Religion has been a primary medium for cultivating anti-LGBTQ prejudice among African people, especially people of faith. Below is a brief synopsis of the ways religion is being used against the rights, health, and security of LGBTQ Africans. The Gilead Sabbath Initiative as well as the education, prayer, and social action that grows out of it seeks to counter these religious voices of persecution and discrimination and lift faithful voices of LGBTQ justice, affirmation, and love.
- Some conservative U.S.-based religious organizations, such as the American Center for Law & Justice, Human Life International, and Family Watch International (among others), have “work[ed] both separately and in tandem to renew and expand colonial-era proscriptions on sexual rights” in African countries.[i]
- These organizations and others have engaged in public campaigns “to impose a decidedly American conservative theological understanding of family values onto Africa.” This has included spreading scientific misinformation about LGBTQ persons, using fear-based religious rhetoric to frighten Africans into support of their positions, influencing public debate about laws and protections of LGBTQ people, and framing homosexuality as a neo-colonial Western import.[ii]
- By hiring locals as office staff, several of these institutions “hide an American-based agenda behind African faces.” At the same time, opportunistic African politicians have seized on these American rhetorical imports, “us[ing] the myth of a foreign homosexual conspiracy to discredit opposition parties and distract from their own political inadequacies.”[iii]
- Some conservative U.S. religious organizations have also made aggressive attempts to establish an anti-LGBTQ legal infrastructure: advocating for constitutional reforms, expanding anti-LGBTQ laws, and intervening in constitution-making processes, all the while using influential evangelical African religious leaders to gain access to top political leadership.[iv]
- As researcher Kapya Kaoma points out in Globalizing the Culture Wars, “ U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals…through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials.”[v]
- While U.S. mainline churches once enjoyed warm relations with African churches, U.S. religious conservatives have used inclusive mainline stances “on LGBT issues to encourage African churches to reject their aid.” Kaoma writes, “It is one of renewal movements’ key tactics to use a variety of wedge issues, such as the accusations that the mainline churches support homosexuality or terrorism, to separate African churches from their international partnerships and to realign them with conservative replacements.”[vi]