December 21 2009 1:40 PM ET
Has there ever been a formal statement from the Family renouncing legislation or any other political or cultural issue?
No, and there won't be, because many in the Family cling to their secrecy policy. As the Christian right magazine World reported (they've taken a hard line against the Family, because, despite their general religious agreement, they don't believe in secrecy), the Family held a meeting recently to discuss a response to all the unwanted publicity they've received as a result of the C Street scandals. Some thought it was time to come clean.
But the leadership, Doug Coe and his two sons, David and Tim, reportedly stood firm on secrecy. Bob Hunter, part of the faction that wants transparency, told me that it's not settled yet. In the meantime, though, we're forced to endure the dishonesty of Family-associated politicians such as Representative Pitts and [Iowa] Sen. Chuck Grassley, who deny any linkage despite a documentary record to the contrary — and, in the case of Pitts, significant financial connections.
Several senators who are Family members have yet to speak out, including Brownback.
I know Senator Brownback well. I've been to church with him, I've been in his home. I've even gone with him to his kid's soccer game. He's a big part of my book precisely because he's such a puzzling character. His sincerity is unbounded. He always believes, deeply, passionately, everything he says. But don't mistake that wide-eyed self-regard for naïveté. As Kansas will tell you, he's one tough politician.
Right now he's running virtually unopposed for governor of Kansas, a position from which he's almost sure to make another bid for the White House. So, from his perspective, why say anything? Why let himself be linked? He already gets credit from some mushy liberals, like [New York Times columnist] Nicholas Kristof, for caring about Africa. "His heart's in Africa," his less conservative supporters like to say. Great. But the question is, What is it up to there? In Uganda we have an answer: no good.
What is Bob Hunter's role with the Family in Uganda? Does he have a close relationship with David Bahati, the author of this antigay bill?
Bob Hunter began traveling to Uganda in the early '80s. He met with the former dictator, Milton Obote, and brought Senator Grassley over on a Family mission, in which they had help from the U.S. and German ambassadors.
Hunter, himself a liberal on many issues, helped organize U.S. foreign aid for Uganda, guiding Museveni through the intricacies of Washington. He says his intentions were apolitical, and I believe him. Hunter is the exception to the rule in an organization defined by political operators. The effect was to slowly bring Uganda into the American sphere of influence. Today, it's something of a proxy in an incredibly resource-rich and conflict-riddled region.
Hunter helped establish the Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast ... David Bahati got involved with the Family through the National Prayer Breakfast. According to Hunter, Bahati's been in the U.S. for a Prayer Breakfast here. One Family source says Bahati first floated the idea for the gay death penalty bill at the 2008 Ugandan Prayer Breakfast. Someone allegedly told him to get more input — that'd be more of that "quiet diplomacy," a mild, euphemistic form of disapproval. Someone else may have said he thought it was too draconian.
Bahati, meanwhile, sought the counsel of fringe characters like Scott Lively, author of The Pink Swastika. The bill advanced, and the Family didn't get involved until late in the game. Hunter doesn't have a close relationship with Bahati. In fact, he seems to be distancing himself from Bahati and [Ugandan ethics and integrity minister James Nsaba] Buturo both. That's good. But it leaves Museveni, the Family's "key man" for Africa, in place. I'd like to see Hunter speak truth to Museveni's power. Maybe he will.