Lou Engle, a member of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) leadership team, has come under fire from LGBT advocates for promoting homophobia in Uganda. Engle's actions in Uganda are especially grave in the context of a draconian anti-gay bill proposed by Ugandan MP David Bahati, as well as several high-profile cases involving homophobic hate crimes and asylum cases involving Ugandans. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Soulforce, two respected LGBT advocacy groups, have sent a powerful statement to Engle.
In an open letter dated February 11th, HRC and Soulforce accused Engle of contributing to Uganda's homophobic cultural climate and standing behind supporters of Uganda's anti-gay bill, thereby putting the safety of LGBT Ugandans at risk.
"The safety of LGBT people, as well as their friends and their families, has been put at risk because of the proposed “anti-homosexual bill.” You have claimed to oppose this bill, but you have not taken a clear and public position in Uganda where your opposition could make a difference. Instead, after fueling the flames of anti-LGBT sentiments in Uganda, you have stood beside the bill’s supporters and referred to their work as righteous. You cannot preach that “homosexuals have demons” or say to LGBT people, “let the Bible kill you?” and then ignore the results of speaking such words. Words have power. And, your words create fear and hatred toward LGBT people. This fear and hatred puts the lives of LGBT people at risk and perpetuates a climate of terror and violence."The letter informed Engle of HRC and Soulforce's plans to visit IHOP's Kansas City church and deliver a petition beseeching Engle to stop promoting homophobia. Drawing upon the principles of Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., HRC and Soulforce demanded and end to this outrage.
On Sunday, February 20th, a delegation of fifteen LGBT people and allies -- including Joanna Blotner (HRC religion and faith Coordinator), Dr. Cyndi Love (executive director of Soulforce), and Moses Kushaba (a gay asylum seeker from Uganda) -- visited the International House of Prayer's main office in Kansas City, Missouri. The delegation delivered a 70,000-signature petition* urging Engle to stop using religion to justify homophobia and to cease anti-gay activism in Uganda. According to Blotner's account, the delegation was warmly invited to a worship service by an IHOP designee, as Engle could not be present himself. Blotner and her fellow advocates engaged some of the worshippers afterwards, many of whom reportedly had no idea that Engle was involved in anti-gay activism in Uganda.
I applaud HRC and Soulforce for holding Engle accountable for his activities in Uganda. I also applaud their efforts to have respectful, honest dialogue with the Kansas City IHOP congregation about LGBT issues. Using accountability, knowledge, and courage as their tools, LGBT people and their allies are working hard to end religious homophobia.
For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.
The Advocate: LGBT Groups Protest Minister's Uganda Ties
Pitch: Moses Kushaba, Gay Ugandan, Worships at IHOP in Effort to Pressure Lou Engle
Box Turtle Bulletin: KC Vigil to Tell Lou Engle to Stop Exporting Hate to Uganda
Change.Org: Time for Rev. Lou Engle to Condemn Anti-Gay Hatred in Uganda
*Blotner's commentary at the HRC website listed 70,000 signatures, but an article at the Advocate said that the petition sported 36,000 signatures. Whichever number is correct, it's an impressive signature count!