Ugandan officials say the country will try once again to impose the death penalty for homosexuality. That’s revived claims that the country’s “Kill the Gays” legislation is funded by Chick-fil-A.
The connections between the U.S.-based chicken company and anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives is complex, but first it’s important to be clear about exactly what’s happening in Uganda. A decade ago, legislators attempted to pass legislation that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality. That drew widespread international condemnation, and the death penalty component was ultimately removed from the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act prior to its 2014 passage.
The law was eventually overturned in its entirety by Uganda’s constitutional court after it was struck down on what observers called a “legal technicality.” Homosexuality remains illegal under pre-existing laws, punishable by up to seven years in prison.
But last week, Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters that the death penalty bill will be revived. “We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised,” Lokodo said. “Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
According to Lokodo, an anti-homosexuality bill will be reintroduced in the coming weeks, with alleged support from President Yoweri Museveni.
But even as ministers of parliament like James Nsaba Buturo confirm new legislation is being drafted, Ugandan news agency PML Daily reports that a government spokesperson denied that any bill would be forthcoming. “Government hereby clarifies that it does not intend to introduce any new law with regards to the regulation of LGBTQ+ activities in Uganda,” Ofwono Opondo, director of the Uganda Media Center, said.
“The current provisions in the Penal Code are sufficient,” Opondo added.
While there’s no indication that Chick-fil-A is directly connected to possible current anti-LGBTQ+ efforts in Uganda, the company has had a role in financing activities in the past. However, the money goes through several different entities before arriving in Uganda.
It begins with donations from Chick-fil-A to the WinShape Foundation, a nonprofit that backs anti-LGBTQ+ activism around the world. WinShape is overwhelmingly funded by Chick-fi-A, which gave the nonprofit $21.3 million out of $22.1 million raised in 2017, according to tax returns archived by ProPublica.
WinShape distributes that funding to various anti-LGBTQ+ groups, such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and Exodus International (the latter of which closed in 2013).
In 2009, when Uganda was first dealing with a “Kill the Gays” bill, WinShape gave $2 million to various anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, and tax filings indicate that Chick-fil-A and WinShape continue to do so. Among the beneficiaries is an organization called the National Christian Foundation, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from WinShape. In turn, the NCF has used its funding to support The Call, a religious organization founded by Lou Engle.
When the “Kill the Gays” was first under consideration a decade ago, Lou Engle traveled to Uganda to express support for the criminalization of homosexuality, telling Ugandan activists: “This is ground zero of the great war with homosexuality.”
So is Chick-fil-A’s money still contributing to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” activism? That’s hard to say since there are so many steps between the company and legislation in Uganda. Rather than outright calling for the execution of LGBTQ+ people, the money flows from the fast food chain to a charitable organization which is then funneled to another, before funding American speakers who stoke homophobia abroad.
Meanwhile, Snopes has rated the claims a “Mixture” of fact and fiction, highlighting the many unknowns regarding whether a new bill is being put forward.
But what’s far more clear is that the company has continued to donate millions to anti-LGBTQ+ causes in the United States, with a history of providing money to U.S. groups that oppose marriage equality, discourage LGBTQ+ athletes from coming out, and teach youth that homosexuality is wrong.
It wouldn’t be difficult for the company to acknowledge the role that it played in funding anti-gay activists in the past and to pledge that they would make amends.
But so far, Chick-fil-A hasn’t.