In our advance reporting on last week’s World Congress of Families conference — the first time this annual global gathering of social conservative activists was held in the U.S. — we contrasted the organizers’ public disavowal of homophobia with their well-documented anti-gay record, such as their decision to honor Theresa Okafor of Nigeria with the “Woman of the Year Award.”
Throughout last week’s conference, Okafor, who serves as WCF’s regional director in Africa, defended harsh anti-gay laws in her own country and others, including Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act. And she drew cheers for noting that in most African countries, doctors and nurses would go to jail for performing an abortion. “We in Africa see the family, as well as marriage, as something divine, and ordained towards life and love, and so we’re very protective over anything that seeks to undermine the family, religion, and culture,” she said. Okafor said repeatedly that family was so important to Africa that it justified “drastic measures” against threats to it from the “Trojan Horse” of the sexual revolution.
At a session devoted to Africa, Okafor was joined by Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, who is a spokesman for Africa’s Catholic bishops, and Ann Mbugua, director of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum (KCPF).
Okafor slammed efforts by the Obama administration and other western countries to promote LGBT rights internationally.
“My interest in all of this started when I got fed up with this phenomenon known as paternalism. And paternalism is that phenomenon whereby people in authority feel that they should limit the freedom and responsibility of people they consider to be subordinates in the interest of the subordinates…
“…some people in the West felt that Africa needed to legalize abortion, Africa needed to suppress its population, Africa needed to yield to sexual orientation and gender identity and what-have-you, and the interests of Africans weren’t being served by these things.”
Bishop Badejo has been a strident critic of the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBT human rights. This summer he panned the appointment of Randy Berry as the State Department’s special envoy on LGBT issues, saying it “just shows how little the current U.S. administration respects the democratic values it seems to preach, especially when they preach them abroad.”
At the World Congress of Families, Badejo made a surprisingly direct call for American Christians to reject the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton. In response to a question about what people in the West can do to support social conservatives in Africa, Badejo said, “choose the right kind of government.” He recalled an interview in which he had said “there are only three types of people that I know — those who believe in God, those who don’t believe in God, and those who think they are gods.” He said he thinks Hillary Clinton is one of the latter. “I called on the people of the United States to pay good attention to the kind of people they are trying to elect to be their president and the kind of values they will be pushing in the whole world.” Okafor seconded that idea, saying, “America is more powerful than you actually can imagine. This is why we are following American politics.” She told Americans that who they elect “changes everything.”
Of course, for all her talk about paternalism, Okafor and her allies have no problem limiting the freedom and responsibility of women and LGBT people. Okafor criticized the “anti-family” influence of western media as “almost like an infiltration.” And she bragged about getting the Nigerian government to ban the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” from being shown in the country.
Speaking of freedom, Mbugua spoke about resisting the “gay agenda,” which sat atop her list of threats to the family. Mbugua said that thanks to a strong anti-gay caucus in Kenya’s parliament, she’s not worried about legislation advancing LGBT rights. But she is concerned that the country’s 2010 constitution grants the constitutional court the power to declare new rights. In doing so, the court is to be guided by the values that underline an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom. She fears the court might use those values as a rationale for recognizing LGBT rights, especially since the constitution, while not mentioning sexual orientation, forbids discrimination on all grounds.
Mbugua’s group is not only supporting the sodomy law in a legal challenge, it is also defending the government’s refusal to allow a gay organization to even register as a lobbying group. A judge ruled earlier this year that it is not proper to limit minorities’ rights to free association based on public opinion or religious dogma, but the judge allowed KCPF to file an appeal. The Christian professionals’ group complained about the ruling, saying “this is one case that called for limitation to the exercise of certain freedoms.” A lawyer for the group said the ruling showed contempt for the constitution and people of Kenya and was a back-door way to legalize homosexuality.
American religious right leaders have, of course, expressed support for other laws that restrict LGBT advocacy, including Nigeria’s 2014 law, which includes a 10-year sentence for anyone who supports the sustenance of “gay societies,” and Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law.
The WCF was a love-fest between African activists and their American allies. Okafor said she had invited Sharon Slater of Family Watch International to Nigeria four times and taken her to meet some of the country’s senators. Mbugua said her group’s member had their eyes opened by a visit from Slater and now they are strongly opposing comprehensive sex education.
Austin Ruse, who like Slater works to keep reproductive choice and LGBT rights out of international agreements through his leadership at C-Fam, gushed about Okafor and her colleagues. “We like to say that with regard to family, Africa is the First World, and we are the Third World,” he said. Recounting the ways African countries had withstood pro-choice and pro-LGBT pressure at the United Nations, and the way African bishops presented a conservative front at the recent Catholic bishops’ synod on the family, Ruse said, “I think the Africans are going to save the world.”