U.S. Christian leaders slam Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act

December 7, 2009

kampalaA diverse group of U.S. Christian leaders — who don’t always see eye to eye on same-sex lifestyle issues — have spoken out against a law under consideration in Uganda that could make homosexual behavior punishable by death. You can see the full statement and list of signatories here.

Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before  the Parliament in Uganda. The ‘Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009′ would enforce lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not
reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities
,” it says in part.

Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love,” it added.

The signatories included leading centrist evangelical activists such as David Gushee of Mercer University and those from a range of other faith traditions such as Adam Tice, the Associate Pastor of Hyattsville Mennonite Church.  The  Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership
Conference,
whose members tend to take a conservative line on social issues, also signed up,  as did Jim Wallis, President of the lefty evangelical group Sojourners.

Uganda is likely to pass the bill criminalising homosexuality in the east African nation and deal a blow to rights activists, but the act will have some changes to appease donors who fund about a third of the budget.

Donor influence is seen waning as the country moves join to the league of oil producers, and Western nations — which have largely criticised the anti-gay bill — may be unwilling to fight the act ahead of a 2011 poll. Click here for some of our coverage on the issue.

The issue is of interest on a range of fronts. In the eyes of some, it would be taken as an indirect example of oil’s poisonous affect on the African body politic – witness the obscene corruption and brutal regime in Equatorial Guinea.

UGANDA-PROTEST/Some human rights activists have also seen the legislation as a sign of the growing influence of conservative U.S. evangelicals in Uganda. They certainly have a large missionary presence on the continent though even among those here in the United States who preach or believe that homosexual relations are a sin, there are few I think who would want to take things so far. (But there are probably a few).

It also highlights the gap on same-sex issues that seems to exist between Africa, where they are usually frowned upon, and the West, where there is growing acceptance of gays and lesbians and advancement of their rights. Such divisions for example threaten to split the worldwide Anglican Communion. Nigeria’s  Anglican Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola, has been especially outspoken in his condemnation of homosexuality.

But unlike in America, where gay marriage and related issues have periodically ginned up voters especially among the Republican Party’s conservative base in recent years, one suspects that African voters have bigger concerns — such as clean water, malaria and education for their children, to name a few.

Still, the issue may have a resonance with the Ugandan electorate. Critics have said the the aim of the Ugandan anti-gay legislation is to divert attention from corruption and other political issues ahead of the 2011 national vote. Could it be that Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni is borrowing a page from former Republican electoral mastermind Karl Rove?

(PHOTOS:Religious groups campaign against homosexuality in Kampala, 21 Aug 2007/James Akena)

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