I don’t often agree with the Orange County megachurch leader, pastor Rick Warren, on gay rights issues. Credit where credit is due though, because he’s formally denounced the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill which, amongst other stringent penalties, calls for a death sentence for gay HIV positive men should they be convicted of the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”. Or it did, but that was before the Ugandan government decided to “refine” the bill. More on that below, but first:
For those who don’t have time to watch the video, Warren gives his reasons as to why he believes the law is “evil”, “unjust” and “un-Christian”.
Here’s a short excerpt:
There are thousands of evil laws enacted around the world and I cannot speak to pastors about every one of them, but I am taking the extraordinary step of speaking to you — the pastors of Uganda and spiritual leaders of your nation — for five reasons:
First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty in some cases. If I am reading the proposed bill correctly, this law would also imprison anyone convicted of homosexual practice.
Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities.
Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting. As you know, in Africa, it is the churches that are bearing the primary burden of providing care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill passed, homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported. You and I know that the churches of Uganda are the truly caring communities where people receive hope and help, not condemnation …” (Excerpt from The Guardian.)
It’s taken a while for Warren to denounce the bill, and this speech comes just a week after political and media commentator Rachel Maddow ran several segments on her show highlighting possible connections that tie Warren, and other American religious and political figures, to legislators in Uganda who devised and tabled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. So, one has to ask, is this a self serving measure designed to distance himself from events in Uganda?
Responding to Warren’s video, Maddow ran another segment on her show this week, highlighting how, in spite of his claims to the contrary, Warren’s influence in Uganda continues to be powerfully felt:
Nevertheless, Warren has publicly denounced the bill, which is more than the can be said of the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who refuses to comment, even though he did find the time to issue a statement regarding the nomination of a lesbian Bishop-elect in Los Angeles last weekend, saying that the ordination would have “serious implications” for the Anglican community.
In fairness, Williams is said to have been in “intense” but “private” talks over the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Yet some have accused the Archbishop of putting Church politics over the welfare of Uganda’s gay citizens. More on this here.
Regardless, a seismic change may have occurred concerning Uganda’s legislators and their view on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It had previously been noted that the MP who tabled the bill, David Bahati, was under pressure from Ugandan church leaders to drop the death penalty clause of the proposed legislation. He’s still defending it, but other lawmakers may have relented.
It has been reported that the death penalty aspect of the law has, indeed, been deleted from the draft that will come before the Ugandan parliament in the next two weeks. Further to this, the punishment of life imprisonment for homosexuality is also said to have been struck off.
If the death penalty aspect of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is deleted, what is it to be replaced with? Well, here’s the thing: PinkNews is reporting that, instead of the death penalty, Ugandan Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo now wants to use more “refined” methods where gay Ugandans are concerned.
He’s indicated that they will try to “cure” homosexuality instead.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions over this, but to say that this echos certain elements of America’s own Evangelical community would, perhaps, be understating things.
Notably, Scott Lively, one of the Americans implicated by Rachel Maddow’s investigation, today released a statement saying that, while he condemned the death penalty, he thought that adding conversion therapy to the bill would “represent an encouraging step in the right direction” for Uganda. Read more here.
It’s no small matter that the Ugandan parliament have reportedly dropped the death penalty clause. But, even without this, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is so severe and so deeply against human rights that even when blunted it continues to be a threat, especially with the addition of mandatory conversion therapy.
One often cited example of the proposed law’s power is that a property owner may be subject to a prison sentence for offering to rent an apartment or home to a homosexual man or woman, because they might somehow be enabling homosexual activity by providing a place for a couple to be alone.
Another example is that, if a doctor treats a man for an AIDS related illness, and learns that the man contracted the disease through homosexual contact, or even suspects it, he too becomes complicit under the law if he doesn’t report the man to the authorities.
Should a homosexual Ugandan move abroad to live with his or her partner, the law would then call for their extradition so that they could face charges of “homosexual conduct”. People often say, “If you don’t like the law, then leave”. Uganda’s gay men and women won’t even have that option if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill comes into force, and while countries like the U.S. might offer asylum to such persons, this demonstrates the truly awful reach of this pervasive piece of legislation.
Meanwhile, statements against the proposed law continue to roll in.
The Vatican has released a carefully worded statement that, while not mentioning Uganda specifically, says that:
The Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.
You can read the rest of the Vatican’s statement here.
GOProud, a Republican gay group, have condemned the bill, while Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has also released a statement strongly opposing the bill, a part of which reads:
“I am deeply saddened and troubled that such blatantly ignorant and hate-filled legislation would see the light of day anywhere in today’s world. It needs to be stopped in its tracks immediately.” Read the full statement here.
“…The United States has urged Uganda to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, harassment, or discrimination.”
In the United Kingdom there has been a protest outside of the Ugandan embassy this week, where around 100 people gathered holding signs that called for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be stopped. More on that here.
We’ll continue to update you on this issue over the coming weeks.
To find out more on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, here are some related Care2 posts:
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