Ugandan children's choir draws concern over anti-gay agenda

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 17 at 6:53 PM

LAKEBAY, Wash. -- A Ugandan children’s choir set to perform in the Puget Sound area draws sharp accusations by human rights activists.

Some say the Watoto Children’s Choir, put on by the Watoto Ministries of Uganda, promotes the exploitation of children and funds an anti-gay agenda.

“Not only are they known to be homophobic, they worked actively towards promoting the anti homosexuality bill in Uganda during the time when it was known as the kill the gays bill,” said Melanie Nathan, an international human rights advocate.

“The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act,” known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison.

Nathan, who practiced law in Africa and has followed the church closely, says church leadership supported the measure. With this tour, Nathan worries unsuspecting donors are being misled.

“We’re not a 100% percent sure where the money goes and I don’t believe the church is transparent with the international audience,” said Nathan.

According to Watoto Ministries Executive Director Eugene Stutzman, the group is touring the U.S. as a way to spread awareness for orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa. Money raised through performances has provided rescue and care for more than 4,000 children since it began in 1994, Stutzman added in a released statement.

It’s most recent financial report listed on the website is from 2012. Reports show the church took in almost $7 million in U.S. contributions. The amount the choir took in isn’t listed.

“I think they’re less supporting the orphans and more the ideology of hatred,” said Sam, who lives near Lakebay.

Sam, who doesn’t want to use his last name, learned about the choir’s upcoming performance at the Lakebay Community Church and isn’t happy about it.

“I believe they’re no different than the Westboro Baptist Church with singing orphans,” he said.

When reached for comment, Stutzman didn’t address the anti-gay allegations. The Lakebay Community Church also declined comment. But, Sam claims he did address the issue with the church’s pastor.

“He said if these allegations were true he would cancel the event but he refuses to believe they are true,” said Sam.

Sam plans to raise awareness outside Tuesday night’s Lakebay performance and leave once it starts.

“I would welcome any one of those children into our community but not their handlers, not the ministry,” said Sam.

The choir has 14 remaining performances in Western Washington that run through the first week of April.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Watoto Choir will appear Tuesday on New Day.

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