NEWS RELEASE ON FEDERAL LAW SUIT

Protect Marriage, NOM & Mormon Church Look
for Sympathy in Federal Law Suit

LOS ANGELES – Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate today issued the following statement in response to the Federal Law Suit filed by Protect Marriage and the National Organization for Marriage:

After taking away marriage equality from millions of Californians and millions more in the other 29 states where they have successfully passed laws banning same-sex marriage, the proponents Proposition 8 are appealing for pity by filing a Federal law suit today to keep the names of their contributors secret. They raised over $30 million dollars to take away marriage equality in California last year, and now want to hide the names of many of the over 60,000 contributors who gave all of those millions. This should never have been put on the ballot in the first place, but since that was their decision, they need to comply with all California reporting laws.

These very organizations who were major funders of Yes on Prop 8 like Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association ($500,000) and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family (($623,000) and their allies have been boycotting and blacklisting companies for decades who dared to support the rights of Gays and Lesbians. Companies have been targeted for advertising in gay publications, supporting gay business organizations, giving equal benefits to gay employees, allowing their facilities to be used for gay events, and in the case of Hallmark this past summer, just for making a same-sex greeting card. They have been trying to ruin companies big and small to stop equal rights and fairness.

Well, the Gay and Lesbian community and all of our friends and families are rightfully upset with the over 60,000 contributors to Yes on Prop 8 led by the Mormon Church which raised nearly $25 million from its members. It is completely understandable that we don’t want to spend our hard earned money at businesses whose ownership gave so enthusiastically to take our civil rights away. Our opponents have been trying to bury us for the past 16 years since Utah, led by the Mormon Church, became the first state in the country to ban same-sex marriage in 1993. Well, now we are fighting back and they aren’t too happy about it.

The Federal Government and nearly every state in the nation have political campaign reporting requirements, most of which were put into effect after the Watergate scandal in the mid 1970’s, Full disclosure is the law of the land and it keeps our political process honest.

For over 30 years, Gay and Lesbian donors have risked repercutions by contributing to fight anti-gay initiative campaigns. Our contributions have been used to identify us, but we have never asked that the law be changed to hide our identities.

These very contributors to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign have spent months gloating about their enormous contributions to take away the rights of a minority and write discrimination into the California Constitution. And now they want to keep these names secret? This is despicable.

The Mormon Church is currently under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for not reporting vast amounts of non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. The Salt Lake City based church ran out of state phone banks, established web sites, produced slick commercials, videos and satellite simulcasts, printed campaign materials, bussed in thousands of church members into California from Utah and other states and apparently failed to report these activities. Now the Mormon Church and their allies are hoping to keep secret all of their contributions, this is crazy.

We trust that the courts will see this frivolous law suit for what it is and dismiss it immediately.

Copy of Lawsuit: www.telladf.org/UserDocs/ProtectMarriageComplaint.pdf

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Rick Warren’s Africa Problem by Max Blumenthal

Team Obama likes to cite Warren’s work on AIDS in Africa to combat criticism about the controversial pastor. But how does burning condoms in the name of Jesus save lives?

Once hailed by Time magazine as “America’s Pastor,” California mega-church leader and bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren now finds himself on the defensive. President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer has generated intense scrutiny of the pastor’s beliefs on social issues, from his vocal support for Prop 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, to his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, incest and bestiality. Many of Obama’s supporters have demanded that he withdraw the invitation.

Warren’s defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa. Obama senior advisor David Axelrod cited Warren’s work in Africa as one of “the things on which [Obama and Warren] agree” on the December 28 episode of Meet the Press. Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. What could be wrong with that?

Ssempa’s stunts have included publishing the names of homosexuals in local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His website contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”

Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempe enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria. “Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”

When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it “had the audience on the edge of its seats,” according to Warren’s public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. “You are my brother, Martin, and I love you,” Rick Warren’s wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke and tears ran down her cheeks.

Joining Ssempa at Warren’s church were two key Bush administration officials who controlled the purse strings of the president’s newly minted $15 billion anti-AIDS initiative in Africa, PEPFAR. Ugandan first lady Janet Museveni also appeared through a videotaped address to tout the success of her country’s numerous church-based abstinence programs.

These Bush officials—Randall Tobias, the Department of State’s Global AIDS coordinator, and Claude Allen, the White House’s chief domestic policy advisor—are closely linked to the Christian right. Tobias, the so-called “global AIDS czar,” declared in 2004 that condoms “really have not been very effective,” and crusaded against prostitution, until he resigned in 2007 when he was exposed as a regular client of the D.C. Madam’s escort service. Allen, once an aide to the late Senator Jesse Helms, resigned in 2006 after he was arrested for felony thefts from retail stores.

During the early 1990s, when many African leaders denied the AIDS epidemic’s existence, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni spoke openly about the importance of safe sex. With the help of local and international non-governmental organizations, he implemented an ambitious program emphasizing abstinence, monogamous relationships, and using condoms as the best ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. He called the program “ABC.” By 2003, Uganda’s AIDS rate plummeted 10 percent. The government’s free distribution of the “C” in ABC—condoms—proved central to the program’s success, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Janet Museveni, who had become born-again, convened a massive stadium revival in Kampala to dedicate her country to the “lordship” of Jesus Christ. As midnight approached, the First Lady summoned a local pastor to the stage to anoint the nation. “We renounce idolatry, witchcraft, and Satanism in our land!” he proclaimed.

Two years later, Janet Museveni flew to Washington at the height of a heated congressional debate over PEPFAR. She carried in her hand a prepared message to distribute to Republicans. Abstinence was the golden bullet in her country’s fight against AIDS, she assured conservative lawmakers, denying the empirically proven success of her husband’s condom distribution program. Like magic, the Republican-dominated Congress authorized over $200 million for Uganda, but only for the exclusive promotion of abstinence education. Ssempa soon became the “special representative of the First Lady’s Task Force on AIDS in Uganda,” receiving $40,000 from the PEPFAR pot.

Emboldened by U.S. support, Ssempa took his anti-condom crusade to Makerere University in Kampala, where senior residents of a men’s dormitory promoted safe sex by greeting incoming freshmen with a giant effigy wearing a condom. According to Helen Epstein, one day after she visited the school, Ssempa stormed on to campus, tore the condom from the effigy, grabbed a box of free condoms, and set them ablaze. “I burn these condoms in the name of Jesus!” Ssempa shouted as he prayed over the burning box.

“It was a very controversial time,” Epstein told me. “After the Bush administration authorized PEPFAR, a number of the local evangelical preachers began to get excited about this and get involved in AIDS very rapidly. To try to prove his credentials, Ssempa became increasingly active and vociferous in his antipathy towards condoms.”

By 2005, billboards promoting condom use disappeared from the streets of Kampala, replaced by billboards promoting virginity. “Until recently, all HIV-related billboards were about condoms. Those of us calling for abstinence and faithfulness need billboards too,” Ssempa told the BBC at the time. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch documented that educational material in Uganda’s secondary schools falsely claiming condoms had microscopic pores that could be penetrated by the HIV virus and noted the sudden nationwide shortage of condoms due to new restrictions imposed by on condom imports.

AIDS activists arrived at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006 with disturbing news from Uganda. Due at least in part to the chronic condom shortage, HIV infections were on the rise again. The disease rate had spiked to 6.5 percent among rural men, and 8.8 percent among women—a rise of nearly two points in the case of women. “The ‘C’ part [of ABC] is now mainly silent,” said Ugandan AIDS activist Beatrice Ware. As a result, she said, “the success story is unraveling.”

Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, Rep. Tom Lantos led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002, and begin to fund family planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian right leaders including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos’ bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form. (Days later, Lantos died of cancer after serving for 27 years in Congress.)

With safe sex advocates on the run, Warren and Ssempa trained their sights on another social evil. In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. “Arrest all homos,” read placards. And: “A man cannot marry a man.” Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. “Homosexual promoters,” he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gay activists named by Ssempa. Terrified, the activists immediately into hiding.

Warren, in his effort to dispel criticism, has denied harboring homophobic sentiments. “I could give you a hundred gay friends,” he told MSNBC’s Ann Curry on December 18. “I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them.”

But when Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest. “The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.”

Days later, Warren emerged so enthusiastic after a meeting with First Lady Museveni, he announced a plan to make Uganda a “Purpose Driven Nation.” “The future of Christianity is not Europe or North America, but Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” he told a cheering throng at Makerere University. Then, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi rose and predicted, “Someday, we will have a purpose driven continent!”

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and writing fellow at The Nation Institute, whose book, Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books), is forthcoming in Spring 2009. Contact him at maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com.

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Black gay activists: Ebenezer should dump Warren as MLK Day speaker

By LAURA DOUGLAS-BROWN JAN. 2, 2009

The Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition last week called on Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic church where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor, to remove Pastor Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for its upcoming MLK Day service.

“Rev. Warren’s hateful opposition to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and reproductive rights for women, and his intolerance of diversity contradict the values of freedom and equality that this day represents,” the group said in a Dec. 24 press release.

The coalition called on Ebenezer’s pastor, Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, to rescind the invitation to Warren to speak at the Jan. 19 service.

The church did not respond to an interview request by press time.

“Bestowing Rev. Warren such a prominent role does not foster greater understanding between divided communities. Instead it drives more wedges between disenfranchised communities that are continually pitted against each other by the agents of racism and homophobia,” the gay coalition said.

Held each year to commemorate the national holiday honoring King, the church service at Ebenezer attracts media, politicians and civil rights leaders from around the nation. Last year, then-Democratic hopeful Barack Obama spoke to the church the day before the national holiday, delivering a rousing call to responsibility that included a challenge to black churches to renounce homophobia.

Obama told the mostly black audience that “our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community,” in part because “we have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.”

This year’s MLK Day service takes place the day before Obama will be inaugurated as the nation’s first African-American president. Warren, pastor of California’s Saddleback Community Church and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” has also been tapped by Obama to give the invocation at his Jan. 20 inauguration, sparking outrage from gay activists who note Warren’s vocal opposition to gay marriage.

“I don’t know what Rev. Warnock’s motives are. I do know that the invitation is an affront to queer communities,” Craig Washington, a leader of the Atlanta coalition, said in an interview. “It does nothing to unify the community, it drives the wedge deeper. I think Ebenezer, like Obama, is seeking to find some political currency with the conservative movement in this country.”

Another group of Atlanta activists is organizing a protest during Warren’s speech at the church. Jeff Shade is one of the organizers for the massive Nov. 15 rally at the State Capitol for marriage equality and the smaller Dec. 13 “All I Want for Christmas is Equal Rights” picket at Lenox Mall. Schade said they are organizing another event for Warren’s visit, although details were not finalized at press time.

“I’m not exactly sure what direction it will take. Martin Luther King Day here in Atlanta is a big day, so we’re clearly trying to be positive, and send the right message,” Schade said. — Matt Schafer contributed

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