice around the world for human rights, and an outspoken leader protesting Draconian legislation in his home country which would make consensual same-sex activity punishable by law, perhaps even requiring the state to execute convicted homosexuals.

What responsibility does the Christian Church bear for the outrageous murder of David Kato?

Many in Uganda, including leading church officials, priests, missionaries, and ministers, fervently believe in a sort of “gay conspiracy”on the part of same-sex loving men whom they say will infect their children with the “virus of homosexuality.”

On Friday, Kato’s funeral was marred by the homophobic outburst of an Anglican priest, Father Thomas Musoke, who loudly invoked dire comparisons with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah until mourners wrenched a microphone out of his hands.

The Ugandan Anglican Church, active in encouraging resistance among conservative Episcopalians to the elevation of gays and lesbians as bishops in the United States in recent years, is well-known for opposing LGBTQ rights in the Central African nation.

Christian evangelical missionaries and so-called “experts” on homosexual sin from the United States, such as the notorious Watchman on the Walls’ Scott Lively, have preached the judgment of God on the Ugandan people if gays and lesbians are allowed to live and love openly in society. U.S. evangelicals exerting influence in Uganda teach that gays and lesbians could be changed to heterosexuality by prayer and counseling if they had enough faith.

Lively, part of a 2009 evangelical mission to Uganda preaching anti-gay messages to officials and churchmen (Lively even spoke before the Ugandan Parliament during the tour), now says that
it is “too early to call Kato’s murder a hate crime,”
since the police have rushed to claim that the murder was the consequence of a simple robbery.

In rebuttal, Val Kalende, chairwoman of an LGBT human rights group in Uganda said to The New York Times, “David’s death
is a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by U.S. evangelicals
in 2009. The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S.
evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.”

Indeed, well-funded groups such as the shadowy Washington C Street evangelical organization, “The Family,” have sent funds and encouragement for the “Kill The Gays” legislation still making its way through the Ugandan Parliament. M.P. David Bahati, primary sponsor of anti-gay legislation in Uganda, is affiliated with “The Family.”

On Friday, NPR’s Michel Martin explored the culpability of Christians for Kato’s murder with guests on her weekday broadcast, “Tell Me More.”

Martin interviewed Jeffery Gettleman, East Africa Bureau chief for The New York Times, asking him directly, “This has also been a big story in the United States, of course, because of the participation of a group of American evangelicals whom we also interviewed on this program. One in particular named Scott Lively, who many human rights activists have said helped to create this context of intolerance. Do you think that that’s true? Do you think the American evangelicals’ visit there was really that influential?”

Jeffrey Gettleman

Gettleman replied, “I do think it was influential. I think a lot of people in Uganda and the part of Africa where I live, in Kenya and most of this continent and probably most of this world, there’s many people who are homophobic. But it didn’t take a violent form.

“It was — people thought that, in Uganda, people thought gay people were strange, that they were outliers, but they weren’t really fired up to do anything about it.”

“It was only after the visits by these Americans who billed themselves as experts in dealing with homosexual issues that the Ugandan politicians and church groups got really angry about it and suggested killing gay people,” Gettleman said.

Religious hate speech, whether “soft” in its rhetoric (“Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin”), or blatantly hostile (“Gays and Lesbians are an Abomination in God’s Sight, and Deserve to Die”) has consequences for the safety of LGBTQ people wherever they live.

This is certainly true, in our opinion, in Central Africa. David Kato was deservedly called “the father of the Uganda gay rights movement.”

David Kato was targeted by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone in Oct. 2010, his face appearing on the front page under the banner 'Hang Them.'

In the wave of hostility in tabloid media toward LGBTQ people following the 2009 U.S. evangelical tour of Uganda, Kato’s lynching was suggested in
the press.

When Christian leaders justify the demonization
of LGBTQ people for their sexual orientation or gender presentation, either by selectively quoting scripture and subsequently distorting its life-giving meaning, or by reading their own homophobia
back into church teaching to claim that “Gays and Lesbians are sinners,” these clerics are not only exposing a vulnerable minority to religious,
political, and social persecution.

They are also exposing their own theology and
ethics as woefully bankrupt and void of spiritual integrity.

Clerics in Uganda and the United States who stoke hatred against LGBTQ people are no longer messengers of God. They have become a mob of theological thugs.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown, Desmond Tutu, is one of the few courageous voices of Christian integrity in Africa willing to speak out against religious intolerance and hate speech.

In The Washington Post last March, Archbishop Tutu appealed for the church to own up to its role in fomenting hatred against gays and lesbians, and instead to commit its resources for repentance and reconciliation for all people. He said, in part, “Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.”

Tutu continued, “Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear. And they are living in hiding — away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said ‘Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.’ Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.”

Amen, Archbishop!

Tutu must be joined by a world-wide chorus of Christian voices denouncing the murder of David Kato, the terrorization of his LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and renouncing the use of religion to incite bigotry and fear.

Unless the world Christian community repents of its role in murder and mayhem like that in Uganda and Central Africa, Christian theology itself will continue to collapse from “heart-failure”–failing to discern and apply the heart of the message of Jesus Christ which was never bad tidings of fear, but Good News of mercy and justice for everyone.

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25 more reader comments:

  1. what a shame, in 2011 that people are not more enlighted

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:54pm
  2. “Were Christians accomplices in his murder?” DOES IT MATTER? No. It’s a shame that LGBTQ Nation can’t keep their journalists’ prejudices out of publishing.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:56pm
  3. I am a Christian who has never and never will condone the hate some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have heaped on the Gay community. That being said it truly saddens me that they are now applying the same judgmental toward us. This is really poorly worded and offensive.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:56pm
  4. wow … i mean wow is all i got to say …….

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:58pm
  5. It does matter. Religion has blood on it’s hands. The Bible says homosexuals should be killed. Christians never speak out against murder of gays, and it’s clear why. Shame on you, Christians. Apparently, politics and religion are more important to you than human life.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:59pm
  6. I agree. I’m a Christian and I’m not against Gay or Lesbain. I have a few friends who are gay or lesbian. They’re not true Christains if they plot to murder people! It is in the commandments THOU SHALL NOT KILL!!

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:00pm
  7. Actually you are a true Christian if you want gays to die.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:01pm
  8. WESLEY you must not know what being a Christian is then. Sorry you have so much hate in your heart. I’m not a Christian, or any religion. But, alot of my family is and they don’t want gays to die. Most Christians are nice and open. The ones that make a bad name for them are the bad ones

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:04pm
  9. No Wesley you’re wrong.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:05pm
  10. A true Christian does not hate.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:05pm
  11. Actually I heard it’s all on the Roman Catholic. They’re different versions of the bible. If you are not permitted to commit murder regardless of what you hate or think shouldn’t exist in the world doesn’t give you the right. So I find that hard to believe.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:05pm
  12. I am SICK and TIRED of people placing a person’s prejudice on their faith. Just because SOME Christians say that they’re prejudiced because of their beliefs doesn’t mean that we don’t know better. There are plenty of good, kind Christians who follow the message of peace and love for everyone. I am not Christian (but I am bisexual) and over and over again, from LGBTQ community, I see bad grammar, biased reporting, and readers who just jump to defend themselves with their own brand of prejudice.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:06pm
  13. i think ure confusin it with roman catholics – i come from a whole family of them and plenty of them wish gays were dead, that the other religions dont exist, and firmly believe that if ure gay or bi, they do go to hell
    i will admit though, christians arent like that, but its like i said, i think ure confusin it with roman catholic

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:08pm
  14. Yea … the atheist is always wrong …

    I get it. If you’re an atheist or gay. you’re wrong. And since I’m bi too. I guess there is much of me to be hated.

    See why people like me are not wild about religion? Wonder why we get excited when it is criticized? Religion is the #1 force for evil in the world.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:08pm
  15. Actually it’s people’s opinions and manipulations that are the number one force for evil. Even Atheist is a form of a religion. They’re just against God because others have made them to believe they’re not loved in this world. I’m sorry you feel this way. It’s people that make God look bad. That is why I follow my heart and not believe what others say.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:12pm
  16. I have respect for the priest at my church. I’m not a Christian and I don’t go to church by choice, but the priest spoke out against bullying of teenage boys who were or assumed (by their peers) to be gay. I hold respect for that priest.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:12pm
  17. If atheism is a religion, bald is a hair color.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:13pm
  18. I’m not here to start drama or hurt anyone’s feelings just ashamed that a life is lost over a opinion. He had every right to live in this world.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:15pm
  19. Atheism is a religion. It the belief of not believing

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:15pm
  20. without a doubt.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:18pm
  21. People are so ignorant!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:21pm
  22. This is clearly terrible *shaking my head in disgust*

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:30pm
  23. @ Sandy I agree.

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:36pm
  24. They will scratch their own eyes out, in time…

    Posted on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1:44pm
  25. Those who are comparing gay people standing up to Christianity to the bigotry and intolerance that they show to us are foolish and need to wake up. When have gay people gone into towns or countries and incited violence against Christians that ended in murder – NEVER! People are now dying (again) because of the church’s shameful, hateful, divisive, and offensive untrue teachings. Wake up! Religion is a cancer. It brain washes people to hate and judge all others. Of course not all religious people are bad,BUT YOU AREN’T GOOD BECAUSE YOU ARE RELIGIOUS. YOU ARE GOOD IN SPITE OF YOUR RELIGIONS. You don’t get your morals from God or the Bible. You get them from society. YOU WOULD BE JUST AS GOOD AND MORAL A PERSON IF YOU WEREN’T RELIGIOUS, BUT THE HATE THAT IS TAUGHT TO YOU BECAUSE OF RELIGION IS SPECIFIC TO RELIGION! Wake up. Stop giving religion a pass. Say you are a good person BECAUSE you are a good person. Not Because religions tells you to be.

    Posted on Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 12:08am