Did CNN goof in its report on LGBTQI+ and churches in Ghana getting foreign funding?
An exclusive investigation conducted by CNN has cited some Ghanaian churches as having received foreign aid and funding from United States, United Kingdom and European donors who support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQ+) activities.
These churches, according to the report, despite their strong support for the anti-LGBTQ+ Bill in parliament, have benefitted from funding from intergovernmental organisations that support LGBTQ rights and activities for developmental purposes.
CNN’s findings cited Churches and Christian institutions, including the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG), Evangelical Presbyterian Church (CCG member), Methodist Church (CCG member), Presbyterian Church (CCG member), and the Catholic Church, as having received not less than $5.1 million of monies from donors for development projects by or for the church.
Find below the breakdown of the donations to the various churches cited by the report:
Import of the report?
The report, through its findings, sought to suggest that these churches in Ghana still benefitted from millions in Western aid despite having campaigned and strictly stated their stance against LGBTQ+ activities in Ghana.
CNN spoke to some foreign organisations who clearly stated their displeasure about the fact that donor countries who have widely indicated their support for human rights, gender diversity and sexual rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community are still making room to donate to churches and organisations in countries like Ghana who are against the same course.
Some leaders of these organisations who spoke to CNN said these as captured below:
“It’s like stating you’re going to go green and then funding the petrol industry,” said Neil Datta, executive director of the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Donor agencies need to be “more aware that sexual and reproductive rights are contested issues”, and make sure that “they are not inadvertently funding the organizations who are working against some of their other objectives,” he said, calling for stricter “background checks” on potential grantees.
“This reveals inconsistencies in the funding practices of major donors and implicates them as complicit in fostering homophobia and transphobia in Ghana,” said Caroline Koussaiman, executive director of the Initiative Sankofa d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ISDAO), an activist-led fund supporting gender diversity and sexual rights in West Africa. “This is the antithesis of “do no harm” principles.”
“We need donors to support our struggles for liberation, and not directly or indirectly fund anti-gender movements which we know are extremely well resourced,” she added.
Foreign donations suggest fostering homophobia or transphobia?
CNN in its report also spoke to some of these foreign donors to enquire how that monies were still being sent to churches in countries that were homophobic.
This was despite its indication that these foreign donations cannot be said to be used for funding anti-LGBTQ activities but generally for developmental purposes.
“There is no indication the funding identified went to any explicitly anti-LGBTQI+ activities,” the CNN report said.
While some of these donors indicated that support had been stopped in that regard, some others said the funding was done under now-outdated guidelines.
Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for instance, told CNN it “is not responsible for the use of these [identified] funds,” saying they go directly from people’s taxes to different religious organizations that distribute the money for development work.
Below are some of the donations as listed by CNN’s report:
1. Citing the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) for instance, the CNN report said that more than $140,000 of taxpayers’ monies from the UK [which is a co-chair of the international Equal Rights Coalition, an intergovernmental organization that protects LGBTQI+ community members worldwide] was donated to the council between the period of 2018-2020.
2. CNN’s analysis also found that some other members of the Equal Rights Coalition — the US, Germany, and Italy — funded projects by or for some of these churches in Ghana that have opposed LGBTQI+ rights “before, during, and after they benefited from aid money”.
3. In 2018 also, £100,000 (about $130,000) of the UK taxpayers’ money went to the Christian Council with a stated goal of fighting corruption in schools, the report further stated.
4. The report also noted that the US federal government sent more than $13,000 to the Christian Council in January 2020, for a project to provide shelters to refugees at Krisan Camp in southwestern Ghana.
5. 208,000 euros (about $245,000) of German aid money went to the Christian Council between 2014 and 2018, via an intermediary called Brot für die Welt.
6. German as well as Italian aid also went to development projects run by or benefiting some individual Christian Council Ghana member churches including projects of Ghana’s Methodist, Evangelical Presbyterian, and Presbyterian churches who received at least $670,000 from these countries via intermediary religious NGOs between 2016 and 2020.
7. Germany, Italy, and the US have also funded projects by or benefiting the Ghanaian Catholic Church. German Catholic intermediary NGO, Misereor, disclosed spending 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million) of German taxpayers’ money on projects by the Catholic Church’s partner organizations in Ghana between 2016 and 2020. This included $127,000 that was spent on a project with a broad goal of strengthening strategy and management standards for the churches’ development work.
8. Despite pledges to protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities, US and European donors spent at least $5.1 million of taxpayers’ money on projects run by or benefiting Ghanaian religious organizations whose leaders have campaigned against LGBTQI+ rights.
9. Aid benefiting Ghana’s Catholic Church also included $850,000 from the US. Between 2019 and 2020 this money went to Ghanaian and US contractors for a project whose goal was to transition several dioceses of the Church to solar power.
Ghana and the LGBTQ+ Bill:
Ghana is currently working on a proposed bill – Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill proposed to introduce restrictions on LGBT+ activities in the country.
The Bill was proposed by some 8 Members of Parliament – Sam Nartey George, Della Sowah, Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, Alhassan Suhuyini, Rita Naa Odoley Sowah, Helen Ntoso, Rockson-Nelson Dafeamekpor, John Ntim Fordjour in June 2021.
On 2 August 2021, the bill passed its first reading in the Ghanaian Parliament, being referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for assessment.
The CNN report began by stating that some Western governments that pledged to support LGBTQI+ rights had also funded supporters of a contentious bill in Ghana, but the submissions in the story make no mention of any such country or how they pledged to support LGBTQ+ activism through donor activities.
In its findings, CNN failed to specify how funding from these foreign donors was specifically used to promote or fund anti-LGBTQI+ activities.
CNN suggests through its findings that by funding churches in Ghana to implement developmental projects, among other things, foreign donors are supporting and fostering homophobic activities, which is far from the truth.
Below is CNN’s report:
Exclusive: Millions in Western aid flowed to churches in Ghana despite years of campaigning against LGBTQI+ rights