Thousands of LGBT Advocates Pause to Grieve the Death of David Kato

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

For Immediate Release
February 4, 2011
Media Contact: Pedro Julio Serrano 787-602-5954

Thousands of LGBT Advocates Pause to Grieve the Death of David Kato

In the wake of the brutal murder of David Kato, gay advocate in Uganda, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender leaders attending the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis, February 2-6, paused to remember his life and vowed to work even harder to tell our stories and move public opinion to accept LGBT people in all countries.

At a memorial vigil on Friday night, February 4, LGBT faith leaders and advocates from across the country and the world grieved the loss of their brother, David. 

"No form of intimidation will stop our cause," said Mr. Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). "The life and death of David will be honored as we struggle for justice and equality and win the hearts of people around the world because we are your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.  David is gone but the struggle will be won. David wanted to see a Uganda where all people will be treated equally. It is our turn to pick up the mantle and carry on."

"Faith leaders have been working for the last year to expose the efforts of some American Christian conservatives to spread anti-LGBT attitudes to Africa, and Uganda in particular," said Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition.  "So-called ‘ex-gay’ ministries have failed so dismally in the United States that they are now exporting their damaging beliefs.  They will continue to fail because diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity is inherent to humankind."

"Jesus taught us that we must love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  But some of our Christian brothers and sisters in the United States and around the world turn Jesus’ ministry on its head," said the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "They preach judgment, condemnation and rejection and use fear to raise money and stoke violence.  Where is the love?  The murder of David Kato must be investigated and those responsible need to be brought to justice.  But all of us–Ugandans, Americans and all our neighbors around the world–need to build societies in which love, respect and human dignity rule the day, no matter what faith tradition or culture we come from."
"David Kato was a member of the Anglican Church of Uganda. Sadly, most Ugandan Anglican leaders preach messages of rejection and condemnation under the guise of religion," said the Rev. David Norgard, president of Integrity USA.  "As members of the Episcopal Church, we have a long standing relationship with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Uganda as members of the global Anglican Communion and must face the fact that the Church has been a big part of the problem.  It is long overdue for Christians, and good people of all faiths, to be the solution: to stop this violence, to sow love where hatred now festers and to respect the dignity of every human being."

"As African Americans and Baptist/United Church of Christ clergy, we minister to straight, same-gender loving and transgender people in the District of Columbia. We are devastated by the loss of David Kato, a powerful advocate for justice in Uganda," said the Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley.  "We have seen how the strategy of fear mongering is being used to drive a wedge within the African American community despite a long tradition of accommodated differences in gender identity and love partnerships among our own.  Today, some religious leaders make a living on the backs of gay and transgender people through fear and misinformation.  They preach a message of exclusion rather than a gospel of love.  In Uganda, this led to a murder and ongoing persecution.  It is time to stop."

"My prayers go out to the people of Uganda who lost a courageous soul to brutality.  As a Bishop and pastor to same gender loving and transgender African American Christians in the United States, I have seen firsthand how true faith saves lives and how hate in the guise of religion destroys people and communities," said Bishop Tonya Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church Movement.  "Africans and African Americans know firsthand how Scripture has been used to justify slavery, colonialism and racism around the globe.  Using Scripture to condemn people for their sexual orientation and gender identity is just as wrong.  God’s love always trumps hate." 

"My heart aches for David Kato’s family and the good people of Uganda who have lost a hero and prophetic voice for justice," said Dr. Sharon Groves, interim director of religion and faith for the Human Rights Campaign.  "I hold my faith dear; it is faith that can heal and helps us understand that God is love.  So, I cannot sit idly by while a few radical preachers from the USA use the Bible to foment hate crimes in Uganda.  As we mourn the death of David Kato, I call on faithful people worldwide to speak out against the export fear and lies in the name of religion.   Let us say in a unified voice, ‘not in my name.’" 

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church, said, "Around the world MCC is known as the human rights church.  We honor the life of David Kato who lived boldly and settled for nothing less than his full humanity.  We pray for people in Uganda, the US and everywhere who fear people because of who they love and who they are. We pray for advocates who risk their lives every day and commit ourselves to work even harder to bring a day of peace, understanding and respect."

"As a Jew, I know what it means to be persecuted for who you are.  The headlines, attacks and religious drum beat of judgment and rejection has an all too familiar ring to it.  Human beings can be fomented into horrific acts.  We must be vigilant to make respect for difference the most basic of human values for all civil societies because we are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God," said Dr. Joel L. Kushner, director of Judaism and sexual orientation, Hebrew Union College – JIR.

"The United Church of Christ is a denomination that continues to stand up for LGBT people," said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, UCC Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy.  "We urge all denominations to turn the tragedy of David Kato’s death into a moment of gospel clarity that no individual or group should be persecuted in the name of the Bible.  False ideas and fear have no place in Christianity."

Bishop Yvette Flunder, presiding bishop of The Fellowship, said, "We know that David Kato’s life laid the ground work for what is to come.  He had a vision and he pursued it.  It was a vision of a country and a world that is safe for all of us to live and love and pray together as beloved children of God.  David shone the light and all of us are better for his work and life."
“David fought bravely against a rising tide of persecution fomented and fostered in no small measure by a conservative evangelical network emanating from the U.S. that uses disinformation to spread fear and mistrust," said Pam Spees, staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. "We call for accountability and for people in religious communities to publicly stand against the persecution of LGBT people. We can do no less."

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The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from eighty-five pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.

UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights: A growing coalition for decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity

The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights mourns the loss of our friend and colleague, David Kato, who was murdered in his home at mid-day on January 26, 2011, in Uganda. David was a leading advocate for the rights of sexual minorities in his country and around the world. He was outspoken, courageous and incisive. His persona, spirit, intelligence and wit animated our lives and our Coalition’s collective pursuit of equality and justice for all people.
David’s death comes days after winning a law suit against Rolling Stone newspaper in Uganda for the publication of his name, photograph and address in a list of "Top 100 Homosexuals" with a hangman’s noose next to the pictures.

Over the last year David and others fought the "kill the gays" bill which is still pending in the Ugandan Parliament. Conservative Christians worked hand-in-glove in the planning of this bill and Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, who describes himself as a devout Christian, said in a quote in the New York Times, "Homosexuals can forget about human rights."

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) said, "The international community must not ignore David’s Kato’s death which is one more sign of rising persecution and genocide. LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. People of good will must speak out."
The Coalition urges news coverage of and participation in the following vigils:

  • Feb 3-4 p.m. — United Nations Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York
  • Feb 3-6-8 a.m. — "Breakfast without Bigotry" Wash. DC, Hilton Hotel 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW
  • Feb 7-7 p.m. — Rev. Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church,132 Odell Clark Place (W 138th St) NYC

David’s life must not be in vain. As faith leaders and citizens, we must respond to David’s murder. Change will only happen when people of good conscience everywhere stand up and say, "I know someone who is gay, I know someone who is transgender. Let them live their lives in peace with full rights of citizens and the same protection of laws as I have."

Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, "As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk."
We know that people from the United States with tax exemptions use their anti-gay brand of religion to raise money and feed the frenzy of anti-gay rhetoric that led to David’s death. Those same preachers will deny any connection to the horrific murder of David, but they cannot erase their broadcasts and stadium events that demonize gay people. This must stop.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, from Uganda, said, "As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see the growing persecution of people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries."
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, said, "We call upon our colleagues in ministry who have contributed to the rise of violence against gay and transgender people in Uganda and around the world to repent of their preaching and public pronouncements that being gay is a sin or an illness that can be ‘cured.’ These untruths distort family and community relationships, encourage violence and, when unchecked, result in murder." Dr. Love is the Executive Director of Soulforce and member of the Human Rights Campaign Religion Council,

We call on the leaders of all nations to use the power of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, international treaties and economic aid to defend sexual minorities throughout the world. Uganda and other nations receive millions of aid dollars from the US, and persecute gay citizens for no other reason than their expression of love for someone of the same gender. 120 nations imprison or execute gay people and one third of them recently received economic aid from the US.

We call on President Obama to use his presence at the National Prayer Breakfast to mourn our brother and to express his Administration’s position on governments who "fail to protect" their citizens and tax-exempt Christian institutions who export hate and fear.

We call on all countries to adopt the Yogyakarta Principles which say, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse."

The United Nations Faith Coalition for Human Rights is a growing network of thousands of people of faith around the world who work for respect, inclusion, equality and human rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Vote Delayed: Take action today

Thank you for your support on the attempt to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Senate Republicans blocked the bill that contains the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" from even receiving an up-or-down vote. Not a single one broke ranks.

It’s an outrage. But this doesn’t mean the fight is over. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has committed to bringing the bill back up after the November elections – and we’ll have a fighting chance to get it passed then – so we’ll put everything we have into that effort.

The Human Rights Campaign is collecting signatures on an open letter to the Justice Department asking them to refuse to defend in appeals court. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was recently ruled unconstitutional and barred its enforcement. If Attorney Justice Eric Holder does not appeal the law, it could soon become a relic of the past.

Add your name to the letter here.

United Nations Update

Thank you all for your commitment and prayers for our work on the United Nations task force on decriminalization in Uganda. With your help, Bishop Christopher from Uganda was able to complete his seven week tour of the USA and Ireland. You can follow some of the more detailed reaction to his visit on the Integrity Blog "Summer Pilgrimage with Bishop Christopher" www.walkingwithintegrity.org.

As a result of your generosity, Integrity USA collected $32,000 and agreed upon a budget to sustain the bishop’s courageous work among some of the most marginalized people of Uganda. Inspired by his favorite saint, the Bishop has renamed his Center "The St. Paul’s Center for Reconciliation and Equality". Now, we are focused on technical assistance to those on the ground in Uganda and sustainability of the work there. You can designate a gift for this work by writing "United Nations" in the note field on our Donate to Soulforce page. We are joined by the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and other leading justice organizations in supporting this work.

We have achieved a great first step and, it is important to understand that the Center and Bishop’s Christopher’s work is only funded through March 2011, so this second and third stages are critical to sustaining the work in Uganda and creating a potential model LGBT and allied progressive network for the region.

Proposition 8 Decision Day: Unconstitutional

A minister from Middle Collegiate Church holds a sigin reading 'Middle Church for same-sex marriage'California was given a "do over" as the decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger was handed down, today, August 4 (www.hrc.org). There are major implications for all of uswithin the LGBTQ & A community which we will address more thoroughly in a later alert. This notice is to help everyone understand what has happened in the past and what happened today. We want to acknowledge Chris Geidner, Washington, D.C. for his excellent comments regarding the context for today’s decision contained herein.

Read the full comments (and discuss them) on our blog.