The Harper government has received scores of letters and e-mails over government funding being provided to an organization that referred to homosexuality as a “perversion” and “sin.”
The Prime Minister’s Office and the office of the international development minister got about 170 letters and e-mails after The Canadian Press reported earlier this year on the $544,813 contract to Christian Crossroads Communications for humanitarian work in Uganda.
The criticism of homosexuality on the organization’s website raised concern about its operations in an African country where gays face persistent threats of physical violence and where notorious anti-gay legislation is before parliament.
The Harper government briefly announced a freeze in funds but later revised its position. Crossroads’ project is linked to the construction of latrines and wells, in addition to hygiene awareness, in Uganda.
In the days after the news broke, the government received 120 letters and e-mails from people opposed to funding Crossroads. About 50 others expressed support for continued funding.
Some were aghast at federal money going to an organization with such views.
“Are you not aware at how many gay people are being killed and harassed because of anti-gay Christian organizations?” one said. Another suggested: “There are plenty of groups willing to dig latrines without endangering our gay brothers and sisters.”
A smaller number offered Crossroads their staunch support.
“All they are doing is providing a necessity to human clean water. When you examine their track record, very few organizations have had the success they have had,” one note said.
One pro-Crossroads writer added: “Please do not take the political agenda of the gay movement targeted at the Christian faith to withhold aid to the needy, deprived and desperate people of the third-world countries.”
Some used humour to drive home an otherwise serious point.
“I would be less offended if you used the money to double Mike Duffy’s salary,” one person wrote.
Federal documents reveal that a representative of the Canadian International Development Agency visited the Crossroads project on Feb. 14 to 15 to monitor for discriminatory practices.
In her report, Wassala Nimaga said the access to water and latrines was being delivered as promised. The nine-page document did not delve into treatment of homosexuals but, from a more general standpoint, said Crossroads did not discriminate.
Until February, the organization’s website carried a list of “sexual sins” deemed to be “perversion”: “Turning from the true and/or proper purpose of sexual intercourse; misusing or abusing it, such as in pedophilia, homosexuality and lesbianism, sadism, masochism, transvestism, and bestiality.”
Lower down the page, the group asked sinners to “repent.”
“God cares too much for you (and all of His children) to leave such tampering and spiritual abuse unpunished,” according to the group’s website.
The page was taken down after the organization received an inquiry from The Canadian Press.
The issue was particularly sensitive in Uganda, where lawmakers have a piece of legislation on the order paper commonly referred to as the “kill the gays bill.”
Supporters have said they will remove the death-penalty provision from the legislation, which would also impose a life sentence for homosexuality.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has denounced that Ugandan bill. He has also been the most outspoken critic of Crossroads within the Conservative government, calling the comments on its website insulting and mean-spirited.
The organization received support, however, from other quarters of the government.
“We fund results-based projects, not organizations,” International Development Minister Julian Fantino said in February. “Projects are delivered without religious content, including this particular project.”
A spokeswoman for Fantino added: “The government of Canada has funded projects by this organization since 1999.”
The government said in February that nearly $389,000 of the money had already been disbursed and that it was monitoring the project to ensure the funds were being spent properly.