Lou Engle Walks A Fine Line In Uganda

Last week before Lou Engle headed to Uganda for a scheduled TheCall rally, he tried to distance himself and his movement from Uganda’s proposed “kill the gays” bill:

Now recently, TheCall has been wrongfully marked and vilified as an organization promoting hatred and violence against homosexuals and as one that supports the Uganda bill as currently written. To the contrary, we have never made a private or a public statement of support for that bill. Though we honor the courage and stand with the stated purpose of the many Church leaders in Uganda who are seeking to protect the traditional and biblical family foundations of the nation, we have serious concerns with the bill as presently written, especially in terms of some of the harsh penalties for certain homosexual behaviors or offenses.

You’ll notice that Engle was careful not to either explicitly endorse or disavow the bill, merely saying they have some “serious concerns” about it. 

And, according to this report from Uganda on Religion Dispatches, Engle tried to walk the same fine line while appearing at the event itself, voicing his support for those “showing courage to take a stand for righteousness” without explicitly supporting the bill:

When Engle himself finally took the microphone at about 5 p.m., he dug almost immediately into the controversy, saying he hadn’t known about the bill and nearly canceled his trip over questions raised by his presence. But at no point did he contest Oyet’s support for the bill.

“We know that Uganda has been under tremendous pressure—the church. We felt that same pressure. But I felt like The Call was to come and join with the church of Uganda to encourage you that in the nation who are showing courage to take a stand for righteousness in the earth,” Engle said.

Since arriving, Engle went on, he had consulted with Uganda’s pastors, who are “dealing with a controversy they never wanted.” He then pivoted to the blame-the-West assertion so popular among the bill’s Ugandan supporters. “What I found out was that NGOs, the UN, and UNICEF were coming in and promoting an agenda that the church of Uganda did not want to be in this nation.”

Engle was careful never to explicitly call for the passage of the bill itself, and to avoid being accused of inciting violence. “We are not standing with violence or hatred to people with homosexual lifestyles,” he preached. Still, as he does in the United States, he insisted that homosexuality harms society: “We are trying to restrain an agenda that is going to hurt the nation and hurt families.”

In addition to homosexuality, Engle preached against abortion and child sacrifice and repeatedly praised Uganda for its piety. “I think that Uganda is beyond the U.S. in their stand for righteousness,” Engle commented to reporters in a brief exchange on the way from the stage to his car, stipulating that he didn’t mean the anti-gay bill. He also said he’d felt “massive pressure” from gay rights groups in the United States.

But as soon as Engle departed, other speakers took to the stage to hail the law and call for its passage “without any debate”: 

As the car carrying American evangelist Lou Engle gained distance from the stage, exiting the grass sports field for the airport, the revival meeting organized by Engle’s The Call kicked into high gear in support of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.

“The bill will be passed into law without any debate,” boomed James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, and a well-known backer of the bill, drawing cheers from the audience while Engle’s vehicle was still in view.

“We must tell the whole world that Uganda will not accept that nonsense that says homosexuality is a human right,” Buturo added to the crowd of several hundred people. “It is an abomination.”