Max Blumenthal wrote an article for the Daily Beast on Tuesday outlining what Rick Warren has actually done "to fight AIDS" in Africa. As you may know, I was not too happy with President-elect Obama’s decision to include Rick Warren in his inauguration ceremony. Mr. Obama’s defense of his choice was to highlight the areas where he and the pastor supposedly do agree, the fight against AIDS in Africa.
I hope Obama does not agree with what Rick Warren has actually been doing there. Blumenthal outlines the Pastor’s alliances with violently anti-gay, anti-condom religious leaders in Uganda as well as how Warren spoke out against a PEPFAR reauthorization bill that didn’t have an abstinence-only requirement for the way funding is spent and spoke out for the correctness of Ugandan Anglican church leaders to leave the Church of England because they did not want to be tolerant of LGBT individuals.
I am not surprised, based on Warren’s bigoted actions and statements here in the US, but I am saddened. I’m saddened because his actions are not that different from the US governments. In fact, he worked closely with two members of his church that also happened to be Bush officials. Blumenthal reminds us:
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.
These Bush officials also played a big part in overseeing the spending of the original $15 billion PEPFAR bill to fund anti-AIDS initiatives in countries with significant epidemics. Now, similarly-minded Bush officials are currently overseeing the first spending othe reauthorized $48 bill PEPFAR bill, pushing unrealistic abstinence-only programs and an anti-sex worker culture, among other problems. This is probably the reason PEPFAR, the Bush’s administration’s supposed big acheivement (to be fair, it did get thousands and thousands of people living with HIV onto treatment) was looked at with distaste by our counterparts when I went to the International AIDS conference with Advocates this past summer.
I trust Mr. Obama to not make these awful missteps, not to put ideology over science in fighting HIV and AIDS. I trust him because he has openly spoke of his support for comprehensive sexual education for all. I trust him because even though the vast majority of U.S. politicians, on the left and right, have refused to stand up for some of the most basic rights for LGBT individuals, he seems to be slightly more willing to support LGBT rights. I trust him because he seems reasonable.
But, he should not count on my trust unconditionally. I am worried by some of his appointments, by his willingness to stand so near Rick Warren. If this translates in anyway to continuation of failed policies on HIV/AIDS, sex education, reproductive rights, etc. Obama can wave goodbye to the trust I have so generously given him.