December 12, 2009

Rachel Maddow with the latest development on the kill-the-gays bill in Uganda. Pastor Rick Warren finally comes out and denounces the bill. As Rachel notes, better late than never and a positive turn given Warren's influence in Uganda. Apparently Warren isn't too happy about Maddow's reporting and claimed that he had been "mischaracterized by the media".

Rachel assumed that meant her since she's the only person in the media that has been covering this story. She invited Warren to come on her show. That I would like to see. As Rachel reports James Inhofe is now trying to distance himself from the bill as well, and Chuck Grassley wouldn't take the time to respond, but his staff told The Rachel Maddow Show that he's never been a member of The Family. Jeff Sharlet said he stands by his reporting and his sources told him that Grassley travelled to Uganda on behalf of The Family back in the 80's.

MADDOW: An update for you now on a story that we‘ve been covering for many more days in a row than I thought we would be covering it. The story involves Rick Warren.

Rick Warren is perhaps the most famous pastor in America today. He was the source of great political controversy earlier this year when President Obama invited him to lead prayer at the inauguration, despite Mr. Warren‘s history of antigay activism, specifically his support for Proposition 8 in California, which revoked existing marriage rights for same sex couples.


RICK WARREN, PASTOR: I‘m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I‘m opposed to older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I‘m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think those are equivalent to gays getting married?

WARREN: Oh, I do.


MADDOW: Oh, I do.

On the issue of Prop 8 specifically, Mr. Warren made the mistake of trying to deny that he‘d ever taken a position on it.


WARREN: During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.


MADDOW: No statement. No endorsement.

That ended up being awkward because of the whole “bearing false witness” thing.


WARREN: Let me just say this really clearly, we support Proposition 8, and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8. So, I urge you to support Proposition 8 and pass that word on.


MADDOW: I think that counts as an endorsement. Rick Warren had not only been involved in Proposition 8, he had been involved on tape.

Well, now Rick Warren has been implicated in much worse antigay politics as Uganda—a nation in which he has been intensely involved—is now considering legislation that would imprison and even potentially execute people for the grave crime of being gay.

Uganda is the second nation in Africa that Rick Warren designated as a “purpose-driven” nation. Mr. Warren launched his national “Purpose-Driven Living” program in Uganda last March.

Last night on this program, we spoke to an Anglican priest who has traveled to Uganda to report on the development of the “kill the gays” legislation there. Among the things he brought up with us was just how influential Rick Warren is in that country.


KAPYA KAOMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST: Rick Warren went to Uganda, you know, in 2008. And he made this saying that homosexuality is not a normal way of life and we have—we aren‘t going to tolerate any of this. And then he goes to say, therefore, it‘s not a human rights issue.

So you have another big person in terms of how Africans look at Pastor Warren. You know, you have to go there, every church I entered, office I entered, I found his book the “Purpose-Driven Life” and people stare at it, it‘s more like a second Bible. So, he has a lot of influence, so when he makes that statement, it carries a lot of weight to the Uganda populace.


MADDOW: Rick Warren has used his influence in Uganda not only to promote his own programs, the purpose-driven nation stuff, but also to get involved in Ugandan religion and politics, flying to Uganda last year to announce he was on the side of the Ugandan ministers who were boycotting the Church of England for being too pro-gay.

Rick Warren also invited a virulently anti-gay pastor from Uganda to come to his own Saddleback Church in California, while that pastor was being promoted by Mr. Warren in the United States, back home in Uganda, that pastor was publicly burning condoms in Jesus‘ name.

Rick Warren‘s involvement in Ugandan affairs or—and his involvement in Ugandan affairs was so extensive that he even lobbied U.S. politicians to steer Uganda toward abstinence-only education rather than condom-based programs which had helped reduce the country‘s rate of HIV infections.

Rick Warren‘s intensive involvement in the politics of Uganda included multiple trips to that country and meetings with Uganda‘s first lady.

Because of all of that, because of his influence in that country and his intensive involvement there, when that country including the pastor Mr. Warren had invited to his church started pushing this outrageous legislation to kill people for being gay, it‘s natural that Rick Warren would be asked his opinion about it.

And about a week and a half ago, Mr. Warren gave his opinion on the subject to “Newsweek.” He said, quote, “It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

Well, now, finally, after a little bit of attention to this subject in this country, Rick Warren has finally decided to come out against the legislation—as if he had been against it all along.


WARREN: The potential law before your parliament is unjust, it‘s extreme, and it‘s unchristian toward homosexuals—requiring death penalty even in some cases. And if I‘m reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice. I urge you to speak up. The pastors of Uganda, speak out against this proposed law.


MADDOW: For opponents of this proposed law, Rick Warren‘s intervention here, his written statement and his video statement, will be filed under the better-late-than-never category—definitely under better. This will be very good news for people who are opposed to this law given his influence in that nation.

That said, Mr. Warren‘s statement today included the allegation that his role in all this had been somehow mischaracterized by the media, saying that lies have been told about him and this issue in media that have covered it.

As the person who‘s been doing the most media on this subject, at least on TV, as far as I can tell we have not said anything inaccurate about Rick Warren in our reporting. We triple-checked everything that we‘ve said about him today, I don‘t think we‘ve gotten one thing wrong about him.

If he feels differently, Pastor Warren, I would be happy to host you on this program to clarify anything. Unless you know something that we don‘t, I stand by our reporting.

Another American who has been silent on this issue for weeks is also now speaking out to us. This happened late in the day today, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Mr. Inhofe has made repeated trips to Uganda in recent years, what he has called, quote, “a Jesus thing.”

And after days of silence on this issue, Senator Inhofe has finally told us this tonight, quote, “I was shocked and appalled to learn through media reports of the legislation being considered in Uganda regarding homosexuality. I do not, nor have I ever, supported or condoned the abhorrent legislation being considered in the Ugandan parliament, to suggest otherwise is absolutely and unequivocally false. It is my hope that Uganda will abandon the unjust approach being considered.”

It is unclear whether or not Mr. Inhofe plans to communicate this view to Ugandan authorities. We have asked. We will keep you posted as to whether we receive a response.

One final note on this: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has also come under fire on this subject because of his alleged ties to the secretive religious organization known as the Family, most famous for operating the C Street house in Washington. The Family has been intensely involved in Ugandan religion and politics for years, and reportedly involved in the origins of the “kill the gays” bill specifically. It was reportedly announced for the first time at a Family sponsored event, the Ugandan prayer breakfast.

Mr. Grassley still hasn‘t spoken out against the bill, but he did through a spokesperson today say that he has never had anything to do with the Family ever.

Senator Grassley is described multiple times as a member of the Family in Jeff Sharlet‘s book-length expose of the group. We contacted Jeff today to get his response to Mr. Grassley denying he‘s ever had anything to do with the Family, Jeff told us that he stands by his reporting in his book. He said that as recently as yesterday, he learned from Family sources that Chuck Grassley traveled to Uganda in the mid-1980s at the request of the Family.

Whether or not Chuck Grassley is a member of the Family or not, we are still very curious as to what the senator thinks about the prospect of putting people to death for being gay. We are still waiting to hear from him on that subject and we live in hope.

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