JUST as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have downgraded the threat level from swine flu, a new virus seems to be worrying others. “Homosexuality is infectious,” writes Bishop Joseph Abura from the Church of the Province of Uganda, in last week’s Spero News.
“Africans who have it have contracted it from the West or from acquainting with people who have it. Yes, it is infectious and it can be fought and defeated.”
So far, so ridiculous — except that this is not in the slightest bit funny. The Ugandan Parliament is consider-ing new laws that will introduce the death penalty by hanging for “aggravated homosexuality”.
The Bill proposes three years in prison for anyone who knows of the existence of a gay man or lesbian woman and who does not inform the police within 24 hours. Just speaking up for gay rights would mean seven years in prison.
This, then, is the good bishop’s cure for the gay disease: “Gayism . . . is a sickness so we can fight and defeat it. One of the ways to fight it should be by prevention of its spread, by putting laws in place. . . Ugandan Parliament, the watchdog of our laws, please go ahead and put the anti-Gay laws in place.”
The situation has become so serious that Gordon Brown raised the matter at the recent meeting of Commonwealth leaders. But what have our church leaders said? Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Brown was at his most cutting. “I do not expect any bishop of the Church of England to have the courage to speak against it. Give them a hundred years, though, and they will turn up at a memorial service to weep for the victims.”
Hats off, then, to the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, whose diocese has a link with Uganda, for his words at his recent diocesan synod: “Whatever view we take of the issues on the human-sexuality debate, this piece of legislation is so pernicious and so unpleasant, that I hope that Christians on both sides of the debate would stand as one and say that this is unacceptable.”
As it happens, Bishop Hill’s side of the debate is the more conservative. But, as he rightly points out, on this one it matters not a jot.
Using the language of disease about gay people is just the sort of tactic that the Nazis used against the Jews. As Hitler said in a speech in Salzburg in 1920: “Don’t be misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus. Don’t think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis. This Jewish contamination will not subside, this poisoning of the nation will not end, until the carrier himself, the Jew, has been banished from our midst.” Lest we forget.
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and Director of the St Paul’s Institute.