To John Kerry: Stop helping African anti-gay campaigner

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2007 photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2007 photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In a hard-hitting open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle challenges Kerry to end U.S. support for anti-gay former Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, whom Ogle describes as one of the most influential instigators of Africa’s ongoing campaign of attacks on LGBT people.

“It may be time for the U.S. State Department and USAID/PEPFAR to inform the American public of how much money we have given over the past 10 years to the Anglican Church of Uganda under the leadership of Luke Orombi,” Ogle states.

These are some of the questions Ogle asks Kerry:

1. Why is the U.S. government making a very public stand on LGBT human rights (epitomized in Secretary Hillary Clinton’s speech in Geneva in December 2011 and your own Gay Pride correspondence) while it sends millions of dollars to organizations who work daily to undermine this policy?

2. Why are we giving a visa to someone like Henry Luke Orombi, who has been described as the architect of homophobic hate in Africa, which allows his access to fund a leading anti-gay organization subsidized by the American taxpayer?

A timeline of Orombi’s anti-LGBT work from 2004 to 2012 is contained in the article “Archbishop Orombi, architect of African homophobic hate.”

Church House project under construction in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of New Vision)
Church House project under construction in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of New Vision)

In the open letter, Ogle states that, in connection with his impassioned anti-homosexuality campaign, Orombi is also behind the construction of a 16-story tower block in the Center of Kampala estimated to cost between $16 million and $20 million.

Ogle states:

Financing and fundraising for the Church House Project remain a mystery, though investors were encouraged to buy “shares” in the property.

Many of the investors came from the USA and the UK and as principal donors would also have links to Orombi’s personal foundation, which has a $15 million annual goal. We are not talking about raising a few thousand dollars here and there to help Ugandan AIDS orphans; we are describing a multimillion-dollar investment project that appears to have gone awry. [Subscription required to see the full story at that link.]

A report that the project may lose $400,000 in September 2012 coincided with Orombi’s early retirement announced eight months earlier. Half the funds had been paid to the contractor in 2011 and we would like to make sure no PEPFAR or USAID funds were used to support this project or fund Orombi’s extensive travel schedule that was needed to secure this ambitious financing in a country where the average member of his church lives on $2 per day.

Because of the complexity of the Church of Uganda, PEPFAR and USAID funding during Orombi’s tenure, it may be necessary for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to pen a full investigation of the Church House Project and its relationship to American funding.

U.S. churches and NGOs are required to report any funding to overseas projects on the IRS 990 form, so it would be east to connect the audits and major donors to this project and American support. I assume USAID and PEPFAR have access to these audits as part of the extensive review process to be awarded these kinds of grants.

Archbishop Henry Orombi and member of parliament David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NewVision)
Archbishop Henry Orombi and member of parliament David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NewVision)

Although Orombi’s personal Foundation is registered in Uganda, U.S. donors would also likely be using IRS 501(c)3 tax-exempt privileges through sympathetic churches and non government organizations. A link to the Church House Project is HERE. A link to the Foundation is HERE.

On the Foundation website page for donors, administrative costs are cited as some of the items covered under donations, but the donations will also pay for the promotion of Orombi’s theology and ideas that have contributed to the demise of LGBT people throughout Africa:

“Purchase of equipment for the publication and mass production of the sermons CDs and DVDs of the messages of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi.”

It is clear from this brief history of Orombi’s association with the anti-LGBT movement in Africa and ties to American and British fundamentalist organizations using tax-exempt funding (and often supported by the Museveni government ) that his negative impact continues to be with us. LGBT Ugandans are currently excluded from receiving PEPFAR and USAID funding at any significant level to meet their needs.

Meanwhile, freed from the administrative and pastoral responsibilities of an Archbishop, Orombi is using his new Foundation as a new beachhead for American-based donors to continue his war against the LGBT movement and current American foreign policy. What is the State Department’s position on this strange dichotomy and how much are we actually giving him and his networks?

It is important for the American taxpayer and American Christians to know to what extent the U.S. government has supported or is supporting the various organizations mentioned in this document. It is also important the American people are forewarned of Orombi’s imminent arrival in this country to further his rather successful campaigns subsidized by our taxes.

While it is good to hear and see the symbolic gestures of support of the LGBT movement from the US State Department during Pride celebrations, these tokens of convivial solidarity fail to impress anyone [concerned about] complicity by the U.S. government in supporting one of Africa’s most accomplished agents of deception and misinformation. With the recent public release of two documentaries on the effects of American evangelicals on the LGBT community in Uganda, Orombi’s connection to this suffering can no longer be hidden from the American people.

It will become increasingly difficult for the former Archbishop to quietly pass through our cities and communities collecting money from well-intentioned Americans (clerical collared or not), given his history. The more difficult question to ask is simply this: [Is] our government supporting his work?

Yours sincerely,

The Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle
President
St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation
San Diego CA

Cc:
Hon. Nancy Pelosi
Hon. Barbara Boxer
Hon. Dianne Feinstein
Hon. Ed Royce
Hon. Susan Davis
Hon. Scott Peters
Hon. Juan Vargas
Hon. Christopher Smith
Hon. Karen Bass
Hon. Tammy Baldwin
Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori
Very Rev. Gary Hall
Administrator Rajiv Shah
Dep. Admin. Donald Steinberg
Ambassador Eric Goseby

Read the full open letter in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News here: “RGOD2: African architect of homophobia supported by PEPFAR?”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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