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Arch-Conservative U.S. Christians Help Uganda 'Kill-the-Gays' Bill Stay Alive

Uganda's anti-gay bill, which espouses the death penalty for homosexual acts, still lives -- with the help of the U.S. religious right.

It may have receded from the front pages of the nation's newspapers, but despite stern words from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Uganda's extraordinary Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 -- which provides the death penalty for certain homosexual acts -- is still alive in the Uganda parliament, with the apparent blessing of Christian-right groups such as the Family Research Council, which was revealed last week to have lobbied Congress to soften a House resolution condemning the murderous bill, even though FRC says it opposes Uganda's anti-gay proposal.

Others, such as the New Apostolic Reformation movement and Lou Engle's TheCall, have also tried to have it both ways, saying they oppose the Uganda law while simultaneously making common cause with its supporters. And a new documentary from "In the Life," a program seen on most PBS stations, details the role, also reported by AlterNet, of the Family (a secretive religious group also known as the Fellowship) in creating the conditions that made the bill possible. (Full disclosure: I make a cameo appearance in the documentary, which you can view at the end of this article.)

Last week, Joe.My.God., an LGBT blog, reported that the Family Research Council spent $25,000 to lobby against a U.S. House resolution condemning the Uganda bill. In response, FRC released a statement saying that the blog misrepresented its lobbying, describing the expose and subsequent coverage as "inaccurate internet reports." The House resolution has been stalled since February. In its statement, FRC went on to say that it does not support the Uganda bill, but sought to make "more factually accurate" the description of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act in drafts of the House resolution.  The statement's writer also said that FRC sought "to remove sweeping and inaccurate assertions that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right."

Not so fast. While FRC says it does not support the Uganda bill, it does not wholly condemn it. If it did not support the anti-homosexuality bill, why would its leaders be so concerned that the House resolution present the content of the anti-gay bill in language acceptable to FRC? When I called FRC on Friday afternoon to ask which aspects of the proposed Uganda law were inaccurately represented in the House resolution, there was no one immediately available who could address the subject. AlterNet held this story for FRC's comment, but none has been forthcoming.

When I examined the House resolution (PDF) in its current state, I found that it accurately depicted the text of the Uganda bill, including the penalty of death for an offense labeled "aggravated homosexuality," life in prison for the crime of having touched another person "with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality," and prison terms of up to seven years to anyone deemed to "promote homosexuality" -- leaving gay-rights activists, and even clerics with gay-focused ministries targeted for a felony conviction.

And nowhere does the House resolution declare, as FRC alleges, "that homosexual conduct is internationally recognized as a fundamental human right." Rather, the House resolution says that the Uganda bill "threatens the protection of fundamental human rights" for LGBT people and those who support them, a claim proven by the very text of the proposed Uganda law.

In February, FRC President Tony Perkins defended the Uganda bill in his weekly radio podcast, using criticism of the proposed law as an example of incivility in Washington. "The press has widely mischaracterized the law, which calls for the death penalty, not for homosexual behavior which is already a crime, but for acts such as intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS, or preying upon vulnerable individuals such as children..." Perkins said. Leaving aside the question of whether the death penalty is ever justified, Perkins leaves out another of the bill's provisions, which calls confers the death penalty on "serial offenders" of Uganda's ban on consensual homosexual sex between adults.