By William G. Ysaguirre
Belize Action, the local movement that organized several nationwide “Pro-Constitution” marches, is not funded by religious-right groups in the United States, BA’s Pastor Scott Stirm affirmed Monday.
Stirm explained via a press release that Belizeans who stand for strong family values have supported Belize Action fully, such that the organization has not needed to seek any foreign funding.
He admits that the Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent Christian legal group formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) have provided advice, legal assistance and strategy.
Stirm was responding to a report written by Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), based in Montogomery, Alabama.
The report, entitled Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right and the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize”, was released last Thursday, July 25th.
The SPLC alleged that hard-line U.S. religious-right groups like the ADF, which have spent decades demonizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, have descended on Belize to prevent Section 53 of Belize’ Criminal Code from being struck down in Belize’s Supreme Court. Section 53 describes any unnatural sex act as a crime. The reports said groups like the ADF often refuse to even publicly acknowledge their efforts in these countries.
The SPLC report suggested that the outcome of the UNIBAM case might “lead to the demise of similar statutes in a dozen other countries that are part of a single legal system culminating in the Caribbean Court of Justice”. It further alleged that the U.S. groups’ efforts have already intensified anti-LGBT attitudes in the Belize, where the plaintiff in the case has been threatened and physically assaulted.
The report also examines how the U.S. groups work in countries where anti-gay attitudes are strong and violence against the LGBT community is common.
Not so, says Pastor Stirm, who says the SPLC report is completely false, and nothing more than a weak attempt to distract Belizeans from the Constitutional marches across Belize this month. Stirm said the marches “mobilized almost 10,000 Belizeans to stand for Constitutional values and opposed to the 2013 Gender Policy in its present form.”
According to Stirm, the report sought to besmirch Belizeans’ peaceful protest marches with the social unrest that anti-gay sympathies have stirred up in countries like Uganda, where homosexual offences carry the death penalty.
Stirm said Belize Action’s marches were never intended to incite violence, and the church also denounced any violence against the Belizean LGBT community.
The SPLC report alleged that since the U.S. groups took a hand in Belize’s anti-gay fight, the Belizean LGBT community had reported an increase in anti-gay propaganda imported from the U.S., such as the bogus claim that gay men are more likely to be pedophiles.
The SPLC report quoted Caleb Orozco, the only plaintiff in the UNIBAM challenge, as saying: “I didn’t feel as insecure [before the ADF’s arrival], … The majority of people had a live-and-let-live attitude toward gays, which is ‘Do your thing, just don’t bring it to my house.’ But the controversy really gave people permission to express their hate in a way they didn’t see they had permission to before.”
The report said Orozco had been physically assaulted in the streets and threatened with death and that his lawyers worry that he might be assassinated to end the lawsuit.
The SPLC report goes on to cite a report by the human rights group, Heartland Alliance, of Chicago that was released in March, which said the Belize LGBT community is routinely subjected to violence, even from law enforcement officials.
The report cited, among other violent crimes, the bludgeoning death of an openly gay doctor and the murder of a politician’s gay brother in his own home. It also noted that border officials have regularly detained and harassed visitors they suspect of being gay.