Dr Williams ‘shocked’ by Ugandan Bill

by
16 December 2009

by Pat Ashworth

On the case: about 100 people rallied at the Ugan­dan Embassy in London to support the Ugandan LGBTI com­munity, on International Human Rights Day, 10 December

On the case: about 100 people rallied at the Ugan­dan Embassy in London to support the Ugandan LGBTI com­munity, on International Human Rights Day, 10...

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has described the proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda as “of shocking severity. . . I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” he said in a newspaper interview on Saturday.

The Bill, in its present form, could impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for homosexual activity, and would allow parents to be imprisoned for not denouncing their children within 24 hours of knowing they were gay. Dr Williams told The Daily Telegraph it would make pastoral care impossible: “It seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

He told the paper that the Church of the Province of Uganda opposed the death penalty, but he noted that the Archbishop, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, “has not taken a position on this Bill”.

Other Ugandan bishops have spoken publicly. The Bishop of Karamoja, the Rt Revd Joseph Abura, has described those who oppose the legislation as “lovers of evil” (Com­ment, 4 December). He said: “Our children are ignorant of the vice; but gays and their sympathisers want to appeal to their psyche, to their consciousness that they be infected, too.

“They are spreading it in our institutions of learning. They want to condition every penny that comes to our government or churches or non-government organisations.”

Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a Christian Aid ambassador, said that gay people were being used as scape­goats for all the problems in Uganda. He has condemned the Bill as something that would “institution­alise violence and death to a min­ority group simply because the majority do not like them” .

Pressure continues to be put on Dr Williams to condemn the Ugandan bishops’ support for the Bill as unequivocally as he con­demned the election of Canon Mary Glasspool, a lesbian priest, as a suffragan bishop in Los Angeles (News, 11 December).

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The LGBT Anglican Coalition, an umbrella organisation for eight groups which support gay and les­bian Christians, said in a statement this week that the transparency of the elections in Los Angeles con­trasted favourably with the “still opaque processes by which Church of England bishops are appointed”.

It described the candour of the candidates as “a glowing example to the Church of England, where such openness is not possible in the present climate of denial and double standards”.

Dr Williams’s “repeated interv­ention” in the affairs of the United States province “contrasts embar­rassingly with his complete unwil­ling­ness to speak publicly about the Church of Uganda bishops’ support for what is universally seen as oppressive and homophobic legisla­tion in that country”, the statement said. “That support is in direct contravention of recent resolutions by the Lambeth Con­ference and the Primates’ Meeting.

“If the Archbishop is to retain any credibility at all, he needs to re­consider. This double standard of justice is frankly perverse. It appears to most people in Britain to be a disgraceful acquiescence in the demands of homophobic pressure groups both in England and in the Communion.”

Ugandan politicians were re­portedly considering removing the death-penalty and life-imprisonment clauses in an amendment to the Bill which would promote counselling to help “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation”, in the words of James Nsaba Buturo, the Minister of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda.

The Bill’s proposer, David Bahati, has described homosexuality as “learned behaviour. . . You can’t tell me that people are born gays. It is foreign influence that is at work,” he told the Ugandan Monitor. The paper also reported the demand by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) that the government should not “yield to pressure” from donor countries.

It should cut diplomatic ties with these countries, and also with those that support abortion, said the IRCU. Its secretary-general, Joshua Kita­kule, has said that bishops from the “Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches, and also Muslim cadis [judges]” had “agreed to defend the Bill in their centres of worship”.

More than 3000 Anglicans have signed a Facebook petition calling on Dr Williams to retract his statement on Canon Glasspool’s election. They say: “As Anglicans who treasure their Communion and expect more from their Archbishop, in the spirit of John the Baptist’s cry to the religious leaders of his time, we call on Rowan Williams to repent of his earlier statement and issue this one instead.” Their preferred statement castigates the Church in Uganda’s “lack of outrage” over the Bill.

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