Uganda’s Gay Death Penalty Bill is ‘Morally Repugnant’ Says United Reform Church

Religious leaders have begun to formally condemn a law tabled by Ugandan backbencher David Bahati that would grant Ugandan authorities the ability to condemn HIV positive gay citizens to death under the charge of “aggravated homosexuality”, among other stringent penalties.

You can catch up with our coverage of this issue here and here to find out what the proposed law would do, and why it is such an egregious offense against, not just gay rights, but the human rights of Ugandan citizens as a whole.

So who has spoken out? Well, as yet, there’s still a wall of silence from the leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

However, The United Reform Church in the UK has taken the step of formally condemning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In a statement, the United Reform Church called the bill “draconian” and said that it was appalled by the tabled law, adding:

“This draft legislation represents a clear infringement of human rights and is morally repugnant. . . We add our voice to the many calling for the immediate withdrawal of this discriminatory bill.”

Exodus International, a branch of an American evangelical group who claim to be able to help homosexuals “overcome” same-sex attractions, has also contacted Uganda’s president to protest the bill.

In a letter dated Nov. 16, Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas and other prominent Exodus figures write:

“If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.”

In the letter, the co-signers also warn that the law could undercut Uganda’s ability to battle the AIDS epidemic, saying that by further criminalizing homosexuality in this way, Uganda’s leaders were likely to make the situation worse by pushing homosexuals into riskier sexual behavior.

Internally, Uganda’s Christian groups have been split by the bill. Some are welcoming it as a clear stance against “moral imperialism” and the infiltration of Western values. On this theme Joseph Abura, Anglican Bishop of Karamoja in Uganda, described those who oppose the bill as “lovers of evil”.

However, there are religious denominations within Uganda who are taking a more moderate view, asking that the death penalty clause be struck from the proposed legislation.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are religious groups within Uganda such as Integrity Uganda who see the full specter of this terrible law and are calling for it to be abandoned in its entirety.

In related news, the leaders of the Commonwealth met this week with the issue of Uganda’s anti-gay law threatening to put a strain on relations. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, chairs the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, and his stance on such issues as homosexuality has called into question his appropriateness for the role.

The summit, which began on Friday, sees the Commonwealth nations converging ahead of formal talks in Copenhagen to discuss such issues as climate change and global poverty, but it is the unspoken furrow over Uganda’s anti-gay bill that has the power to lacerate and divide talks. 

40 or more of the Commonwealth nations has some form of anti-gay law, with a strong proportion among them that actively criminalize homosexuality.

If a discussion is raised about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it could have the power to polarize the nations like few other subjects, pushing the more liberal countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, into direct opposition with many African and Caribbean states.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown took the lead on Friday and informed Musevini of his deep concern over the proposed law.

A Foreign and Commonwealth spokesperson echoed Gordon Brown’s strong disapproval, saying:

“The FCO will be following the passage of the bill closely and we will continue to do everything we can privately and publicly to prevent its passage.”

It should also be noted that there is growing demand for Uganda’s Commonwealth membership to be revoked if the anti-gay bill passes. Internal analysts predict that the bill’s passage is likely however, and forecast that it will become law early next year after having undergone only minor revisions.

Canada has also decried the bill. In an official statement that closely mirrors those already made by the U.S., Britain and France, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office, said:

“Canada has clearly spoken out against human-rights violations committed against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and we urge states to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests, or detention.”

Canadian Anglicans have likewise spoken out against the bill, adding that it would “impose excessive and cruel penalties on persons who experience same-sex attraction,” which would be in direct opposition to Uganda’s international commitments.

So, has this international condemnation had much impact within Uganda? The answer is no, not really. While protestations may mean that the death penalty clause of the bill never reaches actual law, the government remains stalwart that this bill is necessary to protect Uganda’s moral integrity. In just the past week, Yoweri Museveni claimed European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa and trying to spread homosexuality.

The power of anti-gay rhetoric in sub-Saharan African politics should not be underestimated. Opposition parties will frequently accuse one another of having homosexuals on their staff, or of actually being gay themselves, while combating homosexuality can often be the vertebra that supports a political campaign. In short, if you want to win favor, it pays to be anti-gay.

This bill feeds into the notion of a cloud of sexual immorality and creeping evil, and not only that, but paints the Ugandan government as waging an almost “courageous” battle to resist Western influence, and the so-called infiltration of gay rights and homosexuality itself, which is seen as an alien condition.

Interestingly, rumors that President Museveni, Ugandan Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo and MP David Bahati are linked to U.S. group “The Family” continue to persist, while the notion that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was informed by American anti-gay groups also continues.  More on this from The Observer.

That aside, the international community is now stuck in a circular predicament. If they intervene and, for instance, suspend Uganda from the Commonwealth, they risk supporting Uganda’s ideas of Western imperialism, and in so doing run the risk of giving Uganda further autonomy to create even tougher penalties in the future. If, however, the international community does not intervene, Uganda will pass a bill into law that, because of its sweeping nature, essentially makes even the thought of homosexual contact a crime.

However, global religious leaders still have a chance at changing this. They have already made the Ugandan legislature think twice about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s death penalty clause, and while it may be too late to entirely prevent the bill’s passage, continued pressure from the Anglican community, and religious authorities as a whole, could persuade legislators to water down the Anti-Homosexuality Bill further still, so as to render it almost impotent next to Uganda’s already strict anti-gay penalties.

Take Action:

Urge Christian leaders to oppose Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Steve Conover.


Hope Love and Peace
Past Member 9 years ago

Sending Love & Light!

Mary B.
May Brown9 years ago

If they REALLY want to get rid or AIDS, they're just going to have to kill everyone who has it. Now, I don't believe that's right, but it's more sensible than singling out homosexuals. When are all the people of the world going to realize that genocide never solves the issue, when there are going to be various types of people with the same problem? Why is it so difficult to stop people from going out of their way to hate and harm others? It's sad to see that the "witch hunts" will never end.

Rosette Reyes
Rosette Reyes9 years ago

I think death penalty is not the answer to the situation. What should be done is they should increase HIV awareness and prevention so that the HIV patients should also be treated equal and humane.

Kim P.
Kim P9 years ago

My comment on the petition:

To NOT speak up against this morally repugnant abuse of human rights "Anit-Homosexuality Bill" proposed in Uganda, ESPECIALLY as a leader in ANY religious organization, is hypocritical, and absolutely against what "Religion" is supposed to stand for - total love and acceptance for all.
Silence is complicity.
Rown Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, stop being an accomplice with your silence and do the right thing, in your position, to condemn the bill and urge Ungandans to oppose it.

Clifford S.
Clifford S9 years ago

Ms. Metcalf, you wrote," is like telling a neighbor to butt out on how we raise our kids.." If I saw child abuse, I would report that abuse,as a hmanatarian, and responsible member of society. KILLING people who are homosexual is plainly WRONG! Research indicates homosexuality is something one is born with. Likewise, imprisoning someone who knows someone is homosexual, but does not report is is hysteria, likely to be abused. Murder is wrong, plain and simple, and anyone who would "butt out" on this is irresponsible. MY "Fredom of Speech".

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W9 years ago

If Christian leaders don't oppose this cruel law by saying homosexuality is against nature, they'll prove to be hypocrites. After all, when Jesus said as the Pharisees wanted to lapidate Mary Magdalene: 'If you are without sin, throw a stone at her', nobody did. The Churches too should have an idea of which offense is worse: even if they regard homosexuality as a sin (although it is not, because sex orientation is innate), they should realize that killing is much worse.

Juliet D.
.9 years ago

The "homosexuality is against nature" argument has been dead for a decade, demagogues just ignored that fact. How does one get the closed-minded to read? Now, there's a mystery.

Here's a good review of Evolution's Rainbow by Roughgarden - a book sure to send fans of Leviticus into a tizzy:

Jesse C.
Jesse C9 years ago

This makes me so angery!

Chris B.
Chris B9 years ago

I don't feel that I'm wasting my time, to disagree with you, Mrs. Metcalf. So-called southern 'Christians' are going to Uganda to encourage the killing of people that are gay. They will also imprison those that know of a gay person & don't report them! I will, in the name of Jesus Christ, proudly stick MY nose in the business of anyone that spits upon human rights! Uganda has a long history of torture and massacre of It's own people to fancy their whims. You are correct that we each were blessed with individual will. We can choose to be a soldier of God, and fight for our brethren; we can choose to stick our heads in the sand, secure in the thought that "it's none of my business."!

Jenny Dooley
Jenny Dooley9 years ago

By the way, if you're against murder, please remember to sign the petition...the link is at the end of the article.