IT MIGHT seem only a nasty coincidence. As gay rights advance in the West—France and New Zealand are the latest countries to legalise same-sex marriage—homophobia is on the rise elsewhere. But these apparently contradictory trends may be related. Confounded at home, a crusading squad of American conservative Christians are taking the fight abroad.
In an unusual case, brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a judge in Massachusetts is pondering a claim by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a gay-rights group, against Scott Lively, a preacher and co-author of “The Pink Swastika” (which argues that Nazism was fuelled by homosexuality). Mr Lively visited Uganda in 2009, meeting politicians, appearing on television, and sharing his theories about homosexuals’ recruitment of youngsters.
Shortly afterwards a Ugandan MP introduced a parliamentary bill that would stiffen existing penalties for homosexual behaviour; among other drastic measures it mandated the death sentence for “aggravated” homosexuality. Amid a burst of anti-gay vitriol, and headlines such as “Hang Them, They Are After Our Kids”, a gay activist was murdered. SMUG alleges that, on this occasion and previously, Mr Lively conspired to persecute Ugandan homosexuals. He says he advocated therapy and prevention, not harsh punishments.
This episode is part of a wider campaign. Other preachers, such as Lou Engle, a fundamentalist pastor at a megachurch in Kansas, have also been to Uganda. A new documentary, “God Loves Uganda”, depicts co-ordination between the visitors, resident missionaries and American-trained Ugandan priests. Offshoots of the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, in Kenya and Zimbabwe, are said to have resisted gay-friendly changes to their constitutions. (The ACLJ insists it “does not export an agenda”.)
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