Rachel Maddow on Ex-Gay Leaders’ Role in Uganda Persecution

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ran a segment Dec. 7 on “ex-gay therapist” Richard Cohen and how his ideas, largely discredited in the US, have found new life as the inspiration for the genocidal legislation pending in Uganda. Be prepared for a Norman Bates moment when Cohen, demonstrating a “healthy” release of the childhood emotions that lead to homosexuality, takes a tennis racket to a pillow representing his mother. Darn it, Mrs. C., none of this would’ve happened if you’d signed him up for peewee football like a normal boy.

“I’m not gay. God doesn’t make gay people,” says a woman in the indie film “Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement”, which Maddow mentioned in her news segment. Watch the trailer here. The film is available for purchase on their website as a DVD or download.

In a longer follow-up report today (Dec. 8) Maddow interviewed Salon.com’s Mark Benjamin about his 2005 undercover investigation of the ex-gay movement:

Maddow then put Richard Cohen himself in the hot seat. In this intense 18-minute interview, she slices right through his rhetoric of “compassion” by tripping him up with hateful quotes from his own writings:

Meanwhile, CNN.com has also picked up the Uganda story. In an article today, correspondent Saeed Ahmed writes:

…The Anti-Homosexuality Bill features several provisions that human rights groups say would spur a witch hunt of homosexuals in the country:

• Gays and lesbians convicted of having gay sex would be sentenced, at minimum, to life in prison

• People who test positive for HIV may be executed

• Homosexuals who have sex with a minor, or engage in homosexual sex more than once, may also receive the death penalty

• The bill forbids the “promotion of homosexuality,” which in effect bans organizations working in HIV and AIDS prevention

• Anyone who knows of homosexual activity taking place but does not report it would risk up to three years in prison

“Who will go to HIV testing if he knows that he will suffer the death sentence?” Elizabeth Mataka, the U.N. Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, told reporters last week. “The law will drive them away from seeking counseling and testing services.”

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under colonial-era laws. But the bill, introduced in October, is intended to put more teeth into prosecuting violators.

It applies even to Ugandans participating in same-sex acts in countries where such behavior is legal.

“They are supposed to be brought back to Uganda and convicted here. The government is putting homosexuality on the level of treason,” Mugisha said.

Lawmakers have indicated that they will pass the bill before year’s end.

It has the blessing of many religious leaders — Muslim and Christian — in a country where a July poll found 95 percent opposed to legalizing homosexuality.

The Rev. Esau Omara, a senior church leader, said over the weekend that any lawmaker opposing the bill will pay for it during the next election, according to local newspaper reports.

And a leading Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje, has called for gays to be rounded up and banished to an island until they die.

Several media outlets also have inflamed sentiments in recent months by publicly pointing out gays and lesbians.

In April, the Observer newspaper published tips to help readers spot homosexuals. And over the summer, the Red Pepper tabloid outed 45 gays and lesbians.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has not publicly stated his position on the bill, but last month blamed foreign influence in promoting and funding homosexuality.

Museveni’s nativist sentiment is ironic since foreign influence, in the person of US evangelicals and their well-funded missionary organizations, has actually been instrumental in stirring up Ugandans’ homophobia. Our own Archbishop of Canterbury has thus far been silent on the legislation, though he did take time out from ironing his purple dress to slam the Diocese of L.A. for electing Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, a (gasp!) out lesbian, as Suffragan Bishop.


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