CARRIE Prejean isn’t the only beauty queen open to expressing her objection to same-sex marriage. Miss Beverly Hills 2010 Lauren Ashley is also speaking out in support of traditional nuptials, Fox News reported.
“The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Ms Ashley told Fox News.
“In Leviticus it says: ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’
“The Bible is pretty black and white
“I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone.
“If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.”
Ms Ashley, 23, will be representing Beverly Hills in the Miss California pageant in November.
Her statements mirror former Miss California Carrie Prejean’s answer to a question about same-sex marriage in last year’s Miss USA pageant.
At the time, Ms Prejean said her answer opposing same sex marriage cost her the title.
But with the Miss California Pageant still months away, and Ms Ashley already echoing the views that got Ms Prejean in trouble last year, is she concerned that she may ruin her chances of taking home the tiara?
“That isn’t really the issue,” she said.
“I have a lot of friends that are gay, and … I have a lot of friends who have different views, and we share our views together.
“There’s no hate between me and anyone.”
And according to the Miss California state director, Keith Lewis, a contestant’s personal opinion should have no bearing on the result.
“The Miss California USA system has always had a place for an individual’s thoughts and opinions when it comes to all sides of political issues,” Mr Lewis told Pop Tarts.
“It is an organisation which empowers women, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.”
KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.
The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.
One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.
Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”
The Ugandan government, facing the prospect of losing millions in foreign aid, is now indicating that it will back down, slightly, and change the death penalty provision to life in prison for some homosexuals. But the battle is far from over.
Instead, Uganda seems to have become a far-flung front line in the American culture wars, with American groups on both sides, the Christian right and gay activists, pouring in support and money as they get involved in the broader debate over homosexuality in Africa.
“It’s a fight for their lives,” said Mai Kiang, a director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a New York-based group that has channeled nearly $75,000 to Ugandan gay rights activists and expects that amount to grow.
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.
“I feel duped,” Mr. Schmierer said, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children. He acknowledged telling audiences how homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, but he said he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality.
“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”
Mr. Lively and Mr. Brundidge have made similar remarks in interviews or statements issued by their organizations. But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.” Later, when confronted with criticism, Mr. Lively said he was very disappointed that the legislation was so harsh.
Human rights advocates in Uganda say the visit by the three Americans helped set in motion what could be a very dangerous cycle. Gay Ugandans already describe a world of beatings, blackmail, death threats like “Die Sodomite!” scrawled on their homes, constant harassment and even so-called correctional rape.
“Now we really have to go undercover,” said Stosh Mugisha, a gay rights activist who said she was pinned down in a guava orchard and raped by a farmhand who wanted to cure her of her attraction to girls. She said that she was impregnated and infected with H.I.V., but that her grandmother’s reaction was simply, “ ‘You are too stubborn.’ ”
Despite such attacks, many gay men and lesbians here said things had been getting better for them before the bill, at least enough to hold news conferences and publicly advocate for their rights. Now they worry that the bill could encourage lynchings. Already, mobs beat people to death for infractions as minor as stealing shoes.
“What these people have done is set the fire they can’t quench,” said the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian who went undercover for six months to chronicle the relationship between the African anti-homosexual movement and American evangelicals.
Mr. Kaoma was at the conference and said that the three Americans “underestimated the homophobia in Uganda” and “what it means to Africans when you speak about a certain group trying to destroy their children and their families.”
“When you speak like that,” he said, “Africans will fight to the death.”
Uganda is an exceptionally lush, mostly rural country where conservative Christian groups wield enormous influence. This is, after all, the land of proposed virginity scholarships, songs about Jesus playing in the airport, “Uganda is Blessed” bumper stickers on Parliament office doors and a suggestion by the president’s wife that a virginity census could be a way to fight AIDS.
During the Bush administration, American officials praised Uganda’s family-values policies and steered millions of dollars into abstinence programs.
Uganda has also become a magnet for American evangelical groups. Some of the best known Christian personalities have recently passed through here, often bringing with them anti-homosexuality messages, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who visited in 2008 and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia. (Mr. Warren recently condemned the anti-homosexuality bill, seeking to correct what he called “lies and errors and false reports” that he played a role in it.)
Many Africans view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, and the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws. In northern Nigeria, gay men can face death by stoning. Beyond Africa, a handful of Muslim countries, like Iran and Yemen, also have the death penalty for homosexuals. But many Ugandans said they thought that was going too far. A few even spoke out in support of gay people.
“I can defend them,” said Haj Medih, a Muslim taxi driver with many homosexual customers. “But I fear the what? The police, the government. They can arrest you and put you in the safe house, and for me, I don’t have any lawyer who can help me.”
A youth program associated with the Los Angeles Police Department will no longer be affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, due to the BSA’s policy of excluding gays, atheists, and agnostics.
The Explorer’s Program, which the Boy Scouts created in 1949, has served since 1962 as a means of giving youth interested in law enforcement practical experience by allowing them to assist the LAPD with crowd monitoring, clerical work, and other tasks. But now the program is set to be re-vamped, dropping both its old name and its last ties to the BSA, which has provided insurance to participants through its Learning for Life program, reported an article posted Dec. 22 at Daybreeze.com.
But the Boy Scouts’ policy of excluding gays, atheists, and agnostics clashes with the city’s non-discrimination policies, and the Police Commission has determined that the LAPD will no longer associate with Learning for Life. The new program will commence on Jan. 1, 2010, and will rely in part on donations.
“It’s bittersweet in the sense that the Boy Scouts or Learning for Life have been part of this for a long time–in name only–but the LAPD is committed to a better program and we can do that without having discrimination,” Police Commissioner Alan Skobin said.
Openly gay Police Commissioner Robert Salzman said that the new program, which he has helped devise, would be “as good or–I’m confident–better than the program it replaces.”
Continued Salzman, “The Boy Scouts are clear that they discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion, and the result of that is I could not be active on the Boy Scouts.”
The Boy Scouts have defended their exclusion policy, taking the battle to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the group’s right, as a private organization, to determine who may belong. But the group has continued to generate controversy, since it is in some cases entwined with city programs.
The Boy Scouts’ chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, told the Associated Press recently that, “We do have folks who say we probably should rethink this.” The Boy Scouts of America will celebrate its centennial in February, 2010; said Mazzuca, “We can agree to disagree on a particular issue and still come together for the common good.”
For all the organization’s emphasis on leadership and ethical integrity, however, Mazzuca indicated that the Scouts were in no hurry to update their policies. “This issue is going on in every nook and cranny of our country,” Mazzuca said. “We’re just not at the point where we’re going to be leading on this.”
Said Lambda Legal’s Kevin Cathcart, referring to the 2000 Supreme Court decision, “The world has changed immensely in these past nine years and the Scouts appear not to have changed at all.”
Said David Niose, who serves as the president of The American Humanist Association, “The Boy Scouts are synonymous with American values and patriotism–like motherhood and apple pie. By excluding atheists and secular Americans, they are essentially saying we cannot be good citizens.”
It’s not just social attitudes that are changing; how people connect, stay in contact, and influence one another’s views also are in flux, as young people grow up with cell phones, text messaging, and the Internet. Said Mazzuca, “We’ve been slow to realize the changing landscape of how people form their opinions.” The AP article said that BSA is now delving into social media such as Twitter and Facebook to plug into youth culture.
“One of the magic parts of this adventure is that none of the bedrock things that made us who we are have to change for us to be more relevant and dynamic,” Mazzuca said.
Organizers hope to get 1 million Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus to post lawn signs supporting Prop. 8 in unison next month.
Early on a late September morning, if all goes according to plan, 1 million Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus will open their doors, march down their front walks and plant “Yes on Proposition 8” signs in their yards to show they support repealing same-sex marriage in California.
It is a bold idea, one that may be difficult to pull off. But whether or not 1 million lawn signs are planted in unison, the plan underscores what some observers say is one of the most ambitious interfaith political organizing efforts ever attempted in the state. Moreover, political analysts say, the alliances across religious boundaries could herald new ways of building coalitions around political issues in California.
“Pan-religious, faith-based political action strategies . . . I think we are going to see a lot more of [this] in the future,” said Gaston Espinosa, a professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College.
The greatest involvement in the campaign has come from Mormons, Catholics and evangelical Christians, who say they are working together much more closely than they did eight years ago when a similar measure, Proposition 22, was on the ballot.
Mark Jansson, a Mormon who is a member of the Protect Marriage Coalition, said members of his group are also reaching out to Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
Organizers say the groups turned to each other because of the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the state. Thousands of gay couples have wed in the state since June 17, the first day same-sex marriages became legal.
“This is a rising up over a 5,000-year-old institution that is being hammered right now,” said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church, an evangelical congregation in La Mesa. Garlow said that, while he supported Proposition 22, he was not nearly as involved as this time around, when he has helped organize 3,400-person conference calls across denominations to coordinate campaign support for the proposed constitutional amendment.
“What binds us together is one common obsession: . . . marriage,” Garlow said.
He added that many people of faith, regardless of their religion, believe that “if Proposition 8 fails, there is an inevitable loss of religious freedom.”
Other religious leaders vehemently disagree with Garlow and are working just as furiously to defeat Proposition 8. But their efforts have not been as carefully orchestrated as those of the initiative’s religious supporters.
An Israeli MP has blamed parliament’s tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently.
Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave “legitimacy to sodomy”.
Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights.
Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December.
Mr Benizri made his comments while addressing a committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, about the country’s readiness for earthquakes.
He called on lawmakers to stop “passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes”.