Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is apoplectic that Arizona's "religious liberties" bill looks like it's going down in flames, attacking "the Left's propaganda machine," which he says is "in full force, cranking out one distortion after the next in what should be a non-controversial debate over religious liberty."
With over 80 major companies condemning the bill, which would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, and three of the GOP legislators who backed it now backtracking, it seems that Gov. Jan Brewer will veto it if she has any sense. One legislator who backed the bill, Rep. John Kavanagh, was about to come on my radio program yesterday but then canceled; his office said that he believed Brewer will veto the bill, and that the representative will take it up again in the next legislative session.
These "religious liberties" laws or similar ones have been pushed in several states across the country as the religious right looks for new ways to demonize LGBT people, and as the GOP accommodates them. Indiana and Georgia are next up, backed by the same band of anti-gay groups that have pushed them in Arizona and other states.
And make no mistake: The same crowd has been instrumental in getting horrendous, draconian laws recently passed in Nigeria and now Uganda and promoting hate across Africa. After years of backing off because of international pressure, President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda signed the anti-homosexuality bill this week, seemingly emboldened by Nigeria's president very quietly signing a bill criminalizing gay unions and even meeting places for gays and initiating a witch hunt against gay people, who've been arrested and brutalized.
Now the witch hunts have begun in Uganda as well. Human rights activists lay some of the blame for Uganda's actions with the Obama administration and the State Department. Uganda's president flipped and signed his country's anti-gay law, pressured by right-wing forces in his country who saw that there was no great response from the West, no ramifications from the U.S., to Nigeria. Now anti-gay rhetoric is being ratcheted up in Kenya and Gambia, where President Yayha Jemmeh said gays are "vermin" who should be treated like malaria-spreading mosquitoes.
But let's be clear that the U.S. might not have to be responding at all if not for American evangelical Christians in this country who traveled to Africa and other countries and spread the hate and took advantage of discontent. It's widely known that Scott Lively, the American evangelist who published a book erroneously claiming that homosexuality gave rise to the the Nazis, sowed the seeds of hate in Uganda beginning years back. And, as blogger Joe Jervis revealed in 2010, the Family Researching Council, now enraged by the backlash against Arizona's anti-gay law, lobbied Congress not to pass a resolution condemning the Uganda bill.
Matt Barber and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel/Liberty University recently praised laws like those in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalize LGBT people. A new coalition of these groups has now formed to push homophobia across the globe. So while we're hopefully beating back this law in Arizona, with anti-gay forces claiming it's about religious freedom and not about discrimination, keep in mind that their goal -- as they travel to places like Russia, as Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage did last year, supporting that country's "gay propaganda" law -- is to see homosexuality criminalized and punished around the world. And as Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association told me in an interview, that is exactly what they'd like to bring back to America as well.