Writing in The Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal takes a look at the work that Rick Warren is doing combating AIDS in Africa and finds some rather disturbing connections. For instance:
Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, Rep. Tom Lantos led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR [the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002, and begin to fund family planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian right leaders including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form.
A release announcing this press conference shows that Warren wasn’t only sharing the microphone with Colson, but rather a bevy with right-wing Congressmen and activists including Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Rep. Joe Pitts, Rep. Mike Pence, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Bishop Harry Jackson, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, and Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union.
Even more disturbing is Warren’s close ties to Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa:
Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.
In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately into hiding.
I remember this incident because I actually wrote a post about it at the time that included a quote from Janice Crouse of the Beverly LaHaye Institute hailing the Ugandan protesters for standing up when “the Devil is attacking them”:
I thank the Lord that we have people in Uganda who are devoted Christians who are willing to go out there at the beginning, at the outset, to say “you’re not going to change our culture, you’re not going to have influence here. We stand up for what is right, what is legal, and what is part of the culture of Uganda.”
It also included this photo taken of one of Ssempa’s protesters:
Is this the anti-AIDS work in Africa of which Warren is so proud?