Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Report Claims American Religious Right Supporting Homophobia in Belize

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a startling report on more American Religious Right efforts abroad. Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right & the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize documents the role of the American Religious Right in defending anti-LGBTQ legislation in Belize. Of special interest is Belize' Section 53, which punishes consensual same-sex "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" with imprisonment. Belize-based LGBTQ rights activists such as Caleb Orozco and United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) have challenged the law, filing suit in Belize's highest national court against Section 53 in 2010. However, anti-LGBTQ voices are calling for the law to remain, such as Church Interested Parties (CIP), an alliance of prominent religious institutions in Belize, including the Roman Catholic Church in Belize, the Belize Church of England,  and the Evangelical Association of Churches.

The report accuses right-wing U.S. groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), of providing legal advice to Section 53's defenders. The CIP has distributed pamphlets painting LGBTQ people as sexual predators who target children, and its court documents demonize homosexuality as morally equivalent to "incest, prostitution, and drug use", according to the report.

SPLC condemned the ADF for its homophobic activism and moral hypocrisy, asking how a group that purports to defend freedom could support a law that imprisons people unjustly.

"The ADF’s legal work in Belize is an odd initiative for an organization committed, by name, to “defending freedom.” Nowhere does the ADF explain how jailing members of the LGBT community furthers its goals of protecting “religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” Indeed, the ADF so far has refused to answer any questions about its Belize initiative, one that puts it at odds with an increasing number of prominent, mainstream Christian organizations."

The report also accuses Belize Action, led by American missionary Scott Stirm and supported by Extreme Prophetic Ministries, of promoting homophobic sentiment as well. Stirm reportedly called UNIBAM's suit against Section 53 “an orchestrated plan of demonic darkness to dethrone God from our constitution and open massive gateways to demonic influences and destruction that will affect generation after generation to come.”

Belize, of course, is not the first target of the American Religious Right's efforts. The report reminds readers of the role of the U.S. Religious Right in fomenting homophobia in Uganda, where a draconian anti-gay bill is currently under consideration. The report also highlighted the international  machinations of groups such as the World Congress of Families, the American Center for Law and Justice, Family Watch International, and United Families International, which have opposed LGBTQ equality for years.

Promoting homophobia in Belize, where homophobic discrimination and violence are already serious problems, can only create more heartache for the country's LGBTQ community. The anti-LGBTQ efforts of the American Religious Right in Belize could not only keep an unjust law in place, but contribute to an already homophobic atmosphere that is stifling Belize' sexual minorities. The new SPLC report serves as another reminder that Christian Right activism is a global issue. The Christian Right's efforts in Belize, other Latin American countries, Brazil, Uganda, and other nations will not abate unless people of conscience condemn them.

To read the full report, click here. To read an introduction to the report, click here.

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