(Photo: Reuters/James Akena)
A liberal Massachusetts research group has accused three conservative religious groups in the U.S. of pushing harmful anti-homosexual agendas in some African countries, but the organizations claim the accusations are without merit.
The Political Research Associates released a report Tuesday titled "Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa," in which three religious groups are identified as setting up institutions in Africa to encourage anti-homosexual and anti-abortion legislation which coincide with their own convictions.
The Political Research Associates describes itself as "a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights."
The three groups named in the report are the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic group Human Life International, and Family Watch International, which claims to not have any religious ties but is headed by Mormon activist Sharon Slater.
The Political Research Associates report alleges that the conservative groups have "launched or expanded Africa-based offices dedicated to promoting their Christian right worldview. A loose network of right-wing charismatic Christians called the transformation movement joins them in fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders."
Leaders of the three groups mentioned have denied claims made in the report.
"The report issued by this organization is without merit and only seeks to promote their political agenda by distorting the facts," Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, told The Christian Post via email.
"The ACLJ's work in Africa involves defending the Christian faith and providing humanitarian aid to those who need it most. Our work in Africa embraces the same values we seek to protect in the United States and elsewhere – supporting pro-life and pro-family measures," he added.
Stephen Phelan, spokesman for Human Life International, told The Guardian that his group does have several affiliates in Africa for the purpose of challenging Western groups attempting to influence the lives of Africans.
"Powerful Western governments and very wealthy NGOs spend billions annually to stop Africans from having children, to change African laws to be more accommodating to this population control, all in an effort to make them culturally more like the West," Phelan told The Guardian.
"And the PRA, a proponent of this effort, is accusing a small group of Christian organizations, who together spend a tiny fraction of the development industry's annual budget to preserve pro-life and pro-family natural African values, of 'colonialism.' Where does one begin?"
Additionally, Slater of Family Watch International told The Guardian that her organization is not religiously affiliated, as the Political Research Associates claims. She said such a "fundamental error is alone an indication of the unreliability of his entire report."
Consensual sexual intercourse between people of the same sex is currently illegal in 76 countries, many of them in Africa.
In Libya, for example, same-sex sexual activity is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison, while in Kenya, sexual relations between men are illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. A new bill being pushed in Uganda would make the death penalty a punishment in certain cases, as well as criminalize speech deemed too supportive of the LGBT community.
On the heels of Political Research Associates report, 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter to Christians in Uganda, showing their solidarity with members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and urging Ugandans to stop supporting an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" as LGBT Ugandans face "increased bigotry and hatred."
"[T]he bill in Uganda would forcefully push lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people further into the margins, and it would criminalize anyone, including clergy, who speak up and provide support for their LGBT brothers and sisters rather than reporting them to law enforcement. Persecution of this kind has no place in any community guided by the commandment to love one's neighbor," they state.
"Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith."
The letter also addresses the recent report issued by Political Research Associates, saying:
"As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies."
The letter was signed by Rich Cizik, president of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; David P Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University; Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, associate professor of Theology at Boston College; and Andrew Marin, president of Marin Foundation; among others.