Press Release, March 12, 2009
South African Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

SA GLAAD hereby expresses its solidarity and support for American GLBT advocacy groups who yesterday berated the anti-gay group Exodus International for its public involvement and support of those who are responsible for vigilante violence and state-sanctioned persecution of gays, lesbians and trans people in Uganda.

SA GLAAD wholeheartedly supports the initiative of the coalition of Truth Wins Out (TWO), Ex-Gay Watch, and Box Turtle Bulletin in their confrontation of these homophobic groups — and in particular Exodus International which is the largest homophobic anti-GLBT US group.

For a decade or longer, GLBT refugees have been fleeing Uganda to escape violence and persecution. Police arrest and torture suspected GLBT and activists fear for their lives. The mistaken belief that gay people “recruit” is widespread in Uganda. Tabloid newspapers regularly publish pictures of suspected GLBT with details allowing people to identify them and even to target them. Rampant religious fundamentalism is seen to lie at the root of this problem.

In a letter to Exodus released yesterday, the coalition declared:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to “wipe out” gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a Holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people.

Lively is a co-author of “The Pink Swastika” — a discredited book which is aimed solely at vilifying GLBT.

At the conference held last week in Uganda, Exodus International representatives witnessed calls and incitement by political and religious personalities to human rights abuses in resounding silence. Not only did they not object, but instead they simply added fuel to the fires of hate. The GLBT coalition groups point out:

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

“Alan Chambers has shown a serious lack of leadership by allowing Exodus to become part of such a horrible event,” said David Roberts, Editor of Ex-Gay Watch. “The participation of board member Don Schmierer in the Ugandan anti-gay conference undermines any credibility they may have had, and puts them right in the middle of serious human rights abuses. What on earth were they thinking?”

On March 4, a day before the event, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) condemned the seminar which was clearly designed to attack lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Ugandans under the cloak of religion. The 3-day seminar in Kampala, which opened March 5, featured an array of U.S. speakers known for their efforts to dehumanize LGBT people and for their belief that homosexuality can be “cured.” The seminar was hosted by the by Family Life Network (FLN), a Ugandan non-governmental organization founded in 2002 which claims to be committed to the “restoration of Ugandan family values and morals”. In the run-up to this three day conference, IGLHRC’s Executive Director Cary Alan Johnson in an interview said “The American religious right is finally showing its hand and revealing the depth of its support for homophobia in Africa. This seminar will increase violence and other human rights abuses against LGBT people, women and anyone who doesn’t conform to gender norms. This newest form of colonialism is deplorable and must be stopped.”

In a press release last week, IGLHRC said “the US religious right has a history of exporting homophobia to Africa. With support from anti-gay organizations and faith leaders such as Family Watch International and Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Pastor Martin Ssempa from Makerere Community Church has attacked not only gay men and lesbians, but also women’s rights and HIV activism. Pastor Ssempa has stated, “there should be no rights granted to homosexuals in this country.” In 2007, he organized a multi-denominational rally against LGBT rights in Kampala, where one cleric called for the “starving to death of homosexuals.”

SA GLAAD has been warning of foreign involvement and influence in the worrying spread of African homophobia for quite some time – and as such this blatant public involvement and support for the tragic human rights atrocities in Uganda of people like Alan Chambers, Don Schmierer and Scott Lively, has vindicated us. It has shown by its own hand that the US religious right – heavily complicit in the US ex-gay movement – has extended its influence around the world, and also revealed the true nature of the beast. SA GLAAD has also noted the complete absence of comment by the SA government on the human rights abuses in Uganda and other African countries and also other failures on their part in terms of supporting GLBT rights on the world stage, namely its refusal to sign the UN Declaration on decriminalization of homosexuality late last year.

There are ex-gay groups right here in South Africa, spreading lies, hate and self-loathing against the GLBT community under a mantle of respectability while claiming authority based on what is no more than discredited and fraudulent pseudo-science, crackpot religious fundamentalism and internalized homophobia. Most are organizations based in the Cape Town area, with clear affiliations to US groups, such as NARTH and Exodus to name but two.

SA GLAAD therefore also affirms its position on the so-called “ex-gay” movement by announcing its intention to disseminate the truth about these insidious organizations taking root in South Africa, and making known the threat they pose to innocent lives, as far as it will go.