MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We spent some time this week talking about laws affecting gays and lesbians, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Earlier this week, we talked about a controversial bill in Arizona that would have let business owners, based on their religious convictions, deny services to LGBT and other customers. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decided to veto that bill last night. But today, we want to focus on a controversial law signed this week in Uganda. It substantially increases the penalties for various homosexual acts and also imposes prison sentences for things like counseling gays or performing same-sex marriages.
Yesterday, we heard from the Ugandan LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, who opposes the new law. He's the director of a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, and that work has been recognized by international groups like the Robert F. Kennedy Center. Now we're going to hear a different perspective from the American evangelical leader Scott Lively. He's traveled to Africa many times as a missionary. He 's preached against homosexuality on many occasions. In 2009, he addressed the Ugandan Parliament. And activists like Frank Mugisha believe that Pastor Lively's message was a major factor in the new law. Scott Lively joins us now. He's the president of Defend the Family International and author of "Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the Gay Agenda." Welcome, Pastor Lively. Thank you so much for joining us once again.
PASTOR SCOTT LIVELY: Good to be here, Michel.
MARTIN: We last spoke in 2009 when this law in Uganda was first proposed. And you said at the time that you thought the penalties were too harsh and that the focus should be on promoting traditional marriage and the family, not on punishing gays. Well, now the death penalty provision that was first in the first draft of the bill has been removed, but the sentences are still very stiff. For example, there are long prison terms recommended for consenting adults who have same-sex relationships. And I'd like to ask your response to that.
LIVELY: I have mixed feelings about the bill. I support the provisions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse of children and intentional spreading of AIDS through sodomy. But I think the other provisions are too harsh, and I don't support those and I wish they'd gone in a different direction.
MARTIN: Have you said that to the people with whom you have relationships there? I know that you've traveled to the country several times and, as we said, you've addressed the parliament previously and there you have relationships with members of the parliament. Have you expressed your views?
LIVELY: Well, I'm sort - have intermediaries that are friends that know members of parliament. In fact, when the Russian law just passed a few months ago, I suggested to the Ugandans through my friend Stephen Langa that Uganda should drop the other bill and adopt what the Russians did, which bans homosexual propaganda to children.
MARTIN: Why is it particularly important for you to focus on homosexuality in these areas in which you have been invited to speak? I mean, for example, we know - we've reported on the fact that there's a great deal of sexual violence directed at women in a number of these places. We know that there's a lot of sexual abuse directed at children by heterosexual individuals. And so I think some people wonder why is homosexuality the great focus of your advocacy as opposed to these things.
LIVELY: Well, I mean, there are a lot of people that are willing to step up and deal with violence against women. It's - there's no controversy in that. But when you say that homosexuality is morally wrong and harmful for the people who practice it and for society, then the gay bullies come out and try to destroy you. So there aren't very many people willing to do that, and I'm one of the few that does. You know, if you look at what's happened over the past 20 years in the United States, every person who stands up - even if they just say that marriage is between a man and woman, the gays try to destroy them. These guys are serious bullies.
MARTIN: Well, you know, this law, though, has been denounced by the United Nations, by U.S. officials, including the Secretary of State and the president. A number of European nations have said that they're suspending aid to the country because they believe that this is a fundamental violation of human rights, particularly to criminalize relations between consenting adults. Are they all gay bullies?
LIVELY: Well, you're talking about government agencies. It's a little different than gay activists. Although, there are gay activists in government, and often they are bullies. But to get to the whole point about human rights, that's just simply nonsense. Sodomy is not a human right. I'm an attorney. I majored in human rights, and I can tell you that was - this idea that homosexual sodomy represents a human right is a brand-new invention of the late - latter part of the 20th century by hard-left cultural Marxists. And it actually supplants genuine human rights for religious freedom and family values.
MARTIN: But some people believe that the idea of equal legal standing for women under the law is a relatively recent invention as well. Do you disagree?
LIVELY: Gender, race, ethnicity - these are all morally neutral. But homosexuality is - involves voluntary sexual conduct with serious public health, social, sociological implications. It's not irrational to discriminate on that basis. Now that doesn't mean that we shouldn't have tolerance for people's, you know, private choices in their own, you know, private lives.
MARTIN: I understand that, but that - I understand that that's your point of view. But that's exactly why these countries call this a violation of human rights because their particular focus was criminalizing behavior between consenting adults. In their view, private consensual...
MARTIN: ...Behavior is in fact - that's their view.
LIVELY: The gay movement has really brought this on themselves. These African countries have only been concerned about passing these laws after the global homosexual movement started pushing their agenda in these very morally conservative countries. What looks like offensive action by these governments is really defensive.
MARTIN: Well, that is in fact what the president of Uganda said, but a number of the activists see it quite differently. They say that it is Western evangelical leaders like yourself who are pushing your agenda there and that while they were never comfortable in these countries, they were never - they did not feel that they were targets as they now feel that they are. What would you say to that?
LIVELY: We were invited by these African countries when they were confronted with the problem. And frankly, a lot of this comes down to male - you know, white male homosexuals from the United States and Europe going into these African countries because the age of consent laws are low and able to take these, you know, young, teenage boys and turn them into rent boys for the price of a bicycle. And that just outraged the people in these countries.
MARTIN: What is your evidence of that? As I said, that there seems to be quite a lot of documented evidence of the sexual abuse of grown men in these countries of young girls for all kinds of various reasons. So what is your evidence of this, that there is this kind of - what - massive, like, sex tourism of white Americans or white Westerners going to these countries to proselytize or to recruit young boys? What is your evidence of that?
LIVELY: Well, there used to be. They took it off-line. But there used be a website called Bob's Damron's Address Book. You know, when I got started dealing with this issue, Bob's Damron's Address Book was basically a guide to homosexual men as to the age of consent laws for the countries and specific guidance on how to - you know, where to go, how to conduct yourself in a way that you're not going to get caught. When I went to Uganda, that's what people were coming up and telling me. It's bad enough when it's heterosexual, but when you're taking these boys and messing with them in a culture like Uganda, I mean, they're just asking for trouble.
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with Scott Lively about Uganda's anti-gay laws that were signed this week. He's an American evangelical leader who has been preaching against homosexuality in that country and elsewhere. To that end, as we mentioned, we spoke the Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha. And his organization is suing you for crimes against humanity saying that...
MARTIN: ...You promoted these sentiments and that they have had a direct influence on people like himself. I want to play, though, a short clip from our conversation with him where he does say that his - just the level of just anxiety and fear for people like himself has really changed the quality of his life in that country. And I just want to play a short clip from that.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL INTERVIEW)
FRANK MUGISHA: I have to keep changing residence. I cannot stay in one place for long. And then, if I'm going to do my shopping, I have to go with a friend or at least inform someone where I'm going. So in case I'm attacked by someone on the street who doesn't like me or who is offended by me being out and being gay.
MARTIN: When you hear that, how do you respond to that?
LIVELY: Well, Frank Mugisha is a pawn of the Center for Constitutional Rights. It's a Marxist law firm based in New York City. This is all about trying to shut me up because I'm a very effective advocate for the pro-family position. The case that they're making is that there's, over the course of 10 years, six or seven incidents of - you know, which are authentic civil rights abuses, but they're fairly minor in the scheme of things - that these six incidents rise to the level that constitutes as a crime against humanity. It's completely ridiculous.
And the primary evidence that they raised, the murder of David Cato - a gay activist leader - he was murdered by a male prostitute. He's confessed to the crime. He's serving 30 years in a Ugandan prison. That's their number one piece of evidence. And the incidents, you know, diminish in significance from there. And they're claiming that this rises to the level of the equivalent of a Nazi crime. That's what crimes of humanity comes from is the Nuremberg war trials. So it's bogus. It's ridiculous.
MARTIN: When you look back over the course of the time that you've been working in this area, how do you feel about the work that you've done so far? Do you feel that you have accomplished what you've set out to?
LIVELY: Well, I'm disappointed with Uganda because they squandered an opportunity to actually, I think, protect their society, protect the young people by promoting marriage. And they also squandered an opportunity to show Christian values by offering reparative therapy for homosexuals instead of trying to throw them in jail. But at the same time, this is a sovereign country. They have the right to establish their own standards within their culture. And I do not agree that homosexuality is a human right that has to be protected by the international community.
MARTIN: Do you think it's a crime or should be a crime to engage in these acts, whatever the penalty?
LIVELY: Well, I believe that societies of the world have an affirmative duty to protect the natural family and to discourage all sex outside of marriage. And I'm talking about adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, all of it. But I also believe that in our societies we should have, you know, reasonable tolerance for people who decide to live outside the mainstream discreetly. I think we had a pretty good balance in the 1940s and '50s in this country. Unquestionably, it was a family-centered mainstream culture and subcultures in which homosexuals and others could live out their lives and be happy. I love gay people. I wish they weren't doing what they were doing. And I don't want them to be harmed or hurt. I've never preached hatred or violence against them. I'd rather that they stop trying to mainstream this sort of anything-goes sexuality and, you know, go back to the original goal of seeking tolerance, the right to be left alone.
MARTIN: Scott Lively is the president of Defend the Family International and author of "Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the Gay Agenda." He was kind enough to join us from New England Public Radio, which is in Amherst, Massachusetts. Pastor Lively, thanks so much for speaking with us once again.
LIVELY: And thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.