Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Global pressure on Uganda to defeat anti-gay bill,” Christianity Today, February, 2010.
This article discusses how western nations have responded negatively to Uganda’s new anti-gay bill, which has proposed capital punishment for certain homosexual acts. The new bill would legalize the death penalty for serial offenses, for homosexual sex with minors/the disabled, and for homosexual sex while infected with HIV/AIDS. It would also increase the likelihood of imprisonment for any homosexual act, including homosexual touch “with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
Foreign nations and their leaders, especially those outside of Africa have harshly criticized this bill since it was put forward in the fall of 2009. “The Swedish government threatened to revoke $50 million in aid if the bill passed. President Barack Obama said he opposed the bill, as did Human Rights Watch and many other civil right groups.” David Bahati, the unheard-of lawmaker who crafted this piece of legislation, has received multiple death threats because of this bill.
The Christian community in the west has also criticized the bill:
Rick Warren, Saddleback Church pastor: “I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. As an American pastor, it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues.”
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International: “Deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue.”
Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship founder “denounced the legislation because it addresses human rights, a universal moral issue…saying, ‘It’s totally contrary to the Christian understanding of compassion’.”
The Christian community of Uganda, which is about 85 percent of the population, disapproves of the western criticism. David Zac Niringiye, bishop of the Ugandan Anglican Church said, “The international community is behaving like it can’t trust Ugandans to come up with law that is fair… you actually begin to fuel the idea that homosexuality is the product of Western culture.”
Likewise the Catholic Church in Uganda is supporting the bill but not the capital punishment clause. Christopher Byaruhanga, a professor of theology at Uganda Christian University, replied, “There’s a kind of imperialism and relativism from the West… they are trying to impose what they believe.”
Responding to criticism from Katherine Jefferts Schori, Byaruhanga said, “If the head of the Episcopal Church says anything on the bill in Uganda, you think anybody would listen to her? She is already in [alliance] with someone who is openly homosexual.”
For another perspective on this controversial legislation, two American missionaries in Uganda gave these comments:
Larry Pumpelly: “In 1995, Uganda was the country with the highest rate of AIDS in the world. They have dropped their rate of AIDS from 18-20 percent down to six percent in the past 10 years. Part of that has been through some the legislation and rules to regulate rape and incest.”
Sharon Pumpelly: “In Uganda [Homosexuality] is a relatively new issue. Yet the whole issue of rape or coercion in sex… is something [Ugandans] have been dealing with for a long time. The Ugandan church is probably the first church in Africa to deal with AIDS and to out with a compassionate response. The church really is about compassion and redemption, but they are also serious about protecting their children.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. What do you think about the article? What is your opinion about this issue? Do you think there are any different sides to this issue worth discussing?
2. What do you think of the political and religious response of the West to the bill?
3. Do you think the Ugandan Church is right to label the Western response as imperialistic?
4. Do the quotations from the American missionaries change or modify your perspective?
1. Clearly homosexuality is a controversial and divisive issue in European/American secular society and among different churches.
2. It is also clear that culture has something to do with our opinions and divisions.
3. What seems like a majority opinion in the U.S., Canada and Europe is clearly a minority opinion in Uganda and many African nations. The harsh legislative initiatives in Uganda have highlighted the Western liberalism and tolerance toward homosexual behavior and unions.
4. This debate highlights important issues of church and state, moral and human rights.
5. The press given this controversy provides opportunity for young people and others to discuss this matter.
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