Uganda: American Christian Leaders Speak Out Against Anti-Homosexuality Laws
By Henry Neondo
KAMPALA---A group of American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of “increased bigotry and hatred.” The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws.
The letter from U.S. religious leaders, including former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican Thomas P. Melady, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good Rich Cizik, and Soujourners President Jim Wallis, mobilizes Christian voices against rhetoric and actions in Uganda that demonize and criminalize homosexuality. In the letter, Christian leaders from across the United States, including prominent Catholics and Evangelicals, seek to establish that Christian beliefs are in direct conflict with the serious rights abuses perpetrated against LGBT people in Uganda.
“Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith,” they said.
Sentiments contained in today’s letter will also be at the core of lobbying efforts occurring in Washington, DC this week as part of the 19th International AIDS Conference.
The group also castigated groups and leaders within the US who have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda.
"We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies," they said adding that the LGBT people exist in every country and culture.
“It’s important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals,” says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, “This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate.”
In that effort, faith leaders and activists from 15 primarily African countries will spend their time in the US meeting with administration officials and Members of Congress to express the need for bipartisan support to address serious human rights violations, including hate crimes, and challenges posed to HIV/AIDS prevention stemming from laws that criminalize homosexuality. These leaders and activists plan to hand deliver copies of the American Christian leaders’ letter to administration officials and Members of Congress.
In approximately 76 countries, consensual intimate same-sex conduct is criminalized. In Uganda, a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its current version still includes the possibility of the death penalty in certain cases, and would criminalize any speech or actions the government might deem too positive about LGBT people. It could also criminalize HIV/AIDS and other health services that serve Uganda’s LGBT community.
The legislation currently under consideration was first introduced in 2009, eventually tabled after widespread domestic and international pressure, but then re-introduced in the new parliament earlier this year.