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Supporters of Mitt Romney Are Pushing Ultra-Conservative Christian Agendas in Africa That Criminalize Gays and Threaten Women's Health

Jay and Jordan Sekulow are only the most recent Christian Right figures who manage to maintain credible reputations in the United States while taking actions overseas that would not be acceptable at home.

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The Sekulows need to be challenged the same way. Yet here we have Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney saying he is “honored” to have their support and that he looks “forward to working with them to ensure that we can bring conservative change to Washington.”  If the Sekulows were advocating for constitutional reform that criminalizes the American LGBT community or bars abortions for women whose lives are in danger, would they be considered legitimate figures in the mainstream of U.S. politics? How is it that American conservatives get a pass when they challenge basic human rights abroad?

It was mere months after Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill made global headlines in 2009 when ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow personally oversaw the launch of ACLJ’s African offices, strategically located in countries undertaking reform of their constitutions. Once open, the East African Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Nairobi, Kenya and African Center for Law and Justice-Zimbabwe in Harare sought to ensure those countries maintained or expanded bars on homosexuality and abortion.

As in many other African countries, Kenya’s colonial-era penal code already criminalized gay sex; however, the constitution that the Parliament submitted to Kenyans for ratification in August 2010 was silent on homosexuality while barring discrimination of any kind. The ECLJ feared that would create a loophole for homosexuality (and the local LGBT community agreed). [xi]  The proposed constitution also protected access to abortions deemed medically necessary to protect the health of the woman, which Jordan Sekulow characterized as “abortion on demand” to CBN News' Morning program. [xii] He added that ACLJ was “trying to educate people on this [abortion on demand] because the government of Kenya is saying that this is not what it means; but we know how it plays in courts.” Despite their efforts and investing “tens of thousands” of dollars (according to Sekulow), the ACLJ and its allies were unable to change the draft or defeat the constitution at the polls in August 2010. [xiii]

Yet even these minor concessions to protecting LGBT persons and women’s lives cannot stand, according to the director of the East African Center for Law and Justice.“The current constitution promotes gay rights and abortion,” Joy Mdivo, the executive director, told PRA. “We are working on going to court over those two issues. We shall also carry out further civic education to warn people of the dangers of homosexuality and abortion in Kenya.” [xiv]

The Sekulows and ACLJ are well known for their work drafting and promoting the Defense of Marriage Act and other initiatives that curtail LGBT rights and restrict abortion in the United States. At home, the Sekulows and the ACLJ advocate second-class citizenship for LGBT persons. In Africa, it’s far worse. The ACLJ fights to ensure the constitutions criminalize people simply because they are a sexual minority and block abortions even from women whose health is in danger. It cozies up to dictators like Mugabe. Yet the Sekulows have not been held accountable for their actions abroad.

PRA exposed the American Center for Law and Justice anti-LGBT activities in Africa in researcher Kapya Kaoma’s July 2012 report, Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa.

[i] “About Us,” East African Center for Law and Justice. http://www.eaclj/about-us.html

[ii] Sarah Posner, “Pat Robertson’s Women Warriors Leading Spiritual Warfare In Zimbabwe,” Religion Dispatches, August 1,2010. see ACLJ Special Operations Unit: Zimbabwe post from March 30, 2009.

[iii]“ Rebuilding in the Spirit,” Christian Broadcasting Network, n.d.

[iv] Kapya Kaoma, Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa  (Somerville: Political Research Associates, July 2012).

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