State Department Urged To Condemn Homophobic Rhetoric of Pastor Steven Anderson ahead of Jamaica Trip
Washington, D.C—Human Rights First today expressed alarm at the news that Steven Anderson, the American pastor known for his violent and extremist rhetoric targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, is planning to travel to Jamaica as part of a public church mission. The organization calls on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to condemn Anderson’s homophobic rhetoric and to make it clear that his statements are not reflective of American values. Anderson has previously called for gay men to be stoned to death, celebrated the deadly Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, and is already banned from several countries where he has sought to travel to spread his ideology.
“Pastor Anderson’s previous statements targeting the LGBT community are shocking and extreme in nature and we have no interest in him bringing that brand of hate here to Jamaica. While Jamaica is not the society it used to be regarding violence against gay persons, there is still a high level of stigma and discrimination,” wrote Father Sean Major-Campbell, Rector of Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Jamaica. “When someone has such a history of oppressive preaching, causing pain and insult to gender and sexual minority concerns, those with power and influence should seek to represent what is in the best interest of building community. We are internally pushing for the Jamaican government to follow the lead of other governments and block his entry into our country. We also share in the call by Human Rights First that the United States government should speak out clearly and specifically against such sentiments. It is time to facilitate healing and protection from further division, pain and tragedy.”
In December 2017, Human Rights First, along with Human Rights Campaign, presented the 2017 Ally of the Year Award to Father Sean Major-Campbell for his work on promoting LGBT equality around the world.
Homosexuality is criminalized in Jamaica under various provisions of the colonial-era Offences Against the Person Act. While the law rarely triggers arrests, activists argue it is used to justify other human rights violations against the LGBT community. LGBT Jamaicans experience a climate of generalized societal homophobia and often face serious violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people are discriminated against in access to healthcare, employment, and housing. Lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender people face an additional threat of gender-based and/or sexual violence.
Last week, Jamaican activist John Jay posted a petition to Change.org calling on his government to ban Anderson from entering the country. After being made aware of the petition, a U.S. State Department official told the Washington Blade that “Promoting, protecting, and advancing human rights—including the rights of LGBTI persons—has long been and remains the policy of the United States” and that “the most effective antidote to offensive speech is more speech.” The official, however, did not go as far as to condemn Stevens’ hatemongering.
“While last week’s statement from the State Department was a step in the right direction, Pastor Anderson’s hateful and violent language needs to be met with strong and specific condemnation. It is not enough to simply say what we believe in, we must denounce those who would advocate for the persecution of vulnerable communities,” added Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Anderson would have Jamaica’s LGBT community eradicated, the United States needs to clearly let the Jamaican people know that he does not represent American ideals.”
In 2015 Human Rights First released "The World as it Should Be’: Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT People in Jamaica," a report outlining the issues of discrimination and violence for LGBT people in Jamaica, highlighting the vital efforts of civil society to combat these human rights challenges.
For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.