More disturbingly, Warren’s allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent’s most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda.Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is “resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa.
Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who authored the book, , met Ssempa in 2005.
Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria.
“Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women,” Epstein said.
“He seemed very personally terrified by their presence.”When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention.
President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Warren to deliver the inaugural prayer has generated intense scrutiny of the pastor’s beliefs on social issues, from his vocal support for Prop 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, to his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, incest and bestiality.
Many of Obama’s supporters have demanded that he withdraw the invitation.
Warren’s defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa.
Obama senior advisor David Axelrod cited Warren’s work in Africa as one of “the things on which [Obama and Warren] agree” on the December 28 episode of .
Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined.
Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it.
His website contains scant information about the results of his program.