Invisible Children is the organization responsible for the viral video KONY 2012 that has been sweeping the web, attempting to make Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony a global celebrity so the Ugandan government will bring him to justice.
But KONY 2012 has also focused a magnifying glass on Invisible Children’s problematic practices, including the revelation that the group received thousands of dollars in donations from anti-gay, right-wing organizations backing Uganda’s ”Kill the Gays” bill in 2010.
According to The Daily Kos, in 2008 Invisible Children received a total of $414,000 in donations from the National Christian Foundation (NCF) and its subsidiary foundations. The NCF dedicates itself to enabling “the followers of Christ to give wisely to advance His kingdom.” For the NCF, those followers include hardcore anti-gay advocates such as evangelist and The Call co-founder Lou Engle. A conservative anti-LGBT, anti-choice evangelical organization, The Call hosts and organizes 12-hour prayer events where participants are called to fast and pray for the end of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, selective abortion, and other liberal causes.
In addition to his leadership of The Call, Lou Engle is also a senior leader with International House of Prayer in Kansas City, an evangelical organization dedicated to extolling the virtues of prayer, discipline, and fasting.
In August 2011, IHOP-KC partnered with governor Rick Perry and the anti-LGBT American Family Association to hold the all-day prayer event, The Response, in Houston. The Response followed The Call’s modus operandi as a day of prayer and fasting meant to bring God’s aid to an America in crisis.
Back in 2010, Engle took The Call to Uganda to support Ugandan parliamentarian Bahati’s anti-homosexuality bill. Dubbed the “kill-the-gays bill” by critics, the bill sought to make homosexuality a crime subject to life imprisonment, aimed to guarantee LGBT allies up to seven years in prison, and invented a new crime, “aggravated homosexuality,” for which the penalty would be death. If enacted, this bill would effectively force the Ugandan LGBT community into silence and implicate anyone privy to LGBT activities, thus making them co-conspirators. According to Religious Dispatches, Engle never directly voiced support for the bill, but failed to condemn it in his sermon at The Call’s Uganda event in May of 2010. Ugandan pastor Julius Oyet, who is part of Harvest Evangelism, another NCF-funded organization, led a prayer for the bill’s passing before Engle spoke. Engle claimed that The Call and those siding with them were not “standing with violence or hatred to people with homosexual lifestyles. We are trying to restrain an agenda that is going to hurt the nation and hurt families.”
Although Invisible Children markets itself as dedicated to bringing “a permanent end to LRA violence through mass-awareness campaigns and strategic advocacy efforts,” its secular philanthropic image is being tarnished by the financial backers it shares with several anti-LGBT movements, including one that indirectly advocates for the persecution of homosexuality in Uganda. In 2006, Invisible Children also received considerable backing from the wealthy Castor family, one of the top backers for California’s Prop. 8 in 2008.
The support of Invisible Children by religious conservatives and fundamentalists brings up questions about Invisible Children’s mission and agenda. LGBT and human rights groups are particularly concerned with Invisible Children’s acceptance of money from organizations working to deprive LGBT people of their rights. Invisible Children’s vice-president Chris Sarrette, who himself is gay, spoke out on the issue by saying, “Hate, in any form, is counterproductive to our mission. Invisible Children’s work concerns a human rights issue and has attracted supporters, employees, and board members who otherwise sit on different sides of the aisle on many other issues. Invisible Children is not an anti-gay organization and has in fact publicly spoken out against acts of violence on members of the GLBT community in Uganda.”