In recent years, thanks largely to his leadership of TheCall Ministries, Lou Engle has become one of the more prominent players on the American religious right. A zealous opponent of abortion and LGBT rights, he has called homosexuality a “spirit of lawlessness,” suggested that it should be criminalized, and spoken at a highly controversial rally in Uganda where speakers backed a bill authorizing the death penalty for gay men and lesbians in some circumstances.
Engle is known for staging massive prayer rallies in cities around the globe since 2000 and is also a senior member of a radical Christian movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, which seeks to unite Protestants, vanquish demons, and evangelize the planet. At the same time, he has associated closely with several archconservative politicians, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
After drawing widespread criticism from more moderate Christians and others, Engle has worked to improve his image. In 2010, before speaking at the rally in Uganda, he issued a statement saying he did not support the death penalty for gay people. However, according to The New York Times, when he spoke at the rally he only “praised the country’s ‘courage’ and ‘righteousness’ in promoting the bill.”
Later, speaking to a reporter with Religion Dispatches magazine, he repeated that he did not support the death penalty for homosexuality — but said that his “main thing” was to prevent its legalization (homosexual conduct is illegal in Uganda but not in the United States since the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence decision). He suggested that there should be “some kind of restraint, a legal restraint and a punishment.” He added that the Ugandan anti-gay legislators merely wanted “to protect their society” and “were just wanting to do the right thing.”
Engle also has taken time out from his core issues to suggest that Muslims are “fueling the demonic realm” and in the thrall of “spiritual dark powers.” In November 2011, he led a huge and controversial Detroit prayer rally so that “the love of Jesus would break in on Muslims all across this area.”
During a May 2012 speech to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “Week of Prayer,” Engle compared the struggle over gay rights to the Civil War – with anti-gay activists in the role of an idealized Confederacy. He exhorted conservative Virginians to follow the example of native son Robert E. Lee in resisting federal oppression. Lee, the general who commanded the Confederate army, “was able to restrain Washington, he took his stand and held back those forces,” Engle said. The speech also invoked another rebellious Virginian, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Conservatives opposed to the demonic “principles and powers” behind homosexuality, Engle said, should “raise up a stone wall to restrain the agenda that is coming out of D.C.”