ABC Links American Christians to Anti-Gay Death Penalty in Uganda, Ignores Rick Warren's Condemnation

On ABC last Wednesday, both World News and Nightline featured a report filed by correspondent Dan Harris in which he linked the activities of some American evangelical Christian pastors with anti-gay hatred and attempts by Uganda’s parliament at passing death penalty legislation to punish homosexuals in the African nation. Each of the reports focused on the extreme views of American pastor Scott Lively and Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, without including the views of more mainstream American evangelical leaders.

On World News, anchor Diane Sawyer teased: "Gay terror: Have some American evangelical ministers helped threaten the lives of homosexuals in Africa?" She later plugged the report again: "And still ahead on World News, a death threat for gays. It happened after American evangelicals delivered a potent message."

In the version of the report that ran on Nightline, Harris made a point of mentioning Pastor Rick Warren as being a "one-time friend" of Pastor  Ssempa. And, though Harris’s reference to Pastor Warren as a "one-time friend" perhaps implies a falling out between the two men, the ABC correspondent could have more directly informed viewers that Pastor Warren released a statement last October declaring that he had not associated with Pastor Ssempa since 2007.

Furthermore, last December, Pastor Warren released a video message for Christians in Uganda in which he attacked the proposed anti-gay law as legislation "I completely oppose and I vigorously condemn," as he went on to declare, "The potential law before your parliament is unjust, it’s extreme, and it’s un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring death penalty even in some cases."

As Harris featured clips of one of the American evangelical pastors – who pushes the bizarre theory that Adolf Hitler and other German Nazi leaders were homosexuals – in the World News version of the story Harris made no distinction between this pastor’s views on homosexuals and other evangelical Christians who are more mainstream, while in the Nightline version of the story Harris only briefly alluded to him being extreme compared to other evangelicals as the ABC correspondent recounted to viewers that "At home, these views may be marginalized or even mocked."

And, while the World News version of the report dates the conference that included American evangelical speakers as having taken place "last March," the Nightline version of the report did not specify the date, thus giving a greater impression that some of the hysterical anti-gay protesters shown might have been stirred up immediately after a more recent presence of the American pastors. Substitute host Martin Bashir introduced the report by informing viewers that "a group of American evangelicals traveled to a far away land – a place where homosexuality is already a crime – to speak out against it," adding that "Since that seminar, anti-gay fervor has continued to ferment. Now, if a controversial bill passes, your homosexuality may cost you your life."

Harris left the impression that the anti-gay protests and anger shown were part of an immediate "aftermath" of the conference:

DAN HARRIS: We went to Uganda to investigate what has happened in the aftermath of that conference. This:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER SHOUTING: Homosexuality has been prohibited here in Uganda! We don't want it!

HARRIS: An extraordinary wave of homophobia, which even includes a bill that would put some gays and lesbians to death.

Harris then linked the featured anti-gay Ugandan Pastor Ssempa to Pastor Warren, and even left the impression that the American pastors who took part in the March 2009 seminar had actually helped co-host the conference rather than just appearing as featured speakers as he recounted that Pastor Ssempa "helped host" the conference "with" the American pastors. Harris: "The bill is supported by one of the country's most popular pastors, Martin Ssempa, who helped host that conference with the American evangelicals, and is a one-time friend of the American megachurch pastor Rick Warren."

After clips of Pastor Ssempa were shown in which he expressed his anti-gay views, the ABC correspondent relayed that American Christians have been blamed for some of the events in Uganda. Harris: "Critics say this extreme anti-gay fervor is in part the result of a concerted campaign by American Christians to export our culture wars to Africa, a campaign that reached a crescendo at that conference we told you about."

While Harris eventually informed viewers that the three American pastors who took part in the conference last year had voiced their opposition to the proposed law, the ABC correspondent never gave other more mainstream American evangelical leaders the chance to weigh in on whether they would dissent from some of the extreme rhetoric allegedly featured at the seminar event of March 2009.

The World News version of the report did not mention Pastor Warren, showed an abridged account of the extreme views of the pastors featured, and informed the audience that the American pastors at the conference had voiced opposition to the death penalty proposal in Uganda, but also did not include the views of mainstream American evangelical Christians at all. Harris concluded the report: "In the meantime, gay Ugandans, including those whose anguished faces we see, and those we cannot, say they cannot believe American Christians traveled all this way here to make their already harrowing existence so much more terrifying. Dan Harris, ABC News, Kampala, Uganda."

Below are complete transcripts of the relevant reports from the Wednesday March 10, Nightline and the same day’s World News on ABC:

#From the March 10 Nightline:

MARTIN BASHIR: A group of American evangelicals traveled to a far away land – a place where homosexuality is already a crime – to speak out against it. Since that seminar, anti-gay fervor has continued to ferment. Now, if a controversial bill passes, your homosexuality may cost you your life, as Dan Harris reports for our series "Faith Matters."

PASTOR SCOTT LIVELY: The gay movement is an evil institution that's goal, the goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society.

DAN HARRIS: This is the American evangelical Scott Lively speaking at an event called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda," half a world away in the African country of Uganda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER IN UGANDA: We say no to homosexuals, we don't allow homosexuals!

HARRIS: We went to Uganda to investigate what has happened in the aftermath of that conference. This:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER IN UGANDA: Homosexuality has been prohibited here in Uganda! We don't want it!

HARRIS: An extraordinary wave of homophobia, which even includes a bill that would put some gays and lesbians to death. The bill is supported by one of the country's most popular pastors, Martin Ssempa, who helped host that conference with the American evangelicals-

PASTOR MARTIN SSEMPA, MAKERERE COMMUNITY CHURCH: Africa is united against sodomy!

HARRIS: -and is a one-time friend of the American mega church pastor Rick Warren.

SSEMPA: I'm going to give evidence on what homosexuals do.

HARRIS: We found Ssempa whipping up support for the bill by showing his followers extraordinarily graphic gay pornography.

SSEMPA: This is the-

(AUDIENCE EXPESSES NEGATIVE REACTION TO SLIDE SHOW)

SSEMPA: In Africa, sodomy is an abomination and taboo and an evil!

HARRIS: Does all this fit in your mind with the spirit of Christianity, which is to help the oppressed?

SSEMPA: Very much. Very, very much. We need to know what are they doing in their bedroom? And you cannot make comments out of ignorance. The problem is, the absence of shock. You know, you look at the same thing – Dan, you're not shocked.

HARRIS: You could play porn between men and women and shock people, too, but it's not done very frequently.

SSEMPA CLIP #1: Sir, anal activity, anything having to do with eating of poop, heterosexuals do not eat poop.

SSEMPA CLIP #2: In same way, if you have sex with a dog, sex with a cow, that's evil.

SSEMPA, IN FRONT OF AUDIENCE: They start off by touching each other's genitals and smelling each other.

HARRIS: Critics say this extreme anti-gay fervor is in part the result of a concerted campaign by American Christians to export our culture wars to Africa, a campaign that reached a crescendo at that conference we told you about.

LIVELY: Even though probably the majority of homosexuals are not oriented toward young people, there’s a significant number of them are.

LIVELY CLIP #2: And that they, when they see a child that's from a broken home, it's like they have a flashing neon sign over their head.

HARRIS: The star attractions at the event? Three American Christians, including Scott Lively.

LIVELY: I'm not going to sit back and let them attempt to overthrow Christian civilization. That's really what it comes down to.

HARRIS: Lively is the author of a book called "The Pink Swastika," in which he argues that Nazism was actually a gay movement.

LIVELY: A large number of Hitler's inner circle were homosexual and Hitler himself was a homosexual.

HARRIS: The vast majority of Holocaust scholars would violently disagree with you.

LIVELY: Oh, I don't think so. I don't think that-

HARRIS: That the Nazi movement was largely a homosexual movement.

LIVELY: Well, the book, it's 400 pages of documentation.

HARRIS: At home, these views may be marginalized or even mocked, but the hundreds of Ugandan teachers, cops and politicians at the conference took them quite seriously. Months later, a bill was introduced called the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009," which calls for death by hanging for gay and lesbian serial offenders, and also prison time for anyone, including parents, who fail to hand over someone they know is gay or lesbian to the police.

HARRIS: This bill says if you get married while gay or lesbian to another gay or lesbian, you're going to prison for the rest of your life. Do you agree with that?

SSEMPA: I agree with that in my country.

HARRIS: You do?

SSEMPA: In my country.

HARRIS: You think that's a fair punishment? Life in prison to get married?

SSEMPA: Sir, I think that what we do not understand here is, A, in Africa, sodomy is an abomination. It's an abomination to our culture, to our God, and when you do bring sodomy, you practice sodomy, you bring a curse on the nation.

HARRIS: There's a common theory that the people who have the biggest problems with gays and lesbians have themselves struggled with homosexual urges.

SSEMPA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

HARRIS: Have you ever?

SSEMPA: That means everybody who fights terrorism is themselves a terrorist. (LAUGHS)

HARRIS: Are you comparing homosexuality to terrorism?

SSEMPA: It is sexual terrorism.

HARRIS: Do you ever worry that you're whipping up hatred in a way that could end up being violent?

SSEMPA: I don't worry about whipping up hatred. Actually, what I worry is that people, like you, who seem to hear what I'm saying, but they don't seem to understand. I worry that networks of televisions are controlled by homosexuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON STAGE: No to sodomy.

CLIP OF AUDIENCE: No to sodomy!

HARRIS: Even though backers of the bill now insist they only want to execute homosexual pedophiles, governments all over the world are up in arms. President Obama denounced the bill as odious, and the American evangelicals who spoke at that event in Uganda are now rushing to distance themselves from the bill. They claim they had no idea it was coming and deny any responsibility for it. You said before that you had no idea that your time in Uganda would be followed by such a draconian tough law. But you did say on your Web site, I believe, either you said or you quoted somebody as saying-

LIVELY: A nuclear bomb.

HARRIS: Yes, that it was like a nuclear bomb.

LIVELY: Well, and it was, and I'm proud of that. And I hope the nuclear bomb spreads across the whole world against the gay movement, against this attempt to overthrow family-based society and replace it with sexual anarchy. That doesn't mean I hate homosexuals. It doesn't mean that I want anybody to be thrown in jail.

HARRIS: But Uganda is a country where local newspapers out purported "homos" and where those who dare to come out of the closet are so scared they have to hold news conferences wearing masks. Did you ever think at any point that perhaps, given the history of this country, that you might be saying things that would have an unpleasant outcome?

LIVELY: Do you think that these people did not already have an opinion against homosexuality, a strong opinion? It's incredibly racist. It's the colonial mindset all over again.

HARRIS: An argument echoed by the main proponents of the bill in Uganda.

SSEMPA: It's offensive to me. It's offensive to me that every time a black man does something good, you have to say that a white man told us to do it. That's really offensive to me.

HARRIS: But the outrage in the West may mean that the bill gets either watered down or killed. The Ugandan parliament will be holding hearings on it later this month. As for Scott Lively, he says if they drop the death penalty, he will actually endorse the bill.

LIVELY: These are good Christians, better Christians in Uganda than there are here in this country. They care about each other. And the reason that this law is in place, the reason that they, I think that they're pushing so hard on this is that they don't want to see happen to their country what's happened over here.

HARRIS: For Nightline this is Dan Harris in Kampala, Uganda.

BASHIR: One extreme in this ongoing and sensitive debate. Our thanks to Dan Harris.

#From the March 10 World News :

DIANE SAWYER, IN OPENING TEASER: Gay terror: Have some American evangelical ministers helped threaten the lives of homosexuals in Africa?

...

SAWYER, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK: And still ahead on World News, a death threat for gays. It happened after American evangelicals delivered a potent message.

...

SAWYER: And now we dig more deeply into a flashpoint issue. We heard that some evangelical Christians from this country traveled to Uganda to preach an anti-gay message there. And now, gays in that country are looking at the possibility of a law that could invoke the death penalty. Is there a connection? Dan Harris traveled to Uganda.

DAN HARRIS: To be gay in Uganda already meant living in constant fear. It's a place where newspapers out purported "homos," and gay activists are forced to hold news conferences wearing masks. Then into this tinderbox walked American evangelical Scott Lively.

PASTOR SCOTT LIVELY: The gay movement is an evil institution that's goal, the goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society.

DAN HARRIS: Lively is one of several American Christians who spoke last March at a three-day event called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda," warning Ugandans that gays target their children.

LIVELY: When they see a child that's from a broken home, it's like they have a flashing neon sign over their head.

HARRIS: We went to Uganda to investigate what has happened in the aftermath, an extraordinary wave of homophobia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROTESTER IN UGANDA: Homosexuality, here in Uganda, we don't want it!

HARRIS: The Ugandan parliament is now considering an anti-homosexuality bill, which calls for death by hanging for some gays and lesbians and prison for anyone, including parents, who doesn't hand gays over to police.

PASTOR MARTIN SSEMPA: In Africa, sodomy is an abomination!

HARRIS: We found one of the bill's main backers, the American-educated Pastor Martin Ssempa, whipping up support by showing gay pornography. Does all this fit in your mind with the spirit of Christianity, which is to help the oppressed?

SSEMPA: Very much. Very, very much. We need to know what are they doing in their bedroom?

HARRIS: You could play porn between men and women and shock people, too.

HARRIS: His response to that is so graphic, we won't broadcast it here. A few gay Ugandans were brave enough to go on camera to tell us that the American Christians have made their lives much more dangerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE UGANDAN: Sometimes I come back home and just sob, I cry.

HARRIS: Even though Scott Lively and at least one of his fellow American Christians met with members of the Ugandan parliament while they were here last year, they now say they had nothing to do with, and do not support, the bill that would put gays to death. You said before that you had no idea that your time in Uganda would be followed by such a draconian, tough law, but you did say on your Web site, I believe, either you said or you quoted somebody saying-

LIVELY: A nuclear bomb.

HARRIS: Yes, that it was like a nuclear bomb.

LIVELY: And it was, and I'm proud of that, and I hope the nuclear bomb spreads across the whole world against the gay movement, against this attempt to overthrow family-based society and replace it with sexual anarchy. That doesn't mean I hate homosexuals. That doesn't mean that I want anybody to be thrown in jail.

HARRIS: He says it's racist to think a handful of Americans could convince so many Ugandans to consider such a tough bill. Martin Ssempa agrees.

SSEMPA: It's offensive to me. It's offensive to me that every time a black man does something good, you have to say that a white man told us to do it.

HARRIS: There's a common theory that the people who have the biggest problems with gays and lesbians have themselves struggled with homosexual urges.

SSEMPA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

HARRIS: Have you ever?

SSEMPA: That means everybody who fights terrorism is themselves a terrorist. (LAUGHS)

HARRIS: Are you comparing homosexuality to terrorism?

SSEMPA: It is sexual terrorism.

HARRIS: In the meantime, gay Ugandans, including those whose anguished faces we see, and those we cannot, say they cannot believe American Christians traveled all this way here to make their already harrowing existence so much more terrifying. Dan Harris, ABC News, Kampala, Uganda.