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Mark Pocan slams Christian organization that refused to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., speaks during a "Get Out The Vote" rally with the University of Iowa Democrats
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., speaks during a "Get Out The Vote" rally with the University of Iowa Democrats Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

An influential Christian organization – the longtime organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, host to presidents, heads of state and luminaries from Mother Theresa to Bono since 1953 – has refused to condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, commonly known as the Kill the Gays law, in response to a letter sent by out gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“When you’re given the opportunity to publicly oppose a law that permits the government to execute LGBTQI+ people just because of who they are, why wouldn’t you take it?” Pocan said in reaction to The Fellowship Foundation’s terse response to a letter he sent demanding answers about the group’s involvement in the horrific legislation. The Uganda National Prayer Breakfast has been used to promote homophobia.

The Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed into law last May, imposes the death penalty on homosexuality in some circumstances. The law also criminalizes LGBTQ+ advocacy and mandates citizens report LGBTQ+ activity to authorities.

Pocan’s letter, dated January 30, to Katherine Crane, president of The Fellowship Foundation (also known as The Family or the International Foundation), earned a less than forthcoming response.

“At no time has there been any authorization or interest by the International Foundation to fund, influence, or instigate any hurt or hate for anyone,” Crane wrote on February 28 in reply to Pocan’s letter.

“Just like you in Congress, we don’t control any member of Congress, or even our own friends’ thoughts and words. We certainly understand political agendas in Washington and around the world, yet work to sincerely love people and pray for the work of leaders.”

Crane concluded, “We thank you for your letter to help us in that way.”

Judging from Pocan’s reaction, a Congressional subpoena may be in The Fellowship Foundation’s future.

“The Fellowship Foundation’s four-sentence response to my letter — where they refuse to explicitly condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act or discuss their connections to the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation — begs the question: what else are they trying to hide? The anti-LGBTQI+ activities of the Family and their associates directly threatens the safety of LGBTQI+ people around the world.”

The Fellowship Foundation relinquished control of the National Prayer Breakfast in 2023 after years of accusations they were promoting an intolerant agenda under the guise of bipartisanship. In 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to drop the event. Last year, a coalition of religious, secular, Black, and LGBTQ+ organizations counseled President Joe Biden to do the same.

Every American president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has participated in the annual gathering.

In his January letter to the group, Pocan wrote, “Since the passage of the first Anti-Homosexuality Act a decade ago, there have been numerous reports linking both bills, their authors, and the larger movement to further criminalize LGBTQI+ people in Uganda to the Fellowship Foundation/the Family, and its associates.”

The larger movement to erase LGBTQ+ rights and identity also includes Family Watch International, an Arizona-based organization committed to spreading anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion ideology around the world, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group was instrumental in crafting the original Kill the Gays bill in Uganda in 2009 and has openly promoted copycat legislation in Kenya, Ghana, and other African nations.

Pocan also raised the issue of The Fellowship Foundation’s sponsorship of a visit by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) at a Uganda National Prayer Breakfast, which featured speakers who called LGBTQ+ advocates “a force from the bottom of Hell” and vowed to “destroy” them.

Walberg told participants to “stand firm” in response to international pressure against Uganda.

The Michigan congressman later said he didn’t support the Anti-Homosexuality Act because the death penalty is antithetical to Christian values. He did not denounce a life sentence in prison for consensual gay sex.

Pocan expressed concern as well over The Fellowship Foundation’s domestic activities and their continued involvement in the National Prayer Breakfast.

“Domestically, there has also been significant concern about the Fellowship Foundation’s support for anti-LGBTQI+ causes,” Pocan wrote. “Last year, the U.S. National Prayer Breakfast was split into two events because of concerns over the Fellowship Foundation’s involvement. Questions, however, have continued to be raised about the Fellowship Foundation’s continued involvement with the National Prayer Breakfast despite this split.”

The Fellowship Foundation is featured in the Netflix miniseries The Family from 2019, based on the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet.

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