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Liberian Conservatives and Christians Using Ebola As Justification For LGBT Harassment

LiberiaGays throughout Liberia are being targeted and harassed as a result of churches within the country claiming that recent ebola outbreaks are acts of God’s wrath condemning homosexuality.

"Since church ministers declared Ebola was a plague sent by God to punish sodomy in Liberia, the violence toward gays has escalated,” LGBTQ organizer Leroy Ponpon told Reuters. “They're even asking for the death penalty. We're living in fear.”

Factors like a failing healthcare infrastructure and spotty governmental response have contributed to Liberia bearing the brunt of the outbreak. Earlier this week the World Health Organization released its most recent figures tracking the number of confirmed cases and mortalities associated with ebola throughout West Africa. Liberian health officials have recorded 508 deaths caused by the virus--the largest figure in the region.

Since the outbreak’s beginnings in late 2013, tensions within Liberia have slowly simmered to a boil, coming to a head more recently as the death toll continues to rise. As the situation becomes more dire, conservative religious leaders and members of the local media are capitalizing on the public’s unaddressed fears.

Ponpon recounted having his address and phone number publicized on television after authorities learned he was gay. The unwanted attention, he says, has forced him and other gay people to travel at night, for fear of being seen.

"Amnesty has received pictures of cars that reportedly belong to gays with their windows smashed as well as reports that gays have been forced from their homes and had to go into hiding," explained Francois Patuel, an Amnesty International representative based in West Africa.


Religious Leaders in Liberia Claim Ebola Outbreak is God's Punishment for 'Penetrating Homosexualism'

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 2.25.39 PMMore than 100 Christian religious leaders in the west Africa country of Liberia have signed on to a resolution blaming gays for the recent Ebola outbreak in the region.

The resolution, signed by prominent church leaders including Catholic Archbishop Lewis J. Zeigler, stated

That God is angry with Liberia, and that Ebola is a plague. Liberians have to pray and seek God's forgiveness over the corruption and immoral acts (such as homosexualism, etc.) that continue to penetrate our society. As Christians, we must repent and seek God's forgiveness.

That a three-day indoor fast and prayer across the nation be observed, commencing next Wednesday, August 6th, and concluding Friday, August 8th.

Americablog adds that this isn't the first time Zeigler tried to blame Liberia's woes on the gays. Earlier this year, Zeigler asked: "“Where are we going as Liberians if we are advocating for homosexuality? Are we not calling for curses upon ourselves? How will a man marry his fellow man, this is an abomination. These are the same things that brought down Sodom and Gomorrah.”


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Liberian President Backs Off Statements About Gays, Said She Would Block 'Extremist Legislation'

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf released a statement on Tuesday clarifying remarks she made in late March in aconverstaion with The Guardian, which the U.S. State Dept. had expressed concern about, Africa Review reports:

SirleafIn a statement on Tuesday, President Sirleaf asserted that there were no anti-homosexuality laws in Liberia, even though religious and cultural beliefs condemned "certain sexual practices". But she insisted that she would not condone discrimination against any group, or impose her personal beliefs on the population.

The Liberian President said henceforth, she would allow the democratic process to take its course and let Liberians discuss issues in an atmosphere of freedom.

“I will never condone discrimination against any group,’’ she said, adding that she reserved her constitutional right to block what she called “extremist legislation” intended to marginalise a particular group on account of their sexual orientation or practices.

Johnson-Sirleaf had told The Guardian when asked if she would sign a law decriminalizing homosexuality:

"We like ourselves just the way we are...We've got certain traditional values in our society we'd like to preserve."


Liberian Group Posts 'Hit List', Intends to Kill Gays 'One by One'

The Liberian group MOGAL (Movement Against Gays in Liberia) has distributed fliers in the capital city of Monrovia containing a "hit list" of gay people and supporters, the AP reports:

SirleafThe group said those involved in promoting gay rights “should not be given space to get a gulp of air.”

“Having conducted a comprehensive investigation, we are convinced that the below listed individuals are gays or supporters of the club who don’t mean well for our country,” the fliers read. “Therefore, we have agreed to go after them using all means in life.”

No individual members of MOGAL signed the flier. But Moses Tapleh, a 28-year-old resident of the main community where the flier was distributed, said he was affiliated with the group and stressed that its threats should be taken seriously.

“We will get to them one by one,” Tapleh said. “They want to spoil our country.”

Asked what specific action might be taken against those on the list, he said they could be subjected to “dangerous punishments” including “flogging and death.”

Last month, the U.S. State Department expressed concern after remarks made by Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (above) in an interview with The Guardian suggesting she would not sign any laws decriminalizing homosexuality.

Said Sirleaf: "We like ourselves just the way we are...We've got certain traditional values in our society we'd like to preserve."

And Archie Ponpon and Abraham Kamara, two activists with Movement for the Defence of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia (Modegal), have been confronted by angry mobs in recent weeks, causing them to seek safety at the police station. The home of Ponpon's mother was burned down: "He suspects it was an arson attack by people who do not support his stance. 'Since this incident, my mother has been in hiding,' he says."


Liberian Government Denies It Has Anti-Gay Laws, Says It Is Tolerant, Though Evidence Suggests Otherwise

The Liberian government is defending remarks made by Nobel Peace Laureate and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ito the UK's Guardian newspaper.

SirleafSirleaf was asked if she would sign a law decriminalizing homosexuality.

Said Sirleaf:

"We like ourselves just the way we are...We've got certain traditional values in our society we'd like to preserve."

The U.S. State Department expressed concern about the remarks and said it would look into them.

Now, AFP reports:

In a letter to the Guardian seen by AFP Friday, the Liberian government said there were no anti-gay laws "and as such the president could not be defending a law on homosexuality."

Voluntary sodomy is a criminal offence in the West African country and can result in up to three years imprisonment, according to a lawyer consulted by AFP. However this year two new laws were introduced by lawmakers in a bid to toughen the punishment, including one which would make it a first-degree felony.

"What the president is on record as saying is that any law brought before her regarding homosexuality will be vetoed. This statement also applies to an initial attempt by two members of the Liberian legislature to introduce tougher laws targeting homosexuality," the letter said. It added that the government believed current legislation was sufficient. "The reality is that the status quo in Liberia has been one of tolerance and no one has ever been prosecuted under that law.

PonponArchie Ponpon (pictured) and Abraham Kamara, two activists with Movement for the Defence of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia (Modegal), have been confronted by angry mobs in recent weeks, causing them to seek safety at the police station.

The BBC reported:

When the two activists tried to get their organisation officially registered by the government, Mr Ponpon says their "article of incorporation was denied".

"We wrote to the president complaining, but she has not responded," he says.

The home of Ponpon's mother was burned down: "He suspects it was an arson attack by people who do not support his stance. 'Since this incident, my mother has been in hiding,' he says."


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