American Pastor Lou Engle Promotes Homophobic Hatred Away from US Eyes

On April 23, IGLHRC posted a press release from Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) warning of the potential consequences if "TheCall: Uganda," scheduled for May 2, 2010, took place in Kampala. "TheCall: Uganda" was billed as a stadium-size prayer meeting against "social evils," a category event organizers described as including immorality, homosexuality, witchcraft, and human sacrifice. The event was sponsored by Lou Engle, a pastor from the United States who has expressed the belief that homosexuality is demonic and called for Christians to become martyrs to fight reproductive rights, and coordinated by Jo Anna Watson of Touching Hearts International, also from the US.

Over the past month, IGLHRC has worked closely with SMUG and a US-based coalition called "Stop TheCall to Violence" to discourage Lou Engle from hosting the rally in Kampala. Along with these groups, IGLHRC worried that Engle's rhetoric would exacerbate the already high levels of harassment and violence faced by LGBTI people in Uganda, particularly since participants were asked to fast for three weeks prior to the rally.

In response to pressure from Ugandan and American activists and increasing media attention to the upcoming rally, Engle quietly released a statement that stated that he would go to Uganda but "TheCall: Uganda" would not promote the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Engle promised:

TheCall, though continuing to be held in Uganda, will not promote this bill. In fact, we challenge the Church of Uganda to join with Christians around the world, to first examine our own moral failures, confess our own lack of love, and from that heart seek to establish true biblical standards, reflecting compassion for those struggling with same-sex attraction and equal justice for criminal offenses committed by heterosexuals or homosexuals. We believe this also reflects the heart and intent of the Christian leaders of Uganda.

Engle failed to uphold this promise. "TheCall: Uganda" featured a number of speakers who vocally supported the Bill in their remarks, including Pastor Oyet Julius, Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo, and the Bill's author, David Bahati. In the words of one attendee, Buturo explicitly argued that there was "no need for debating the Bill, and called upon members of parliament to just pass it into law." When Engle took the stage amidst these speakers, he declared, "When America allowed homosexuals freedom, it was the end of their nation," and praised those in Uganda "who are showing courage to take a stand for righteousness." The rally did not convey the message Engle promised he would deliver, and the speakers repeatedly attacked the idea that LGBTI people are deserving of human rights.

IGLHRC condemns the disturbing pattern of religious homophobia being exported from the United States. IGLHRC is collaborating with partners in Uganda and around the globe to ensure that those who spread homophobia are held accountable for the messages they send and responsible for the consequences.