Nov 30, 2012

Just how radical is Religious Right leader Tony Perkins?

Consider this: Earlier in the week, the Family Research Council (FRC) president sent a tweet praising the president of Uganda and blasting those who oppose him.

“American Liberals are upset,” tweeted Perkins on Monday, “that Ugandan Pres is leading his nation in repentance – afraid of a modern example of a nation prospered by God?”

Now, it just so happens that Yoweri Museveni and the Ugandan parliament are again mulling a draconian law that would brutally punish gay people. The measure, which has been under consideration since 2009,  originally included the death penalty for certain offenses, although some reports say that provision has been dropped.

Does Perkins’ tweet mean he supports the death penalty and long prison sentences for gay people? Oh, heavens, no!

When critics noted his exaltation of Museveni, Perkins indignantly said his comment had nothing to do with the gay-bashing law. He was merely praising Museveni for a prayerful speech repenting of the nation’s sins and dedicating Uganda to God. (Museveni renounced “satanic influence” and “all the evil foundations and covenants that were laid in idolatry and witchcraft,” and told God, “I hereby covenant Uganda to you, to walk in your ways and experience all your blessings forever.”)

But if Perkins wasn’t slyly endorsing the anti-gay bill, why did he issue his tweet now? The Museveni repentance took place in October. Why was Perkins just getting around to praising the Ugandan leader this week when the anti-gay hysteria has erupted again?

JP Duffy, FRC vice president of communications, told The Christian Post, “President Museveni's prayer was given at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ugandan independence from Britain. President Museveni did list ‘sexual immorality’ – as only one of 29 separate sins for which the nation should repent. Neither the event nor the prayer had anything to do with, or made any reference to, the proposed bill on homosexuality in the Ugandan parliament.”

Duffy added, “Bloggers may try to resurrect false rumors but we will continue to applaud President Museveni's prayer of repentance.”

Concluded Duffy, “Museveni took the very powerful step of dedicating Uganda to God when he said, ‘We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own.’”

So the bottom line for the FRC crowd is that they love Museveni’s declaration of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, they just don’t want to be publicly associated with the extreme political agenda that goes with it.

And they aren’t the only ones lauding the Ugandan strongman. According to World Net Daily, Religious Right extremist Scott Lively believes Museveni is a model for other national leaders.

“The Museveni prayer is a model for all Christian leaders in the world,” Lively, author of the book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, told the right-wing news site. “The leaders of the West have declined in proportion to their degree of rejection of God.

“This incident is also important as a contrast to the picture being painted of Uganda by the godless left of a backwards, violent and savage culture intent on murdering homosexuals,” Lively concluded. “On the contrary, Museveni is calmly and confidently setting the course of his nation by the guidance of the Bible, in a way that also shows great courage and resolve.”

Lively’s paen isn’t surprising. The Massachusetts pastor is deeply implicated in the Ugandan move to pass the anti-gay law. Earlier this year, a Ugandan gay rights group filed suit in U.S. federal court against Lively for his role in stirring up vicious anti-gay hatred in Uganda.

Ironically, Museveni, the man the American Religious Right is celebrating, is hardly the paragon of Christian virtue they claim.

Museveni has held power since 1986, and his rule has been far from beatific. According to a Washington Post editorial, Museveni brutally cracked down on protestors last year, killing several and wounding hundreds. His reelection in February 2011 – to a fourth five-year term – was marked by allegations of voter fraud and police intimidation.

To add to this sorry tale, a UN Group of Experts report has accused Museveni’s brother and others close to the Museveni government of helping the M23 rebels wage a horrific war in neighboring Congo.

Some observers think the reappearance of the anti-gay bill is designed to distract attention from Museveni’s “increasingly autocratic” rule and his misappropriation of Western aid money. They say the Ugandan despot will derail the anti-gay bill at the last minute to keep aid funds flowing and hold himself out as a hero in the West.

There you have it: Museveni, Religious Right role model.

Hey, Tony, is Uganda the kind of “righteous” government that the Religious Right wants here?

Not for nothing has the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Family Research Council a hate group.