In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed a bill that would have written anti-gay discrimination into state law in the name of religious freedom.
In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni signed an even more extremist law that sentences LGBT people to life in prison and punishes pro-equality advocacy with long prison terms.
What do these laws and others like them have in common?
They’re both the work of anti-gay religious conservatives, who are now marketing the homophobia that is growing less popular in the U.S. in foreign countries. And they’re increasing persecution and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people all over the world.
And in Nigeria and Uganda, those new laws unleashed vigilante violence.
One leading U.S. homophobia exporter is Scott Lively, author of a book that claims homosexuals were responsible for the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Most Americans haven’t heard of him.
But Lively has spent years traveling in Africa, Russia, and Eastern Europe, where he has met with legislators, law enforcement officials, and others in a position to spread his deadly message.
In country after country, Lively claims that gay people want to “recruit” children and destroy faith and freedom.
Sadly, Lively is far from alone. In the documentary “God Loves Uganda,” American evangelist Lou Engle is seen at a rally promoting the anti-gay bill and saying he was called to stand with the church in Uganda as it stands for “righteousness.” While some conservatives said the bill went too far, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins called the legislation “an effort to uphold moral conduct.”
Among those who backed Nigeria’s law while it was being considered was the Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, who derided EU “homofascists” who criticized legislative approval of a similar law a few years ago.
While Russia uses its anti-gay law to punish dissenters and journalists, American religious right activists have praised it and gushed about strongman president Vladimir Putin.
A large number of U.S. social conservatives will be heading to Moscow in September for the 2014 summit of the World Congress of Families.
They’re ecstatic about working with the Russian government. Last year, the WCF’s managing director said, “The Russians might be the Christian saviors of the world.”
Similarly, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer called Putin “the lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values, the president that’s calling his nation back to embracing its identity as a nation founded on Christian values.”
Frankly, that’s embarrassing.
What should also be embarrassing is the habit these activists have of portraying themselves as victims of religious persecution. They could learn what persecution looks like from LGBT activists in Russian jails and teens who are tortured and humiliated online. Or from Nigerians facing flogging, mob violence, and death sentences in Sharia courts. Or from Ugandans who fear being hunted and are forced to flee their country. And from LGBT teens around the world who face diminished futures thanks to the hostility and discrimination encouraged and funded by American religious groups.
Meanwhile lots of religious right leaders claim they aren’t anti-gay. They say they love gay people and are simply asking for “live and let live” policies.
Yet many of these people travel the world, falsely equating homosexuality with pedophilia, denouncing LGBT people as enemies of faith, family, and freedom, and defending laws that make gay people criminals.
No one should be proud of peddling these toxic and frequently deadly exports.