There were no prayers for David Kato at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast. Despite the best efforts of LGBT rights and progressive religious leaders, its organizers refused to honor the Ugandan gay activist, who was found bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala in late January.
Activists wanted to highlight Kato for the same reason the breakfast’s organizers, a group called the Family, wanted to ignore him. An increasing number of Americans, including prominent politicians and journalists, are making the connection between the Family, an elite, secretive brotherhood of fundamentalist Christian politicians; an Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Uganda that would make gay sex punishable by death; and a culture of homophobia in Uganda so extreme that several months prior to Kato’s murder, a tabloid had splashed the headline “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos” next to his picture alongside a banner that read “Hang them.”
The Family, based in Washington, DC, has been a major background player in national and global politics for decades. In 1935, the group’s founder, Abraham Vereide, was inspired by a dream in which God told him that Christian evangelism had been focusing on ministering to the wrong people—the poor, the suffering, the down and out. Instead, God said, Vereide should go minister to other powerful men, introduce them to Jesus, and together create a leadership headed by God. Consequently, Family members’ most heartfelt prayers, as their legislative interests indicate, concern dismantling healthcare reform, shredding the social safety net, busting unions, promoting deregulation, making abortion illegal and enriching themselves. All as secretively as possible, since, as current leader Douglas Coe says, “The more invisible you can make your organization, the more influence it will have.”
The National Prayer Breakfast has been a testament to the Family’s significance among the world’s powerful. As Jeff Sharlet notes in his book The Family, “Some 3,000 dignitaries, representing scores of nations and corporate interests, pay $425 each to attend.” Attendance is diverse, with participants ranging from oil and banking executives to “a Sudanese general linked to genocide in Darfur,” to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Family has taken an interest in Uganda since the mid-’80s, when one of its members brought President Museveni into the fold. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is probably coming up for a vote soon—perhaps in the weeks following Uganda’s February 18 election—was originally introduced at the Ugandan Family’s version of the National Prayer Breakfast in October 2009. Its primary promoter, Parliamentarian David Bahati, boasts of being a Family member despite the unwritten dictate that Family members keep their secret society secret. While the provision that mandates death for LGBT “serial offenders” has caused the greatest outcry from the international community, Ugandans also concerned about the part where even heterosexuals who fail to turn in “known homosexuals” face three-year prison sentences.