Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told members of the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) legislative caucus on Jan 13 that he was going to block the gay genocide bill. George Conger of Religious Intelligencer wrote:
“I [Museveni] told them that this bill was brought up by a private member and I have not even had time to discuss it with him. It is neither the government nor the NRM Party’s” bill, he told legislators, according to Ugandan press reports.
“This is a foreign policy issue and we have to discuss it in a manner that does not compromise our principles but also takes care of our foreign policy interests,” the president said.
Xan Rice of the Guardian reported today:
Uganda has indicated it will bow to international pressure and amend draconian anti-homosexual legislation that includes the death penalty for HIV-positive people convicted of having gay sex.
. . .
,p>The proposed law, which has been pushed by local evangelical preachers and vocally supported by senior government officials, also threatens life imprisonment for anyone convicted of gay sex.
While broadly supported domestically, the legislation has caused a storm of protest abroad and consternation from western donors who fund a large chunk of Uganda’s budget.
The Ugandan foreign minister denies the government is backing away from proposed anti-gay legislation because of foreign policy implications, saying the government is still discussing its position on the issue. Gay rights activists express caution over reports the president has backed away from the bill.
Jim Burroway foresees a move toward compromise legislation.
The Obama administration should make it clear to Uganda, now, that passage of the anti-gay law will result in a cutoff of aid. That “legislation is a violation of human rights,” as Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said Friday. Embodiment of the hate it represents in law, without answering consequences from more human nations, will encourage others to take similar actions.
Oppression is already a fact of life for the Ugandan gay citizenry. The New York Times wrote in an editorial on Monday:
The government’s venom is chilling: “Homosexuals can forget about human rights,” James Nsaba Buturo, who holds the cynically titled position of minister of ethics and integrity, said recently.
What makes this even worse is that three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” gays and lesbians have been widely discredited in the United States, helped feed this hatred. Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer gave a series of talks in Uganda last March to thousands of police officers, teachers and politicians in which, according to participants and audio recordings, they claimed that gays and lesbians are a threat to Bible-based family values.
Now the three Americans are saying they had no intention of provoking the anger that, just one month later, led to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. You can’t preach hate and not accept responsibility for the way that hate is manifested.
The U.S. should also lead diplomatically in standing against this evil.
Repudiated Rick Warren friend Martin Ssempa, Pastor of the Makerere Community Church, has issued a video response [segments with analysis] which includes all of the errors and distortions of the earlier United National Task Force letter.
“As a Christian organization, Focus on the Family Action (the political arm of the family group) encourages pro-family policies. As such, we respect the desire of the Ugandan people to shield their nation from the promotion of homosexuality as a lifestyle morally equivalent to one-man, one-woman marriage. But it is not morally acceptable to enact the death penalty for homosexuals, as some versions of the bill are reported to require.”
“My reaction is to denounce this. It sets a horrible precedent and has a potential for developing hatred.”
Moreover, it’s unfair to single out American evangelical leaders and organizations for not condemning the bill when many world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and human rights groups have also been silent on it.
- The White House issued a statement of opposition to the legislation on Dec. 11.
- Human Rights Watch opposition dates to the introduction of the legislation on Oct. 14.
- Amnesty International’s opposition also dates to the inception of the legislation.
- Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a stand against the legislation in November.
- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounced the legislation in November.
- Sweden’s stand against the legislation includes a threat to cut off aid and dates to November.
- The European Parliament adopted a denunciation of the legislation on Dec. 17.
- Australia’s denunciation of the legislation dates to Dec. 21.
Focus on the Family is a welcome and unexpected late-comer to the family of opponents, not yet joined by the Southern Baptist Convevtion Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
This without defending Barna’s failed attempt to exonerate the Christian Right for its well-documented role in fostering the law and to cast belated opposition as pioneering.
He told BBC:
I’m opposed to the death sentence. I’m also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this private member’s bill. … [It is] a diminishment of the individuals concerned.
About a third of the Ugandan population considers itself to be affiliated with the Church of Uganda (Anglican).
Sentamu’s measured, authoritative voice is an important counter on this issue to the counterfactual, poorly written letter directed by the hastily organized Ugandan National Task Force Against Homosexuality at Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren. The Task Force demanded an apology from Warren, who urged his “fellow pastors in Uganda” to oppose the measure.
About 40% of Uganda’s population is Roman Catholic.
The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue.
A video report of Archbishop Lwanga’s message:
Monday the very new Ugandan National Task Force Against Homosexuality shot back at Rick Warren, demanding an apology for his letter to fellow pastors in Uganda condemning the proposed Uganda law that would imprison and in in some cases execute homosexuals.
Your letter has caused great distress and the pastors are demanding that you issue a formal apology for insulting the people of Africa by your very inapropriate (sic) bully use of your church and purpose driven pulpits to coerse us into the ‘evil’ of Sodomy and Gaymorrah (sic).
It is a rewrite of a letter sent to Christianity Today last week by the group’s chairman, Ssempa (a “former Bush Administration favorite“). Parts of Ssempa’s letter are included verbatim in the Task Force letter.
For example, both letters say:
As you yourself say about evil, – “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.”
The task force letter shares errors and misleading language with Ssempa’s original, whose claims are compared to the text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Warren Throckmorton.
Both letters say that the purpose of the bill is to protect “the boy child” in the same that the law protects “the girl child.” As Throckmorton points out, that overlooks the opening section of the bill, “which states the purpose.” The law is intended to eliminate homosexuality from Uganda by eliminating practice or speech intended to support homosexuals.
Ssempa’s letter is properly castigated by GayUgand for “Lying,” and the Task Force letter is vulnerable to essentially the same criticisms.
If factual accuracy were the principal issue, the debate would be over and the Ugandan pastors would have helped consign the anti-gay legislation to a permanent spot on the trash heap of history.
Tony Cartledge gently comments on the letter:
The intemperate use of bad puns like “Sodomy and Gaymorrah” and the suggestion that Warren is trying to coerce anyone into a homosexual lifestyle says a lot about the level of discourse, which has apparently been encouraged in part by visiting U.S. evangelists other than Warren (according to this article at Time.com), folks who echo the same tired mantra that tolerance of homosexuality will be the death of civilization.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) chief is so sad and so busy (like Mike Huckabee) lamenting legislator support for health reform that he still doesn’t have time to say a word or two against Uganda’s gay genocide legislation.
The letter was signed by Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Trent Franks of Arizona and Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana.
They call the gay genocide legislation antithetical to the Christian belief in the “inherent dignity and worth” of all human beings, and there are reports that he agrees and has assured U.S. officials that he will block the bill.
Apolitical Rick Warren is being blistered by bloggers today for waiting “for weeks” to take sides against the gay genocide law being considered in Uganda, and for the “hair-splitting” nature of some of his remarks.
Warren earned that reaction.
After all, this is the man who, for example:
- Last month told Newsweek it wasn’t his “calling” to “comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”
- Recently in an apparent attempt to change the subject, tweeting that, “Globally last yr 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith. No one, except Christians, said anything.”
- Has welcomed anti-gay, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, who endorsed the bill, into his church. Ssempa, who has compared homosexuality to witchcraft, found Warren’s recent withdrawal of contact mystifying.
- Not apolitically pushed for passage of California’s Proposition 8, and subsequently contradicted himself.
- Apparently has a presence in Uganda which he promoted and could and should have brought into play earlier, given the beliefs he expressed today, rather than after weeks of searing pressure.
More important than all of that may be the additional step evangelical leader Warren took today in persuading the recalcitrant among his peers to consistently treat homosexuals as human beings, rather pawns in the culture wars.
Returning from two weeks in Uganda, Stand For Marriage Maine’s co-chair Bob Emrich sent an email to his supporters saying he “wanted to share the following article” he found in Uganda’s largest daily newspaper. It said in part:
This whole concept of human rights grates my nerves. It has made people un-african, mean and self-centered.
One can now shamelessly stand up and tell you: “I do as I please. You have no business in my affairs.” A sodomist can now swear to you that what they do in the privacy of their bedroom does not concern the public.
No wonder when a brilliant MP comes up with a Bill against homosexuality, the human rights activists baptize him an enemy of the people.
Of course the “Bill against homosexuality” is the gay genocide bill.
Uganda to drop death penalty and life in jail for gays, according to Bloomberg.
In October, Warren said of his connection to Ssempa:
Martin Ssempa does not represent me, my wife Kay, Saddleback Church, nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy. In 2007, we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own. Our role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.
Sarah Posner writes today:
After refusing to comment on the proposed brutal anti-gay law in Uganda for well over a month as international outcry multiplied, Rick Warren this morning issued a statement and video on his web site, calling on Ugandan pastors to oppose the law, and rebutting reports about his relationships with political and religious leaders in Uganda.
Warren (like our own Candace Chellew-Hodge did in criticizing Warren’s silence) quotes Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Warren states [links added]:
[I]t is my role to correct lies, errors and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, completely oppose and vigorously condemn. I am referring to the pending law under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament, known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Warren’s video follows:
On this agree with Mark Silk, who writes about the statement:
Such forthright opposition has not been expressed by either Canterbury or Rome. By comparison, Saddleback is standing tall.