Kansas City - On Sunday, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, in partnership with Soulforce, a civil rights organization seeking freedom from religious and political oppression of LGBTQQ people, held a vigil outside fundamentalist pastor Lou Engle's International House of Prayer.
The vigil was held in protest of Engle's anti-LGBT rhetoric, which has played a key role in escalating the climate of anti-gay hatred in Uganda that most recently led to the murder of leading gay activist David Kato. More than 70,000 people have signed a petition asking Engle to immediately halt such rhetoric, and to travel to Uganda to denounce the criminalization of homosexuality. Immediately after the vigil, a group including Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, executive director of Soulforce and a member of HRC's Religion Council, and Moses Kushaba, a gay Ugandan forced to flee the country and seek asylum in the United States, delivered this petition to leading members of Engle's staff. Engle has agreed to meet with Rev. Love, Kushaba, and other allies at a date to be determined.
Members of the group issued the following statements in response to the day's events:
"I know first-hand how dangerous life is for LGBT people in Uganda. If anyone is guilty of supporting or fostering the climate of hate and violence, Lou Engle is," said Moses Kushaba, a gay Ugandan who left the country and was granted political asylum by the United States government. Continued Kushaba: "Engle's The Call and the other American evangelical groups have been exporting homophobia, misinformation and lies about LGBT people for far too long. Their propaganda campaign is part of the reason LGBT Ugandans not only continue to be public targets for violence including mob justice, but could be subjected to the criminalization of their very existence and the sanctioning of unimaginable human rights violations that include the death penalty, or the anti-homosexuality bill that renders every Ugandan a potential criminal."
Concluded Kushaba: "The LGBT population in Uganda is facing a wide range of challenges: fear of being outed, losing their families, forcing themselves to marry for self-protection, being thrown out of their homes, losing their jobs, expulsion from school, unwarranted house searches, and raids by police. The situation has created a sense of fear and hopelessness for the Ugandan LGBT community. Some are abusing drugs now, thus contracting HIV/AIDS. Now people are leaving the country in fear of being the next target. Mob justice is real in Uganda, and Pastor Lou Engle is one of the people who has played the largest roles in creating that climate. I hope and pray we can convince him to stop perpetuating the harm he has caused and the lives being ruined because of it."
Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program, said: "We have seen far too much brutality and harm perpetuated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the name of religion. Now is the time for religious leaders in the US to say no more. No more will we allow the deep love at the core of our faith traditions to be retooled into an instrument of terror and hatred. No more will we allow our most sacred texts to be distorted into justifications for imprisonment, torture and even murder. We call on all people of faith to claim loudly that it is morally unworthy of us as people to criminalize anyone for who they are. We demand that those who have built empires perpetuating a message of hate and terror recognize the damage they have caused and stop using religion to justify bigotry. We must do better. Our faith demands it of us."
Said Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, executive director of Soulforce: "As Moses Kushaba can personally attest, LGBT Ugandans must live their lives in fear, thanks in large part to the work of American evangelicals like Lou Engle. It is time for Engle to confront this bigotry at the source, rather than encouraging it. It is time that anti-gay evangelicals like Engle realize that just as we have fought back against bigotry here, we will not allow it to triumph in Uganda. For if people of faith are exporting anything to other nations, it ought to be hope, not hate."
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Soulforce - guided by the spirit of truth and empowered by the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance - works to end the religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people.
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