Three American evangelical Christians have become embroiled in an international dispute over anti-gay legislation in Uganda that would, in some cases, carry a death sentence.
Two evangelists said they have been flooded with hate e-mails and are now trying to distance themselves from the legislative efforts in the African country.
“This was not my intention at all,” said evangelist Don Schmierer, 73.”I’m not against gay people. Some of the nicest people I ever met on the face of the Earth are gay people … but they’re also some of the angriest people I’ve ever met.”
Schmierer, Scott Lively of Massachusetts and Caleb Lee Brundidge of Phoenix presented a series of talks to packed audiences in Uganda last March. They lectured about “curing homosexuality,” and the “dangers of the gay agenda,” and how homosexuality is threatening the traditional family.
After their public talks, a Ugandan politician proposed a bill that would, in some instances, carry the death sentence for homosexuals. The legislation has been denounced by world leaders, including President Barack Obama.
News reports about the proposed legislation, and the allegations that these men helped stoke the anti-gay sentiment associated with it, have surfaced around the world. ”I’m outraged that this is going on,” said Bill Otton, interim executive director of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. “I think this is tragic that this is coming from people out of our own community and carrying these beliefs to other people.”
Gay conversion, or reparative therapy, is controversial, and the American Psychiatric Association has formally rejected it as scientifically unproven.
Schmierer and Lively said they do not support the harsh punishment as proposed by Ugandan legislation.
Lively, 52, said he opposes the Anti-Homosexual Bill of 2009. However, Lively does support public policy that discourages homosexuality.
“This will prevent the mainstreaming of homosexuality,” Lively said. “There would be no gay pride parades, no gay activist teachers in public schools.”
Lively, a minister, attorney and author of several books against homosexuality, said he takes an aggressive approach because that’s how he sees the other side.
Brundidge, the third American to speak at the conference, is a “self-described former gay man who leads healing seminars,” according to news reports.
Both sides of the homosexuality issue have descended on Uganda to argue their cause. Several religious organizations have spoken out against the proposed legislation.
Schmierer said Ugandan organizers invited him to speak about parenting issues and how parents can talk to their children about gender identity.