U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican representing parts of Michigan, encouraged the Ugandan government to “stand firm” amid the international backlash against the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which includes the death penalty in some cases, during a speech in Uganda last October. The act is also known as the “kill the gays” bill.
Walberg made the remarks at Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast. The Republican co-chairs the event in the U.S. According to reporting by The Young Turks, the trip was paid for by the secretive conservative group The Family — which is also known as the Fellowship Foundation. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni sat in the audience. He signed the law back in May.
In video in the outlet’s reporting, Walberg is seen “listening to, endorsing and associating himself with the remarks of other speakers. Speakers called LGBTQ+ advocates ‘a force from the bottom of hell’ and urged government officials to adopt ‘Christocracy’ over democracy.”
TYT writes, “Walberg’s trip marks the first time a Family leader or any American lawmaker has publicly embraced the legislation.”
Though Walberg doesn’t mention the Anti-Homosexuality Act, he urges Uganda’s political leaders to not bow down to U.S. or international pressures.
“Though the rest of the world is pushing back on you,” Walberg said during his speech, “though there are other major countries that are trying to get into you and ultimately change you, stand firm. Stand firm.”
The lawmaker referenced Bible stories and verses throughout his speech, according to TYT.
“Worthless is the thought of the world,” he said to applause. “[W]orthless, for instance, is the thought of the World Bank, or the World Health Organization, or the United Nations, or, sadly, some in our administration in America who say, ‘You are wrong for standing for values that God created,’ for saying there are male and female and God created them.’”
Walberg added: “Whose side do we want to be on? God’s side. Not the World Bank, not the United States of America, necessarily, not the U.N. God’s side.”
The Ugandan president welcomed Walberg’s comments, saying that there were Americans who “think like us,” TYT reports.
The national prayer breakfast movement has been a massive project by The Family and has been protested against in the U.S. over The Family’s connections to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ movements around the world.
Uganda’s breakfast co-chair Member of Parliament David Bahati began championing a “kill the gays” bill more than a decade ago.
In his speech, Walberg told attendees to support the Ugandan president and his violent anti-LGBTQ+ policies: “He knows that he has a Parliament, and … even congressmen like me who will say, ‘We stand with you.’”
None at the event outright spoke about the legislation, TYT notes. However, given the circumstances and the allusions to international pressure, it’s not hard to make the connections.
“I want to thank the congressman from Michigan, because you have seen that we have got the Western people that we see here. I’m not the only one,” Museveni said. He added that Walberg’s support showed that there were others that backed them.
“There are others, also,” Museveni said, TYT reports, “who come to tell you about homosexuals, about abortion. You now know that there are other Americans, other Western people, who think like us.”
Before the new law, Uganda’s penal code already punished same-sex sexual relations with life imprisonment, according to Human Rights Watch. However, the new law created new crimes such as the vaguely worded “promotion of homosexuality” and introduced the death penalty for several acts considered as “aggravated homosexuality.” The new legislation also increased the prison sentence for attempted same-sex conduct to a decade.
The speech hasn’t been widely reported until now. The comments were first reported by the Take Care Tim blog and several other outlets.
During his speech, Walberg said, “I expect some pushback, but I’m not gonna give in to them.”
The Advocate has reached out to Walberg’s office for comment.