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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Exporting American homophobia

One of the criticisms which you sometimes hear from 'global south', particularly African activists, about international LGBT activism as well as Western media is the failure to tackle Western religious groups and their interventions.

I thought of this whilst reading an extremely detailed post by Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian priest, and Jandira Queiroz, a Brazilian activist, about the activities of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). This multi-million dollar organisation, founded by US televangelist Pat Robertson, is actively funding and organising anti-LGBT efforts in Zimbabwe, Kenya and elsewhere in Africa and now, the article reports, in Brazil:
Filipe Coelho, director of the newly formed Brazilian Center for Law and Justice (BCLJ) and a friend of the Sekulows from his time studying in the U.S., says ACLJ decided to open an office in his country after discovering last year "how strong evangelical power is within Brazilian politics." A well-connected evangelical in the rapidly growing Assemblies of God church, Coelho was able to arrange a meeting for Jordan Sekulow with Brazil's vice president on 48 hours' notice. With more than 40 million people identifying themselves as evangelical in Brazil, the world's second-largest predominantly Christian country (after the U.S.), it presents a tempting prize for ACLJ expansion.
Though Brazil boasts the largest Pride parade in the world, it may come as a surprise that same-sex couples cannot marry or adopt and lack constitutional protections. In 2011 Rev. Silas Malafaia, pastor of the nearly 20,000-member Victory in Christ Assemblies of God church and vice president of the Interdenominational Council of Evangelical Ministers in Brazil (CIMEB), mobilized thousands to march through the capital city of Brasilia against a bill that would have extended protections to cover sexual orientation. After the Pride parade the same year, Rev. Malafaia, a family friend of the Sekulows and Coelhos, told listeners of his television show that the Catholic Church should "beat [literally 'stick'] down those gay activists" for using saints' images on posters.
Facing language like this, for 11 years Brazil's LGBTQ movement has unsuccessfully promoted an anti-homophobia bill that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity an aggravating factor in hate crimes and speech. Evangelicals perceive this as a threat to their "religious liberty" to preach on national television that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God. When Rev. Malafaia, who calls himself "public enemy No. 1 of the gay movement" and leads "crusades," asked his audience in 2009 to vote against the anti-homophobia bill, in a poll posted on the Senate's webpage, there were half a million "no" clicks in less than a week. His Twitter followers number close to half a million.
Brazil has some of the highest reported rates of anti-LGBT violence in the world. In 2011 I reported on how:
Thousands of Twitterers [are] expressing support for homophobic attacks on LGBT using the slogan "Homophobia? Yes!" (#homofobiasim, see English translation of tweets, some of which are explicitly pro-violence, pro-'corrective rape' of lesbians) or used the number of the proposed hate crimes law (yes=#PL122Sim, No=#PL122Nao).
Say Kaoma and Queiroz:
The ACLJ typically hires local staff for its international offices to mask the U.S. origins of their assault on LGBTQ and reproductive rights, while hypocritically using that fa├žade to attack human rights advocacy as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on the country in question.
Warren Throckmorton has reported on another, similar organisation, Family Watch International (FWI). That group is particularly active at the United Nations, where LGBT activists have had a long presence and have been slowly gaining victories. FWI has worked with Islamic countries, including Iran, in opposition to UN resolutions calling for decriminalization of homosexuality and opposing violence against LGBT.

FWI President Sharon Slater has said that:
Iran is one of the strongest nations in standing up for family values at the UN.
Throckmorton reports that FWI has held conferences to "immerse UN delegates in U.S. right wing culture war talking points about homosexuality." This means working with discredited groups preaching the snake oil of conversion therapy like the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

American-sourced ideas that sexuality can be changed, so-called conversion or 'reparative' therapy, has gone around the world, popping up from Hong Kong to Ecuador.

Throckmorton, an evangelical who is professor at a liberal arts Christian college and has been a leading reporter on Uganda's 'Kill the gays' bill and 'reparative' therapy, had a message for fellow American Christians:
Social conservatives who generally support “pro-family” causes should take pause to consider what being pro-family means in a country like Uganda or Nigeria, where the conservative position is to detain gays on suspicion of homosexual behavior and then threaten them with jail or stoning.

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