Thursday, January 29, 2009

News Release on Federal Court Ruling re Prop 8 Contributors

SACRAMENTO (AP) – Federal judge denies request to keep donors to California’s anti-gay marriage initiative secret.

Statement by Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate regarding today’s Federal Court Ruling on Proposition 8 Contributors:

The Court today did the right thing by upholding California’s 35 year old Political Reform Act. The law requires that all contributors of $100 and above to state campaigns be reported and available to the public. Every California campaign has abided by this law for over three decades.

It is truly unfortunate that in the heat of a campaign donors are subjected to any undue attention. This has sadly been the case on both sides of last November’s highly emotional Proposition 8 campaign. But the law passed by the voters in 1974 has served our state well all these years and must remain in place.

The Executive Board of, who filed this lawsuit, sent a letter to many major donors to No on 8 – Equality California threatening to expose them and take action against their companies unless they gave to the Yes on 8 campaign. Now they complain of harassment?

Gay and lesbian donors fighting several anti gay initiatives in California beginning with the 1978 Briggs Initiative (Prop 6) have contributed to these campaigns in fear of job loss and being outed to their families. No exemption from the law was ever requested.

The Mormon Church and all the other major supporters of Proposition 8 knew the law when they qualified their Constitutional Amendment for the November ballot and must abide by it. The Mormon Church basically required over 60,000 of its members throughout the country to give nearly $25 million to take away the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. After winning their very deceitful campaign by only 4% points, they now hoped to keep the names secret of another 6,600 donors who must be reported on Monday, February 2nd. This is despicable.

The Mormon Church is currently under an active investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission – FPPC (Case # 080735) for allegedly not reporting what could amount to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of non monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. While this investigation is underway, their law suit named FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson and the other four Commissioners as defendants. Also named were California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Well, if the Salt Lake City based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going to be that involved California elections, they have to play by the rules. What is the Mormon Church trying to hide?

The Mormon Church is not a named plaintiff in the Federal lawsuit, and through its spokeswoman even denied knowledge of its existence, it certainly must be behind it. They have clearly been the focus of the post election unhappiness.

The Mormon Church is in the midst of a self admitted PR offensive to resuscitate its wounded image as a result of their heavy handed involvement in the Yes on Prop 8 campaign (see ABC’s Nightline segment from January 9, 2009 ). This lawsuit is clearly an attempt by the Church to demonize its opponents, while having others front for them. They have a long and documented history of this type of activity.

We, like all millions of other Californians, applaud the Court’s decision today, and look forward to reviewing the thousands of additional donors to both sides of the Prop 8 campaign when the report comes out on Monday.
-- end --

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mormon Fight Over Disclosure of Prop. 8 Donors

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's attorney general and election watchdogs are fighting back against a federal lawsuit seeking to bar disclosure of late donors to the state's same-sex marriage ban.Attorney General Jerry Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen and the Fair Political Practices Commission jointly filed arguments this week opposing the suit by the Proposition 8 campaign.Ross Johnson, FPPC chairman, said Friday that the suit is "out to destroy campaign finance disclosure by a death-of-a-thousand cuts. I don't intend to let that happen on my watch."U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. is set to hear oral arguments Thursday.

The suit seeks a court order exempting Proposition 8 committees from identifying people who donated shortly before or after the Nov. 4 election. Previous contributors already have been named.California's Political Reform Act, approved by voters in 1974, requires disclosure of the name, occupation and employer of anyone contributing $100 or more to campaigns.The suit challenges the constitutionality of the disclosure requirement, claiming donors to Proposition 8 have been ravaged by e-mails, phone calls and postcards even death threats.Ron Prentice, chairman of Yes on 8, contends that hundreds of people have alleged harassment, intimidation or threats. Attorneys for Proposition 8 assert that First Amendment rights to be free from retaliation outweigh the state's interest in disclosure.

Brown, Bowen and the FPPC counter that disclosure requirements assist the state in detecting efforts to hide the identities of large donors and illegal spending of political funds for personal use."Political democracy demands open debate, including prompt disclosure of the identities of campaign donors," Brown said in a written statement.Victims of harassment should sue or file criminal charges not strip election records to "carve out a special privilege of anonymity for themselves alone," he said.Noting that Proposition 8 attracted 36,000 contributions totaling $30 million, the state contends no clear evidence exists that the measure was hurt by fear of reprisal.That argument misses the point, attorney James Bopp Jr. said, because harassment occurred only after donors sent their money.

Bopp said the state has no compelling reason to disclose donations as low as $100."Surely, there's no one in the state who would be influenced to vote for or against an initiative because Joe Blow gave $100," he said.Since balloting for Proposition 8 is over, there is no way that keeping names confidential could affect the outcome, Bopp added.The suit would not bar investigations of misspending because the state could obtain donors' names by auditing campaign committees, without making them public, he said.If successful, the suit would apply only to Yes on 8 committees. Besides barring disclosure of late donors, it would ban the public from viewing names previously released.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rick Warren Coverage -- Media Matters Set the Record Straight

Reporting on Warren's invocation, NY Times repeatedly ignored his comparison of same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia, polygamy

Summary: In separate articles, The New York Times mischaracterized opposition to the selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation as a function solely of Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage or same-sex marriage and abortion. In fact, Warren has compared same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy.

County Fair: A Media Blog brought to you bt Eric Boehlert and Jamison Foser.

In January 19 and January 20 articles, The New York Times mischaracterized opposition to the selection of Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation as a function solely of Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage or same-sex marriage and abortion. Neither article noted that Warren has compared same-sex marriage to incest, pedophilia, and polygamy. By contrast, a January 21 Boston Globe article about Warren's invocation noted Warren "compared gay relationships to incest and polygamy," and a January 21 Los Angeles Times editorial about same-sex marriage noted that Warren "has infuriated many by equating homosexual unions with incest, child molestation and polygamy."

Similarly, a January 20 USA Today
article about the invocation delivered by "[c]ontroversial evangelical pastor Rick Warren" reported that he "has been excoriated for weeks by gay rights activists outraged that a leading opponent of gay marriage had been offered a national podium by Obama" but did not note Warren's comments.

As Media Matters for America has
noted, in a interview, Warren compared same-sex marriage to "having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage ... an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage [or] ... one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

From the January 20 Times
article, headlined "Few Protesters at Inauguration":

Some advocates of gay rights booed when the Rev. Rick Warren of California's Saddleback Church delivered the invocation. Mr. Warren, one of the nation's best-known evangelical preachers, opposes gay marriage. He spoke at Mr. Obama's invitation. About 100 people rallied outside his church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Monday to protest his inclusion in the inaugural ceremonies.

From the January 19 Times article, headlined "Transition Holds Clues to How Obama Will Govern":
Mr. Obama opted not to play it safe during the transition. He brought his Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, into the cabinet, and angered gay and liberal supporters by inviting the Rev. Rick Warren, an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, to give the inaugural invocation. Although Mr. Obama deferred foreign affairs with his "one president at a time" rule, that did not apply to domestic policy, where he lobbied Congress to release $350 billion in financial bailout money and set about negotiating roughly $800 billion in spending programs and tax breaks.

From the January 20 USA Today article:

Controversial evangelical pastor Rick Warren opened Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony Tuesday by touching on the two greatest prayers in Judaism and Christianity and asking God to grace the nation with clarity, responsibility and civility, "even when we differ."
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has been excoriated for weeks by gay rights activists outraged that a leading opponent of gay marriage had been offered a national podium by Obama.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sean Penn on Prop 8: Shame on Mormons and Blacks

by Steven Mikulan

January 15, 2009 9:39 AM

Last night's L.A. Times Gold Derby blog presented a video clip of a somber Sean Penn at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, where his portrayal of gay icon Harvey Milk had won the Best Actor Award. Penn did not look to be in the mood for a political discussion, but when asked by Tom O'Neil and Scott Feinberg about the passage of Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative, Penn didn't hold back.

"The Proposition 8 thing was a fiasco in California. Mormon movement should be ashamed of itself, the black constituency that supported Prop 8 should be ashamed of itself." Penn was less certain of whether or not a pre-election day release of Milk would have helped beat Prop 8.

Tom Hanks Says Mormon Supporters of Proposition 8 'Un-American'

Friday, January 16, 2009

By Hollie McKay
Fox News

Tom Hanks says supporting Proposition 8 is discriminatory.


Tom Hanks Says Mormon Supporters of Prop-8 “Un-American”

Tom Hanks, an Executive Producer for HBO’s controversial polygamist series “Big Love,” made his feelings toward the Mormon Church’s involvement in California's Prop 8 (which prohibits gay marriage) very clear at the show’s premiere party on Wednesday night.

“The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen,” he told Tarts. “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process.”

When informed of the "Forrest Gump" star's comments, Kim Farah, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, told Tarts, "Expressing an opinion in a free and democratic society is as American as it gets."

Bill McKeever, a rep for the Mormonism Research Ministry, added, "Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. Hanks said he doesn’t 'like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper.' Considering that just about every law discriminates in some form or another, makes this comment ridiculous. Hanks’ comment shows that he very much believes in discriminating against people with whom he disagrees. I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American News Project Reveals Mormon Prop 8 Bombshell


Video News Story Uncovers Secret

Transcript and Audio of Church’s Simulcast

Steven Greenstreet, Producer at the prestigious American News Project (ANP) a Washington, D.C. based news organization, just released a 7 minute video with brand new information on what some are calling proof that the Salt Lake City, Utah based Mormon Church spent large sums of money to communicate with California voters in order to pass Prop 8 last fall. The Church had released only a 4 minute edited down version of its hour long simulcast on its web site last October that was broadcast to every Mormon Church building in 5 Western States. ANP obtained written and audio copies of the entire broadcast, including the missing 56 minutes.

I will today forward this information to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento. The FPPC is in the midst of an active investigation of the Mormon Church’s alleged lack of reporting of its direct expenditures on behalf of Prop 8.

Click on the headline below to take you to this amazing story:

Prop 8 - Did Mormons Go Too Far?

By Steven Greenstreet on Jan 14, 2009
Activists claim that money from the Mormon Church was the deciding factor in passing Proposition 8 in California - banning gay marriage. The church claims to have only spent a few thousand dollars on the campaign, but ANP has uncovered evidence that may expose a gaping hole in that claim. Also, the IRS forbids religious organizations from "substantially" lobbying for political legislation. Did the Mormon Church violate this law?

confidential, exposed, gay marriage, internal revenue service, IRS, law, lobbying, mormon church, mormons, prop 8, proposition 8, secret, tax

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR EMBED INSTRUCTIONS: ANP will be migrating to YouTube HD to delivery our video. During this transition, we ask that if you want to paste this report on your site, please use the YouTube HD code below:

And it’s up on YouTube:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rick Warren $3.00 Bill

Californians Against Hate Today Released it's latest salvo to draw public attention to President-elect Obama's bad choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his Inauguration next Tuesday. Warren, who was a big supporter of California's Prop 8, just equated gays and lesbians in an interview with the Wall Street Journal to pedophiles, incest and an offense often associated with his Prop 8 Mormon allies, polygamy. Thanks, Rick!

Take a real close look at this photo of Warren. And feel free to use it on your web site or blog and please forward it around.

Thank you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

News Coverage - Californians Against Hate

Instant Pride – Fred Karger on Fox --

Air America Radio – Fred Karger guest --

San Francisco Chronicle --

Sacramento Bee --

San Diego Union-Tribune --

Laguna Beach Independent --

Gay and Lesbian Times --

Gay and Lesbian Times --

Towleroad --

Towleroad --


Topix --

Queensspeech -- --

Lesbians of Color --

The Daily Horse --

Mike Tidmus --

Pink Banana World -- --

Lez Get Real --

Protect All Marriage --

Protect All Marriage --

National Organization for Women --

What Comes After 8 --

Eleven Five --

Stop Ben Lyons --

Justin McLachlan --

Mike Tidmus --

Ravenhurst --

Virtue on Line --

Box Turtle Bulletin --

Catholic News Agency --

Lavender Newswire --

The Christian Post --

MAS --

NGblog --

The Melting Pot Project --

On Top Magazine --

The Right Time and Place --

California Chronicles --

On Top --

2015 Place --

Justin McLachlan --

Bishop Gene Robinson to Deliver Prayer

Washington Post

Inauguration Week

Gay Bishop to Deliver Prayer at Inaugural Concert

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man whose ordination
helped touch off a worldwide struggle within the Anglican church over homosexuality and Scripture, will deliver the invocation Sunday at a concert to kick off the inaugural celebrations, officials said today.
The concert at the Lincoln Memorial, will feature performances by Beyonce, Bono and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, who leads the liberal-leaning Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), was tapped to give the sermon in the National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral, which concludes the inaugural ceremonies -- the first woman to lead that service.
The selections of Robinson and Watkins round out a group of theologically diverse ministers who will play prominent roles during the Obama inauguration. Evangelical pastor Rick Warren will deliver the invocation during the inaugural ceremony -- a choice that
riled some Obama supporters because of Warren's opposition to gay marriage -- while the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a black Methodist civil rights activist, will give the benediction.

Shaun Casey, an ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington who served as an Obama campaign adviser, said the diverse choice of ministers is a "precursor of what the administration is going to look like."
"It's an extension of who Obama is," he said.

Robinson endorsed Obama for president before the New Hampshire primary -- one of the first prominent religious leaders to land in Obama's camp. He served as a faith adviser to the campaign and also advised it on gay-rights issues.

But he called Obama's choice of Warren to deliver the invocation a "slap in the face." Warren
supported California's Proposition 8 this fall, a measure that voters approved, outlawing gay marriage in the state.

an e-mail to friends posted today on the Web site Episcopal Cafe, Robinson wrote, "[I]t will be my great honor to be there representing the Episcopal Church, the people of New Hampshire, and all of us in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mormon Post Prop 8 PR Campaign...The Law Suit

Last week in a deplorable act, California’s Yes on Proposition 8 campaign filed a law suit in Federal Court to permanently throw out the California Political Reform Act passed by the voters in 1974. The very group led by the Mormon Church that insisted the voters have the final say on the issue of gay marriage, now wants to change California’s 35 year old election law to keep contributors to all initiative campaigns secret.

They claim that a handful of their over 64,000 contributors have been harassed since Prop 8’s narrow victory on November 4th. This frivolous law suit is their latest publicity stunt in an effort to change their image and demonize the gay community which was just stripped of its freedom to marry in California, just as it has been in 29 other states.

This issue should not have been on the ballot in the first place. The proponents of this law suit spent over $2 million to hire hundreds of professional signature gatherers to qualify Prop 8 for the November ballot just as same-sex marriage became the law of the land. Now they want to change the rules.

Who is behind this law suit? The filing lists the coalition which managed Yes on Prop 8 from day one, and the Princeton, New Jersey based National Organization for Marriage (NOM) which raised most of the $2 million to qualify Prop 8.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative Christian legal organization based in Arizona filed the lawsuit. Guess who helped start the ADF? James Dobson who runs the Colorado based Focus on the Family for one. Focus on the Family gave $623,000 to Yes on Prop 8. Also listed as a founder of ADF is Donald Wildmon who runs the Tupelo, Mississippi based American Family Association (AFA) which gave $500,000 to Yes on 8. AFA is also the Boycott leader of the world. They have organized over 25 national boycotts against American companies who support equal rights for women and minorities. Now they are complaining about boycotts? Other big financial backers of AFA are Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, whose mother Elsa Prince gave $450,000 to Yes on 8, and her relatives Richard and Helen DeVos. And of course so is William Bolthouse, founder of Bolthouse Farms, who was a very early $100,000 contributor to

But the real force behind this latest gay bashing attempt has got to be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka the Mormon Church. Yes, the same Mormon Church which raised nearly $25 million from its members for their Prop 8 campaign.

The Mormon Church has recently embarked on a new Public Relations campaign to “redefine” its image,” which it says is being “defined by others.” They just hosted a press dinner at their Salt Lake City Temple for print and radio reporters as well as ABC’s Nightline. Nightline did a very interesting segment last week on the Church’s PR campaign and interviewed two of the twelve Mormon apostles, Russell Ballard and Quentin Cook:

In this first of a kind interview, these two top Mormon leaders defended the Church’s role in Prop 8. Apostle Ballard even continued to gloat about their success by smugly saying “when something needs to get done, we know how to do it.” Does that mean that the Mormon Church is behind this frivolous law suit to try and redefine its image? Are they trying to hide behind others?

The Mormon Church has led anti gay marriage campaigns since Utah became the first state in the nation to ban same-sex marriage back in 1995. Next they funded campaigns in Hawaii and Alaska, but after taking too much heat over their direct involvement, the Church decided to have their members contribute the money directly to these costly initiatives. They also determined that others should “front” these campaigns. This recently came to light in a secret memo written by Mormon Church leaders on March 4, 1997. It specifically mentioned recruiting the Catholic Church to take more of a public role in future anti gay ballot measures. Here is the link to that memo as originally posted on Daily Kos –

Last year over 59,000 Mormon families contributed to Yes on 8, and did so after a lot of strong arm twisting by Mormon leaders. These Mormon families gave til it hurt. Many even have gay family members, but were required to give to this anti gay ballot measure by their Church.

The Mormon Church ran every aspect of the Yes on 8 campaign. They raised nearly 75% of the money, ran the advertising, which had church members in all of the commercials and did nearly all of the grassroots work. Mormon President Monson wrote a letter that was read in late June in every Mormon Church building, calling on members to “give of their time and resources to pass Proposition 8.”

While the Mormon Church is not listed as a plaintiff in this law suit, which names all major California election officials including the Attorney General. Secretary of State and the Registrar of Voters of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento Counties, they are likely very much behind it.

The law suit also names as defendants, the Chairman and the four other Commissioners of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which is in the middle of an active investigation of the Mormon Church for its alleged lack of reporting of what could amount to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-monetary contributions to Yes on 8

This vindictive law suit even asks that the contributors to Yes on 8 from mid October through year end be kept secret as well. There are presumably thousands more donors of between $100 to $999 who have yet to be reported. What are they trying to hide? The public should know the names of all those who contributed to this and every other ballot initiative in California. It is the law.

We at Californians Against Hate deplore any threats, violence and hate directed at anyone. The gay community knows only too well how painful this can be. But this law suit is merely an effort to turn on the fog machine and try and redefine the image of its promoters.

Link to the Law Suit:

Link to Huffington Post Original:

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Protect Marriage, NOM & Mormon Church Look
for Sympathy in Federal Law Suit

LOS ANGELES – Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate today issued the following statement in response to the Federal Law Suit filed by Protect Marriage and the National Organization for Marriage:

After taking away marriage equality from millions of Californians and millions more in the other 29 states where they have successfully passed laws banning same-sex marriage, the proponents Proposition 8 are appealing for pity by filing a Federal law suit today to keep the names of their contributors secret. They raised over $30 million dollars to take away marriage equality in California last year, and now want to hide the names of many of the over 60,000 contributors who gave all of those millions. This should never have been put on the ballot in the first place, but since that was their decision, they need to comply with all California reporting laws.

These very organizations who were major funders of Yes on Prop 8 like Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association ($500,000) and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family (($623,000) and their allies have been boycotting and blacklisting companies for decades who dared to support the rights of Gays and Lesbians. Companies have been targeted for advertising in gay publications, supporting gay business organizations, giving equal benefits to gay employees, allowing their facilities to be used for gay events, and in the case of Hallmark this past summer, just for making a same-sex greeting card. They have been trying to ruin companies big and small to stop equal rights and fairness.

Well, the Gay and Lesbian community and all of our friends and families are rightfully upset with the over 60,000 contributors to Yes on Prop 8 led by the Mormon Church which raised nearly $25 million from its members. It is completely understandable that we don’t want to spend our hard earned money at businesses whose ownership gave so enthusiastically to take our civil rights away. Our opponents have been trying to bury us for the past 16 years since Utah, led by the Mormon Church, became the first state in the country to ban same-sex marriage in 1993. Well, now we are fighting back and they aren’t too happy about it.

The Federal Government and nearly every state in the nation have political campaign reporting requirements, most of which were put into effect after the Watergate scandal in the mid 1970’s, Full disclosure is the law of the land and it keeps our political process honest.

For over 30 years, Gay and Lesbian donors have risked repercutions by contributing to fight anti-gay initiative campaigns. Our contributions have been used to identify us, but we have never asked that the law be changed to hide our identities.

These very contributors to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign have spent months gloating about their enormous contributions to take away the rights of a minority and write discrimination into the California Constitution. And now they want to keep these names secret? This is despicable.

The Mormon Church is currently under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for not reporting vast amounts of non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. The Salt Lake City based church ran out of state phone banks, established web sites, produced slick commercials, videos and satellite simulcasts, printed campaign materials, bussed in thousands of church members into California from Utah and other states and apparently failed to report these activities. Now the Mormon Church and their allies are hoping to keep secret all of their contributions, this is crazy.

We trust that the courts will see this frivolous law suit for what it is and dismiss it immediately.

Copy of Lawsuit:

-- end --

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rick Warren's Africa Problem by Max Blumenthal

Team Obama likes to cite Warren’s work on AIDS in Africa to combat criticism about the controversial pastor. But how does burning condoms in the name of Jesus save lives?

Once hailed by Time magazine as “America’s Pastor,” California mega-church leader and bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren now finds himself on the defensive. President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer has generated intense scrutiny of the pastor’s beliefs on social issues, from his vocal support for Prop 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, to his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, incest and bestiality. Many of Obama’s supporters have demanded that he withdraw the invitation.

Warren’s defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa. Obama senior advisor David Axelrod cited Warren’s work in Africa as one of “the things on which [Obama and Warren] agree” on the December 28 episode of Meet the Press. Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. What could be wrong with that?

Ssempa’s stunts have included publishing the names of homosexuals in local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His website contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”

Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria. “Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it “had the audience on the edge of its seats,” according to Warren’s public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. “You are my brother, Martin, and I love you,” Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke and tears ran down her cheeks.

Joining Ssempa at Warren’s church were two key Bush administration officials who controlled the purse strings of the president’s newly minted $15 billion anti-AIDS initiative in Africa, PEPFAR. Ugandan first lady Janet Museveni also appeared through a videotaped address to tout the success of her country’s numerous church-based abstinence programs.

These Bush officials—Randall Tobias, the Department of State’s Global AIDS coordinator, and Claude Allen, the White House’s chief domestic policy advisor—are closely linked to the Christian right. Tobias, the so-called “global AIDS czar,” declared in 2004 that condoms “really have not been very effective," and crusaded against prostitution, until he resigned in 2007 when he was exposed as a regular client of the D.C. Madam’s escort service. Allen, once an aide to the late Senator Jesse Helms, resigned in 2006 after he was arrested for felony thefts from retail stores.

During the early 1990s, when many African leaders denied the AIDS epidemic’s existence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke openly about the importance of safe sex. With the help of local and international non-governmental organizations, he implemented an ambitious program emphasizing abstinence, monogamous relationships, and using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. He called the program “ABC.” By 2003, Uganda’s AIDS rate plummeted 10 percent. The government’s free distribution of the “C” in ABC—condoms—proved central to the program’s success, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Janet Museveni, who had become born-again, convened a massive stadium revival in Kampala to dedicate her country to the “lordship” of Jesus Christ. As midnight approached, the First Lady summoned a local pastor to the stage to anoint the nation. “We renounce idolatry, witchcraft, and Satanism in our land!” he proclaimed.

Two years later, Janet Museveni flew to Washington at the height of a heated congressional debate over PEPFAR. She carried in her hand a prepared message to distribute to Republicans. Abstinence was the golden bullet in her country’s fight against AIDS, she assured conservative lawmakers, denying the empirically proven success of her husband’s condom distribution program. Like magic, the Republican-dominated Congress authorized over $200 million for Uganda, but only for the exclusive promotion of abstinence education. Ssempa soon became the “special representative of the First Lady’s Task Force on AIDS in Uganda,” receiving $40,000 from the PEPFAR pot.

Emboldened by U.S. support, Ssempa took his anti-condom crusade to Makerere University in Kampala, where senior residents of a men’s dormitory promoted safe sex by greeting incoming freshmen with a giant effigy wearing a condom. According to Helen Epstein, one day after she visited the school, Ssempa stormed on to campus, tore the condom from the effigy, grabbed a box of free condoms, and set them ablaze. “I burn these condoms in the name of Jesus!” Ssempa shouted as he prayed over the burning box.

“It was a very controversial time,” Epstein told me. “After the Bush administration authorized PEPFAR, a number of the local evangelical preachers began to get excited about this and get involved in AIDS very rapidly. To try to prove his credentials, Ssempa became increasingly active and vociferous in his antipathy towards condoms.”

By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch documented that educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the HIV virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed by on condom imports.

AIDS activists arrived at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006 with disturbing news from Uganda. Due at least in part to the chronic condom shortage, HIV infections were on the rise again. The disease rate had spiked to 6.5 percent among rural men, and 8.8 percent among women—a rise of nearly two points in the case of women. “The ‘C’ part [of ABC] is now mainly silent,” said Ugandan AIDS activist Beatrice Ware. As a result, she said, “the success story is unraveling.”

Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, Rep. Tom Lantos led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002, and begin to fund family planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian right leaders including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form. (Days later, Lantos died of cancer after serving for 27 years in Congress.)

With safe sex advocates on the run, Warren and Ssempa trained their sights on another social evil. In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately into hiding.

Warren, in his effort to dispel criticism, has denied harboring homophobic sentiments. “I could give you a hundred gay friends,” he told MSNBC’s Ann Curry on December 18. “I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them.”

But when Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest. “The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.”

Days later, Warren emerged so enthusiastic after a meeting with First Lady Museveni, he announced a plan to make Uganda a “Purpose Driven Nation.” “The future of Christianity is not Europe or North America, but Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” he told a cheering throng at Makerere University. Then, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi rose and predicted, “Someday, we will have a purpose driven continent!”

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and writing fellow at The Nation Institute, whose book, Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books), is forthcoming in Spring 2009. Contact him at

Friday, January 2, 2009

Black gay activists: Ebenezer should dump Warren as MLK Day speaker


The Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition last week called on Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic church where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor, to remove Pastor Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for its upcoming MLK Day service.

“Rev. Warren’s hateful opposition to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and reproductive rights for women, and his intolerance of diversity contradict the values of freedom and equality that this day represents,” the group said in a Dec. 24 press release.

The coalition called on Ebenezer’s pastor, Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, to rescind the invitation to Warren to speak at the Jan. 19 service.

The church did not respond to an interview request by press time.

“Bestowing Rev. Warren such a prominent role does not foster greater understanding between divided communities. Instead it drives more wedges between disenfranchised communities that are continually pitted against each other by the agents of racism and homophobia,” the gay coalition said.

Held each year to commemorate the national holiday honoring King, the church service at Ebenezer attracts media, politicians and civil rights leaders from around the nation. Last year, then-Democratic hopeful Barack Obama spoke to the church the day before the national holiday, delivering a rousing call to responsibility that included a challenge to black churches to renounce homophobia.

Obama told the mostly black audience that “our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community,” in part because “we have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.”

This year’s MLK Day service takes place the day before Obama will be inaugurated as the nation’s first African-American president. Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Community Church and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” has also been tapped by Obama to give the invocation at his Jan. 20 inauguration, sparking outrage from gay activists who note Warren’s vocal opposition to gay marriage.

“I don’t know what Rev. Warnock’s motives are. I do know that the invitation is an affront to queer communities,” Craig Washington, a leader of the Atlanta coalition, said in an interview. “It does nothing to unify the community, it drives the wedge deeper. I think Ebenezer, like Obama, is seeking to find some political currency with the conservative movement in this country.”

Another group of Atlanta activists is organizing a protest during Warren’s speech at the church. Jeff Shade is one of the organizers for the massive Nov. 15 rally at the State Capitol for marriage equality and the smaller Dec. 13 “All I Want for Christmas is Equal Rights” picket at Lenox Mall. Schade said they are organizing another event for Warren’s visit, although details were not finalized at press time.

“I’m not exactly sure what direction it will take. Martin Luther King Day here in Atlanta is a big day, so we’re clearly trying to be positive, and send the right message,” Schade said. — Matt Schafer contributed