In a guest post on my personal blog today, Jeff Sharlet (author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power) disclosed that the Fellowship Foundation opposes Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would impose the death penalty on certain consensual homosexual behaviors and threaten prison for anyone who fails to report a known homosexual to authorities. Taking as a whole, the bill would be one of the harshest measures directed toward gays on the planet. The bill introduced by Fellowship associate David Bahati in Uganda's Parliament has drawn international criticism and led to charges that the Fellowship promoted the legislation. However, as Sharlet writes, "The Fellowship, AKA the Family, opposes the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill." Sharlet's article provides an inside look at the bill's background and the Fellowship's efforts to thwart it.
The Fellowship Foundation is best known for organizing the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. The NPB is a major league meet and greet for politicians and those who want to connect with them from all over the world. In 2009, newly minted President, Barack Obama prayed, made faith related administration appointments, and called on his audience to follow the Golden Rule.
The Fellowship Foundation organizes the event as well as similar events around the world. According to the Sharlet article on my blog (go read it), the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first discussed at a Fellowship dinner following the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast events in October, 2008. At the time, those attending advised Bahati, the young Fellowship associate and Ugandan Parliamentarian who introduced the bill, to get opposing opinions on the bill. Other members reportedly discouraged him from offering it altogether. However, Bahati introduced a parliamentary motion on behalf of the bill on April 29, 2009.||pagebreak||||pagebreak||
When the bill was actually tabled in October, bloggers raised awareness about the consequences of the bill and the story gradually made it into the mainstream press. By the time Jeff Sharlet reported the connection between the Fellowship and the legislators in Uganda who introduced the bill, Fellowship members were quietly expressing concern about the bill. By now and via the Sharlet guest post, the quiet diplomacy has given way to public opposition.
This development is significant in that the Fellowship associates reportedly include Senators Chuck Grassley, James Inhoff and Sam Brownback as well as other prominent beltway insiders. Over the last week or so, these Senators have voiced varying degrees of opposition to the bill, although not to the degree opponents hope for. The issue has been covered by major networks, and news magazines and is quite alive in blogosphere.
Looking ahead, the National Prayer Breakfast is looming in early February, 2010. While it is clear that the Fellowship is sincerely opposed to the bill, it is not as clear whether or not the opposition will translate into action surrounding the organization's signature event. Will the Fellowship Foundation invite any of those responsible for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to visit Washington and participate in the NPB? If the bill has not been withdrawn or radically altered, it seems likely that any delegation from Uganda will receive significant scrutiny from the media and activists alike. In that case, I suspect public awareness of the NPB will be more about Uganda and gay genocide and less about prayer and connections.
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