The Family: DC’s C Street Group Tied To Proposed Death Penalty for Gays in Uganda

With their reported $13 billion tax-exempt financial empire, the Mormons may be the wealthiest cult in America — and Scientology may be the big thing among the rich and powerful in Hollywood — but when it comes to political power neither of those sects holds a candle to the Family, the Christian extremist political group that operates the now infamous C Street house on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Members of the Family have occupied seats in both houses of Congress going back to the 1930s, but for all but its most recent history, the hallmark of the Family has been secrecy. In the past year, however, three sex scandals involving highly placed associates — Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.; and Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss. — have thrust the group and its C Street house into the national spotlight.

And just this month, Family members Rep. Bart Stupak, a Catholic Democrat from Michigan, and Rep. Joe Pitts, an evangelical Republican from Pennsylvania, brought more attention to the secretive group when their Stupak-Pitts Amendment passed as part of the House health-care reform bill, threatening to further restrict abortion funding for the poor, if it remains in the final bill. (Pitts, like all his GOP colleagues, voted against the bill, even though it included his amendment.)

But what many people may find surprising is that the Family has branches around the world. In fact, yesterday, Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” reported on NPR’s “Fresh Air” that it was a Family member in the Ugandan parliament who introduced a bill that would increase the punishment for homosexuality from life imprisonment, which is the maximum sentence today, to death:

SHARLET: [The] new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it’s really kind of a perfect case study and the export of a lot of American largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

And who is David Bahati?

SHARLET: [The] legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of the Family. He appears to be a core member of the Family. He works, he organizes their Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which the Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda…

Looking at the the Family’s 990s [IRS records], where they’re moving their money to – into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which [it] has described in the past as an international “invisible family binding together world leaders” and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads – graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO’s through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by – according to Ugandan media – which is run by David Bahat…

So who are the members of Congress who belong to the Family and tolerate, if not encourage, this sort of extremism overseas? According to Jeff Sharlet, while most cult members are Republicans, members of both parties are welcomed. “Jesus didn’t come to take sides,” the members are fond of saying. “He came to take over.”

Here is a list of current elected officials Sharlet mentioned in the interview who he says are associated with the Family:

Current Elected Officials

  • Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas
  • Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
  • Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
  • Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
  • Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.
  • Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Penn.
  • Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C.
  • Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
  • Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.
  • Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va.
Other Notable Members

  • Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. – caught visiting mistress in Argentina.
  • Rep. Chuck Pickering, R-Miss. – had sex with mistress at C Street house.
  • Chuck Colson – Watergate felon.
  • Late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. – provided classified documents to cult leaders.
  • Late Sen. Absalom Robertson, Dixiecrat-Va. – father of televangelist Pat Robertson

The mainstream media avoids referring to the Family as a cult, but check out this description of the group’s belief system from Jeff Sharlet and decide for yourself:

They have a very unusual theology in the sense that they think that Christ had one message for an inner circle and then a kind of different message for a sort of slightly more outer circle. And then the rest of us, Christ told us little stories because, frankly, we couldn’t handle the truth. And the core members are those they think are getting the real deal.

In other words, only they, the members of the Family, truly know what is best for the rest of us.

If it walks like a cult and talks like a cult…

*

Listen to Terri Gross’ entire interview with Jeff Sharlet here.

Here’s the transcript of their discussion about the proposed Ugandan law:

Let’s talk about The Family’s connection to Uganda, where there’s, really, a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it’s really kind of a perfect case study and the export of a lot of American largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn’t been signed into law. So it’s not in effect and it might never be in effect. But it’s on the table. It’s before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduces the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes ther Uganda National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that the family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, and in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

GROSS: So how did you find out that Bahati is directly connected to The Family? You’ve described him as a core member of The Family. And this is the person who introduced the anti-gay legislation in Uganda that calls for the death penalty for some gay people.

Mr. SHARLET: Looking at the, The Family’s 990s, where they’re moving their money to – into this African leadership academy called Cornerstone, which runs two programs: Youth Corps, which has described its in the past as an international quote, ?invisible family binding together world leaders,? and also, an alumni organization designed to place Cornerstone grads – graduates of this sort of very elite educational program and politics and NGO’s through something called the African Youth Leadership Forum, which is run by -according to Ugandan media – which is run by David Bahati, this same legislator who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

GROSS: Now what about the president of Uganda, President Museveni? Does he have any connections to The Family?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, first, I want to say it’s important that you said it, yeah, it hasn’t gone into law. It hasn’t gone in to effect yet. So there is time to push back on this. But it’s very likely to go into law. It has support of some of the most powerful men in Uganda, including the dictator of Uganda, a guy named Museveni, whom The Family identified back in 1986 as a key man for Africa.

They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They’ve since promoted Uganda as this bright spot – as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting – strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.

He’s come out just this – just last week and said that this bill is necessary because Europeans are recruiting homosexuals in Uganda, that Europeans are coming in and trying to make Ugandans gay. And he’s been rewarded for this because this is sort of where these sort of social issues and foreign affairs issues and free market fundamentalist issues all come together.

GROSS: How did The Family create its relationship with Museveni?

Mr. SHARLET: In 1986, a former Ford official name Bob Hunter went over on trips at the behest of the U.S. government, but also on behalf of The Family, to which – for which both of which he filed reports that are now in The Family’s archives. And his goal was to reach out to Museveni and make sure that he came into the American sphere of influence, that Uganda, in effect, becomes our proxy in the region and that relationship only deepened.

In fact, in late 1990s, Hunter – again, working for The Family – went over and teamed up with Museveni to create the Uganda National Prayer Breakfast as a parallel to the United States National Prayer Breakfast into which The Family every year sends representatives, usually congressmen.

GROSS: What’s the relationship of Museveni and The Family now?

Mr. SHARLET: It’s a very close relationship. He is the key man. Now?

GROSS: So what does that mean? What influence does The Family have on him?

Mr. SHARLET: It means that they have a deep relationship of what they’ll call spiritual counsel, but you’re going to talk about moral issues. You’re going to talk about political issues. Your relationships are going to be organized through these associates. So Museveni can go to Senator Brownback and seek military aide. Inhofe, as he describes, Inhofe says that he cares about Africa more than any other senator.

And that may be true. He’s certainly traveled there extensively. He says he likes to accuse the State Department of ignoring Africa so he becomes our point man with guys like Museveni and Uganda, this nation he says he’s adopted. As we give foreign aid to Uganda, these are the people who are in a position to steer that money. And as Museveni comes over, and as he does and spends time at The Family’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a place called The Cedars, and sits down for counsel with Doug Coe, that’s where those relationships occur.

It’s never going to be the hard sell, where they’re going to, you know, twist Museveni’s arm behind his back and say do this. As The Family themselves describes it, you create a prayer cell, or what they call – and this again, this is their language from their documents – an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that’s the nature of their relationship with Museveni.

39 Comments

  • James Kelso
    September 26, 2010 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    You Oklahomans need to be more informed about your Senators, you need too read the book Jeff Sharlet’s The Family. It is all about The C street sex scandles and is getting great press and MSNBC and Gretchel Maddow are causing some pulminary breathing problems for those congressmen

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  • January 6, 2013 - 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Why all these accusations? Some of the comments here bear alittle ‘tint’ of facts but olla, all these baseless lies.I am a Ugandan proud to be from this land and a graduate of Cornerstone leadership academy. As Africans,our fore fathers long before any american aid came here abbhored Homosexuality and Jesus Christ also teaches us to flee any sexual lust. We African’s too have our virtues and a right to practice them without western adulteration!The time is now! Why must homos refuse to realize that ugandan people are tired of their manupulation & lies.

    It is not Just the right thing to crimminalize &demonize others becse they just wont take this ur american abormination of HOMOs,,read about sodom & Gomorah & U will realize that God will not let this sin go unpunished.

    Long live Uganda,long live our president,long live African autonomy
    FOR GOD & MY COUNTRY>.

    • January 7, 2013 - 7:39 am | Permalink

      Daniel – It’s telling that you did not bother to correct any “accusations” and “baseless lies” — because there weren’t any. You should keep in mind that here in America our forefathers used the same Scriptures you quote from to justify enslaving people that had been captured from Africa, including Uganda, and much more recently, it was illegal for Americans of different races to marry and African-American men caught “race mixing” in many parts of this country would be captured by mobs and hanged.

      All homophobes who use the Bible to justify their bigotry and hatred ignore the fact that homosexuality is a much lesser sin in both the Old and New Testaments than is adultery, which, for example, is prohibited twice in the Ten Commandments — once explicitly and once in the admonition not to covet your neighbor’s wives or his slaves. If you’re going to execute gays, then you must also execute adulterers — otherwise your country is guilty of the grievous sin of hypocrisy and you are all just as hellbound as the gays you kill.

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  • BrianC
    February 25, 2014 - 6:32 pm | Permalink

    We must all try to help our brothers regardless of national, political, social, cultural, racial or economic lines. That help isn’t always perceived as help by those we reach out to. Arguing with those who are entrenched in a cause will not change anything. Furthermore, if any national from these countries is seen to sympathize then they are guilty of supporting HOMOSEXUAL agendas and will be imprisoned or killed.

    Without implying names, you can’t possibly know who on this conversation string is pro-gay or even gay and using this forum to purge themselves before their political and religious leaders. This tactic has been used time and time again so we should be tolerant, helpful, kind and respectful if we are ever going to be able to open minds and form relationships that can sow seeds of positive change.

    Public bashing of Uganda won’t help… we need to create friendships so that people will trust our words and our honest concerns rather than become bitter at our tactics.

    To do this we must shed our nationality, our politic, our dogma. We must become the one thing that is common to all, HUMAN.

  • May 4, 2016 - 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I like what you guys tend to be up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve you guys to my own blogroll.

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