As if Rick Warren weren't objectionable enough for his famous slippery bigotry, Max Blumenthal writing for Smirking Chimp has much, much worse news:
While Pastor Warren has been active in AIDS programs in Africa, his main focus has been on preventing not AIDS but condom distribution, and persecuting homosexuals through the paranoiac homophobic Ugandan reverend, Martin Ssempa:
"Warren's man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country's first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa's stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them."
Ssempa has said he is afraid of homosexuals, although he hasn't had to flee his house and go into hiding, unlike his victims. He bravely marched into Kampala University, confronted a giant condom-wearing effigy used to promote AIDS prevention, and defeated it, stripping it of its protective sheath (there's the illustration I should have done. Maybe tomorrow).
He also thinks there is a secret witches' coven that convenes under Lake Victoria.
Anyone who was ever impressed by Tom Lantos, the member of Congress who survived the Holocaust, will stay impressed with him as he fought these vicious fearful lunatics even as he was dying of cancer:
"Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002 and begin to fund family-planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian Right leaders, including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson, for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos' bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form. (Days later, Lantos died of cancer after serving for 27 years in Congress.)"
Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is "resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."
As weird and disheartening as this news ought to be, I find a slender ray of hope in it: perhaps in drawing Warren into the Obama administration's influence, Obama might persuade Warren to part with or lean on Ssempa, to moderate the attacks on Ugandan homosexuals and bring back accurate health information to Uganda.
The struggle for equal rights, the persuit of happiness, of homosexuals in America is possibly the last great American civil-rights frontier. But here is a behind-the-scenes struggle that might be affected positively by the choice of this puffed-up celebrity preacher to drip a few oily words on an audience that I hope will be flying thousands of rainbow flags.