The Family’s role in the Ugandan anti-gay bill

The powerful group known as C Street, or The Family, is reported to have links to Ugandan anti-gay bill.

Jeff Sharlet, the author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The Family sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast and has gained notoriety for sex scandals involving members who have lived at its C Street House — Nevada Senator John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Current residents include Bart Stupak. Joe Pitts is a “core member.”

Sharlet calls The Family “elite fundamentalism, as opposed to the kind of televangelist, populist fundamentalism” and “an anti-democratic social movement” that is secretive and legal. Lisa Getter’s LA Times article from 2002 provides useful background on The Family.

Starlet has discovered that The Family has links to the proposed anti-gay legislation before the Ugandan parliament, links that are direct and run deep.

From the transcript of the interview:

GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda [“the organizer of their American-funded leadership program“], that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: …The Family identified [him] back in 1986 as a key man for Africa. They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They’ve since promoted Uganda as this bright spot – as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting – strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009. … And he’s been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together. [Under Museveni Uganda has had experienced an economic revival, and it has a notable improvement in its AIDs program. Madeline Albright’s State Department called Museveni a “beacon of hope.” But his rule has had serious faults as well.]

Listen to the entire interview below. The part on Uganda starts after the 19 minute mark and continues to before the 29 minute mark. The interview begins with an explanation of what The Family is.

The author of the bill, David Bahati, has campaign training from The Leadership Institute, a conservative group in Arlington, VA. You can hear Bahati on message in this interview with CBC radio (following this link, scroll to “Listen to part 2” and it’s about halfway into the audio).

As reported by Talk2Action, Bahati and other members of the Ugandan parliament attended a prayer breakfast put together by the Georgia group the College of Prayer International. More information on COP’s activities in Uganda here and here.

See also our report last week on the export of homophobia to Africa.

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