Friday, February 4, 2011

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

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."


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.

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