Anti-Homosexuality Bill Divides Ugandan and American Christians
"I can’t say that I think civil prohibitions against homosexual behavior are morally wrong. I can’t say that because we had the anti-sodomy law for years in America for years. If I lived in those states, I probably would not have probably voted for them, but I could understand why people would legislate in this area, even for public health reasons," he said. "I think I would be opposed to legal sanctions against people who are private, consensual sexual behavior."
Julius Twongyeirwe, national director of Proclamation Task, a Kampala-based pastoral training ministry, said that Ugandan Christians generally support the bill.
"The law works to minimize the effects of sin, but it doesn't fix the problems of the heart," Twongyeirwe said. "It is so that people think in terms of consequences and draw back from attracting a penalty like that. If it is done with a minor and someone who is careless enough to transfer AIDS to a minor, it would scare them enough."
Fred Wantaate, pastor of Full Gospel Church Makerere in Kampala, said that Christians in Uganda are not divided on the bill because most of them support outlawing homosexuality.
"Homosexuality, like burglary, prostitution, murder, and other behaviors considered harmful to our society, are crimes in Uganda," he said. "Appropriate laws must be formulated to counter all harmful behavior."
Wantaate said that most Ugandans have not had the chance to study the bill in its entirety and may not be aware of some of the extreme clauses that were proposed.
"It is alleged the bill has a clause about 'aggravated homosexuality' or 'aiding and abetting homosexuality' being a capital crime punishable by death, or homosexuals being treated as terrorists," he said. "If that were true, the punishment in that case would be inappropriate and extreme."
(The bill as submitted refers to "aggravated homosexuality"—homosexual sex with a minor, a person with a disability, while infected with HIV, or with someone under one's authority—as punishable by death. "Aiding and abetting homosexuality" carries a seven-year prison sentence.)
One of the men, Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that it is insulting that reporters would connect the bill to the Americans.
"That's really a racist perspective that these guys are pushing, somehow that a couple of little known American commentators on cultural issues, that our opinions can outweigh the combined resources of a sovereign nation on an issue," he told CT. "It's as if the Africans are unable to shape their own public policy, and somehow they're swayed by foreign influences."
Lively said that he thinks the law is too harsh, and that it should focus on rehabilitation instead of penalties.
"It's important that we not allow this to harm Uganda and the Ugandan Christians," Lively said. "The law as it's crafted, if it were put into effect, would bring the entire weight of the international Left against their country."
History plays a large role in how Ugandan Christians respond to homosexuality. In 1885, a group of 45 Anglican and Roman Catholics were executed after several pages rejected a king's sexual advances. Ugandan Christians honor them as martyrs on June 3 each year.
(This story has been updated to reflect Colson's interview with CT.)
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