Friday, January 09, 2009

Yo! Rick Warren's compassionate (?!?) conservatism on AIDS

Max Blumenthal is continuing the tradition of father Sidney in being a journalistic scourge of the right wing. He takes a look at Rick Warren's AIDS project in Africa, a big part of what supposedly makes him a "moderate" in Rick Warren's Africa Problem The Daily Beast 01/07/08.

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His website contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. 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.”
What's next? Do we find out that Warren's alleged concern for the environment manifests itself in support of "clean coal" propaganda?

Blumenthal's report continues:

Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation ... 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.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria. “Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said. “He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”
He reports on a 2005 AIDS event at Warren's Saddleback Church:

Joining Ssempa at Warren’s church were two key Bush administration officials who controlled the purse strings of the president’s newly minted $15 billion anti-AIDS initiative in Africa, PEPFAR. Ugandan first lady Janet Museveni also appeared through a videotaped address to tout the success of her country’s numerous church-based abstinence programs.

These Bush officials - Randall Tobias, the Department of State’s Global AIDS coordinator, and Claude Allen, the White House’s chief domestic policy advisor - are closely linked to the Christian right. Tobias, the so-called “global AIDS czar,” declared in 2004 that condoms “really have not been very effective," and crusaded against prostitution, until he resigned in 2007 when he was exposed as a regular client of the D.C. Madam’s escort service. Allen, once an aide to the late Senator Jesse Helms, resigned in 2006 after he was arrested for felony thefts from retail stores.
This, of course, is an indication of how one of Bush's few "compassionate conservative" programs was largely a piggy-bank and propaganda machine for the Christian Right. The late Congressman Tom Lantos tried to get the federal program based on a more scientific and more honest approach. And what position did that "moderate" Rich Warren take?

Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, Rep. Tom Lantos 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.)[my emphasis]
But, as we know, some of Warren's best friends are gay. Or something like that:

Warren, in his effort to dispel criticism, has denied harboring homophobic sentiments. “I could give you a hundred gay friends,” he told MSNBC’s Ann Curry on December 18. “I have always treated them with respect. When they come and want to talk to me, I talk to them.”

But when Uganda’s Anglican bishops threatened to bolt from the Church of England because of its tolerant stance towards homosexuals, Warren parachuted into Kampala to confer international legitimacy on their protest. “The Church of England is wrong and I support the Church of Uganda on the boycott,” Warren proclaimed in March 2008. Declaring homosexuality an unnatural way of life, Warren flatly stated, “We shall not tolerate this aspect [homosexuality in the church] at all.”
What a scamster. Is there anything poltically or religiously "moderate" about Rick Warren at all?

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