Thursday, 9 March 2006

Nigerian legislation and the Church of Nigeria

Updated Friday 10 March
First, the text of the draft Nigerian legislation that has been under discussion here and elsewhere is reproduced below the fold.

Second, this legislation was endorsed explicitly by the following statement:

The Bill against Homosexuality:

The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.

This occurs in the MESSAGE TO THE NATION / COMMUNIQUE from the meeting of the Standing Committee held in Ibadan on 22-25 February, signed by the Primate, and posted on the official provincial website. That meeting was several days before the recent claims that he had made no public statement on this matter. Amended Wednesday 15 March

The PASTORAL LETTER TO THE CHURCH from the same source, dated 25 February, does not mention this topic.
Hat Tip: Mark Harris.

Addition Friday 10 March
The US Department of State issued this Press Statement back on 1 February: Nigerian Legislation Threatens to Limit Rights of Sexual Minorities.


1. Short Title

This Act may be cited as Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006.

2. Interpretation

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

“Marriage” means a legally binding union between a man and a woman be it performed under the authority of the State, Islamic Law or Customary Law; “Minister” means the Minister responsible for Internal Affairs; “Same Sex Marriage” means the coming together of two persons of the same gender or sex in a civil union, marriage, domestic partnership or other form of same sex relationship for the purposes of cohabitation as husband and wife.

3.Validity and Recognition of Marriage.

For the avoidance of doubt only marriage entered into between a man and a woman under the marriage Act or under the Islamic and Customary Laws are valid and recognized in Nigeria.

4. Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage, etc.

(1) Marriage between persons of the same sex and adoption of children by them in or out of a same sex marriage or relationship is prohibited in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) Any marriage entered into by persons of same sex pursuant to a license issued by another state, country, foreign jurisdiction or otherwise shall be void in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(3) Marriages between persons of the same sex are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.

(4) Any contractual or other rights granted to persons involved in same sex marriage or accruing to such persons by virtue of a license shall be unenforceable in any Court of law in Nigeria.

(5) The Courts in Nigeria shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce, separation and maintenance orders with regard to such same sex marriage, consider or rule on any of their rights arising from or in connection with such marriage.

5. Non-Recognition of Same Sex Marriage

(1) Marriage between persons of same sex entered into in any jurisdiction whether within or outside Nigeria, any other state or country or otherwise or any other location or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriage in any jurisdiction, whether within or out side Nigeria are not recognized in Nigeria.

(2) All arms of government and agencies in the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding within or outside Nigeria, with regard to same sex marriage or relationship or a claim arising from such marriage or relationship.

6. Prohibition of celebration of same sex marriage in a place of worship

(1) Same sex marriage shall not be celebrated in any place of worship by any recognized cleric of a Mosque, Church, denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs.

(2) No marriage license shall be issued to parties of the same sex in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

7. Prohibition of Registration of Gay Clubs and Societies and Publicity of same sex sexual relationship.

(1) Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited.

(2) Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria.

(3) Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

8. Offences and Penalties.

(1) Any person goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

(2) Any person performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

9. Jurisdiction

The High Court in the States and the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain all matters, causes and proceedings arising from same sex marriages and relationships.


This Act shall prohibit in the Federal Republic of Nigeria the relationship between persons of the same sex, celebration of marriage by them and other matters connected therewith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 2:55pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: News

Just what is their problem? Why do they think 7.2 is necessary? When did "christianity" degenerate into forcing your views onto others and prohibiting their publicizing their own views?

I also think 5.1 is particularly obnoxious through its pretence to reach outwith the country of Nigeria. (As if the whole thing didn't stink anyway...)

Posted by: Tim on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 4:20pm GMT

Thanks for making this available. I've been searching the Church of Nigeria website for some time for this kind of press release, and didn't see it until you pointed it out.

I'm cross-posting at where I've blogged for the last week on the American end of this controversy, and on the specific human rights concerns.

Again, many thanks for your sharp eyes.

Posted by: Matt on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 6:00pm GMT

Seems conclusive enough.

Now, how can this be reconciled with the mealy mouthed claims that the Church should not support homophobia in civil society. Making same-sex relationships illegal appears a pretty conclusive way of demonstrating that it means nothing as a statement. Conservative Christianity is by definition homophobic.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 6:15pm GMT

It's important to remember that they're not making homosexuality illegal -- it already is. "Homosexual behavior" is punishable by 14 years' imprisonment, according to the Nigerian penal code.

The supposed innovation of this legislation is its ban on gay marriage and peripheral activities. Of course, this seems moot given that homosexual sex is already illegal.

In fact, the real innovation is its ban on speech, assembly, or press in support or defense of gay marriage. This is where the line is crossed, where the Church of Nigeria makes a strong entrance on the secular radar screen, and where the people I know most about, the conservative American Anglicans, start to get sheepish. And I have no idea how they'll respond.

Posted by: Matt on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 10:33pm GMT

If this is the leadership the Global South is looking for from their newly elected President then I despair for them and our Church.
I can only hope that the Church of England's Faith and Order Group that responded so quickly to the Swedish decision to bless same sex partnerships will find the same speed and clarity to respond to this development. Yet I somehow doubt that they will.
How can anyone give to the Windsor process any further credibility? How can we trust the words of the Primates who declared "anathema" this sort of legal process and its inevitable resulting persecution? How can anyone say they support Lambeth 1.10 when its chief proponents declare so openly their determination to subvert its content?
There must come a point when those of us who have the best interest of LGBT people at heart must see that they risk being complicit in the very process that is set to destroy them. All our best instincts would compel us to continue talking and remaining open, but we have to consider weather in so doing we, like others before us, are just playing into the hands of those who want to see us wiped from the face of the earth.
As to Canon Akin Tunde Popoola, his postings on this blog and his statements elsewhere are again shown false. If he is the fresh voice of the new “moral authority” expected from the Global South then we are indeed in a perilous place.
I have often said that I believed ECUSA ungenerous in its proposals for DEPO, I am now beginning to believe the opposite was true. Any Anglican that takes common cause with the Church of Nigeria in this should be called to repent of their evil or failing this, cut off from fellowship.
Where are the voices of the Primates? Silent. They have already tacitly agreed we are the sacrificial lamb for the unity they seek. Shame on you.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 12:35am GMT

Matt says, "It's important to remember that they're not making homosexuality illegal -- it already is."

Fair enough. Still, it's also important to note that the Anglican Church of Nigeria, which is the personal hook to this story for many of us reading this web site, "commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria." Whatever the facts on the ground may be, the church seems to see the law as making outlaws of same sex lovers, and that's where they choose to say their Amen.

Posted by: Mark on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 2:56pm GMT

English & American right-wing evangelicals must be deeply embarrassed by ++Akinola's inhuman and un-Christian views, though they are responsible for nurturing them. It seems the evangelical Frankenstein has created an archiepiscopal monster.

Posted by: Peter on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 7:09pm GMT

I've been day dreaming over this whole conundrum for the last few days.

One of the issues that I don't think we've gotten around to discussing yet is proving one's guilt. The beauty of homophobia is that it applies to both male and female, does not require hard evidence (e.g. drug use leaves chemical traces, violence leaves bruises or bodies, theft leaves changes in property or bank statements). So you can accuse someone of homosexual activities and it can simply be a case of your word against theirs. Now combine that with a corrupt or repressive regime and you can march anyone off with a moment's notice. All you have to do is find a couple of "credible" witnesses who are prepared to testify in court that they caught you in a furtive homosexual act and you are guilty...

This could very easily shift into a Spanish Inquisition/witch hunting dynamic. God willing, surely enough souls can rise above the homophobic inciters of hate to realise that there is a bigger issue at stake.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 8:45pm GMT

With regard to what Cheryl Clough writes, I reply, "Indeed". People in the state of Delaware in the U.S. have been trying to amend the law providing equal opportunity in housing, insurance, employment, etc. to include those perceived to be "homosexual" - the wording in the bill refers specifically to the perception of being gay. This is because people are being denied housing or employment based purely on perception, and there is no recourse because there is no way to correct a perception in this case.

I remember testifying, as a priest, in favor of the bill several years ago. I received hate mail and phone calls for doing so. The bill still has not passed, all these years later, even though it passes in the House of Representatives of Delaware, because in Delaware it goes next to a Senate committee, and the chair of the Senate committee has the power to put the bill in a drawer and refuse to let it even come to a hearing.

All this over a "perception" - the fear is so great that this will make being gay legal, give permission in some way, that even people who are denied basic human rights - housing, employment - have no recourse if they are merely "perceived" to be something other than heterosexual. Denial is never sufficient, of course.

If we can't get such a tiny change made in the law in Delaware, in the "land of the free", what chance do LGBT persons, or people even "perceived" to be so, have in Nigeria have once this becomes law.

What, then, will we do to make common cause with them?

Lois Keen, Priest
Diocese of Pennsylvania, ECUSA

Posted by: Rev. Lois Keen on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 11:39pm GMT

Cheryl and Lois,

In some correspondence I've had with a conservative Anglican in the US (you can find it in the body and comments of the post you reach when you click on "Matt" below), I've been led to suspect that the whole thing is aimed at barring outside churches that support gay marriage and gay rights from organizing within Nigeria. Again, I really don't think the legislation is truly intended to ban gay marriage or homosexuality, per se -- it's about banning the right to organize against it, and it's about keeping liberal Anglicans (especially those in ECUSA) out.

It's also about President Obasanjo shoring up support among Muslims (and northern Muslim governors who are looking for pardons for various corruption charges) as he tries to change the constitution for a 3rd term.

Keep in mind that Akinola has already begun efforts to start a province under his episcopate in the US.


Posted by: Matt on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 12:37am GMT

Although the Bush administration could hardly be said to be pro-gay, they are speaking out about oppression of LGBT people ! Similarly, most traditionalists believe that same-sex sex is wrong, but do not support oppression or violence towards people who are homosexual.

Yet all we get in return are shrill cries of "homophobia" about our moral beliefs, and insinuations that sexual morality is hate. This is not just coarse political discourse but also ridiculous - liberals have sexual morals too!

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 12:53am GMT

Mother Keen --
Well said -- but remember -- most perception is projection.

Martin --
DEPO is working fine in places where there is mutual respect & trust (in spite of disagreements) -- the problem is the lack of trust & when that is lost, it becomes almost impossible to restore (especially when there is still the appearance of misrepresentation & ill will).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 1:15am GMT

Matt wrote:

"In some correspondence I've had with a conservative Anglican in the US ... I've been led to suspect that the whole thing is aimed at barring outside churches that support gay marriage and gay rights from organizing within Nigeria.... [I]t's about banning the right to organize against it, and it's about keeping liberal Anglicans (especially those in ECUSA) out. ... Keep in mind that Akinola has already begun efforts to start a province under his episcopate in the US."

Matt, I think you are right: the effect of the law would be to ban any activity by the U.S. Episcopal Church in Nigeria. But it would have another effect, which the US conservative you've been corresponding with either does not see or does not choose to admit to. If the law would ban TEC in Nigeria, it could well also ban the Church of England.

This may be the quid pro quo ++Akinola is seeking, in exchange for his public support of the current Nigerian president. He has made no secret of his hostility to the C of E. In several of his recent statements, ++Akinola has condemned the Church of England almost as strongly as he has condemned TEC, and has also attacked the Archbishop of Canterbury personally.

As a result, other primates formerly in sympathy with him have begun to distance themselves, and the extreme conservatives in the American Network are becoming divided over the extent of their future relationship with him.

++Akinola, on the other hand, appears to carry on with plans for a rival to the Anglican Communion which he, himself, would head. The proposed Nigerian legislation could be interpreted to "force" ++Akinola to break with the Church of England and "make" do exactly what he wants and hopes to do.

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 3:19pm GMT


Thank you for a practical example.


I agree with your concerns, and would suggest that Akinola has other non-Nigerian dioceses that could be seen as mentors - refer This is the transcript of an interview with the author of the book "The New Puritans". There are similar dynamics in non-Nigerian churches and there are probably some who are frustrated that their country is not backward enough to allow such repressive legislation. In the name of Christianity of course, it definitely should not be for Muslim or Hindu repression. Note tongue in cheek.

Lest we forget, the drive towards totalirianism includes repressing religious or alternative support networks were major driving forces behind the Inquisition and the hunting of witches. In Stalin and Pol Pots' regimes there was also the repression of the alternative. The other quick casualities are the truth and the arts, because they allow the possibility of covert resistance at an important level - the level of paradigms.

There are a few in the anti-homosexual camp who are starting to scream like banshees because they are facing a viable alternative. They no longer have absolute theological authority; they are looking ethically and morally inconsistent; they are being seen to be using emotional manipulation; they are being seen to avoid the debates by accusing the other side of going off of tangents. They are seen as being limited in their responses because they can only cope with a debate that follows narrow predefined channels that suit their narrow predefined mental constructs.

In dialetical philosophy, the emotional escalation and resorting to insults and punitive legislation is evidence that we are in the turbulent phase of change. The existing paradigm and those that support it are doing what they can to put the lid back on the pressure cooker, but there's a breach in the seal. Trying to keep the lid on is actually more dangerous than trusting God and working towards building a more robust model that warns people of the biological dangers of sodomy, warns people of the signs of sexual predators (homo- or heterosexual), cautions against narcisstic lifestyles, exhorts people to celibacy or reverential life-long monogamous sex, and works towards building societies where every human being is respected.

This link is to an interesting paper. It suggests that decadent societies arise when there is too much focus on materialistic success and outward appearances, with insufficient communion with God and the deeper soul questions. It suggests that for morality to resonate and endure, it must speak in the name of soulful truth, not in the name of shallow animalistic benefits:

I would add that the anti-homosexual camp includes many who have a totalitarian theological paradigm that they want to dispense like sugar tablets and have their flocks placidly consume. I think "soulful truth" is messier than that, it involves contemplation and debate, it involves scanning one's society to see if we really are being "godly" or are slipping into being complacent and hypocritical. It involves asking have we become consumers of religion rather than God's sons and daughters, who "walk the talk". It involves having free mental time, which means we are no longer purely economic production units or consumers.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 4:42pm GMT

Mark and Dave,
If the Church of Nigeria were simply concerned about same-sex marriage, they could applaud the portions of the bill that outlaw same-sex marriage, while condemning those portions that deny rights of free speech and assembly. (in essence, the Bush Administration has done this, by remaining silent on the aspects of the bill by which Nigeria defines marriage)

The blanket approval for the bill shows that the church is not interested simply in preserving the "traditional definition of marriage" but in trying to eradicate all expression of homosexuality.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Sunday, 12 March 2006 at 4:36pm GMT

The internal problems of the Anglican Communion and the rifts all this has caused aside, how do conservatives within the ECUSA justify supporting the actions of Archbishop Akinola?

He has incited his followers to violence. He has led his followers to amend their constitution to enable them to fracture the AC. He has alienated not just the ECUSA but every non-fundamentalist Christian outside the “Global South” group.

I am a moderate who believes both sides have gone too far, but it is by far Akinola and the Global South who are most grievously violating the teachings of Jesus. The ECUSA is trying to be inclusive of all those seeking Christ, gay or lesbian included, and in the opinion of some going too far. Akinola has called for violent retaliation against Muslims. He has come out in favor of a law which violates basic human freedoms like free association, free press, and the right to petition the government regarding issues of importance to you.

If a society wants to ban gay marriage, that’s their right in a democracy, but to ban advocacy of a position is to criminalize what people are thinking. Akinola favors making it a criminal offense to witness a gay wedding? Not participate or support it, but simply to be present and witness it. The law he supports criminalizes the public show of same-sex amorous relationships. And who’s to judge what is a public show of same-sex amorous relationship?

This man is not acting and not leading his followers according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. He is acting and leading based on lingering homophobia and ancient tribal hatreds.

Posted by: Daniel on Monday, 13 March 2006 at 7:28pm GMT

Dear Thinking Anglicans

Your comments are not quite fair as, from the Living Church article at least, we don't know when Canon Popoola made the remark quoted in the article saying that ++Akinola had not commented publicly.

That said, the Church of Nigeria has now nailed its colors to the mast.

On the other hand, here at least, it does not comment on the provisions of the legislation that deny freedoms of speech and assembly to gays and lesbians.
Yet again, if it was opposed to those provisions, it could have said so.

A cagey game is being played here.

Brian McKinlay

Posted by: Brian on Monday, 13 March 2006 at 9:00pm GMT

The comment I made above was not based solely upon the report in The Living Church.
Canon Tunde Popoola confirmed his statement right here on TA on Thursday, 2 March 2006 at 9:37am. See

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 March 2006 at 9:14pm GMT

Canon 'Tunde Popoola's statement was on 2nd March. The communique was signed and released for publication on the 6th of March. The Primate signed not for himself but the entire standing committee. Until then, there was no public from him on the issue.

Posted by: Tunde on Wednesday, 15 March 2006 at 1:51pm GMT

Thank you 'Tunde for this clarification. This now explains very precisely what you meant on 3 March when you wrote:

"Very soon, Abp. Akinola may make out time to address the issue."

The statement itself, as published on the website, carries no publication date, but mentions the dates of the standing committee meeting, 22-25 February, from which the message comes.

I had not understood that it took 9 days from the end of the meeting for the statement to be published.

I have slightly amended the original article above.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 March 2006 at 2:38pm GMT

There was an interesting segment today on "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio about religion in Nigeria. You can listen to it at

One thing it mentions is the increasing activity of all Christians in Nigeria, including Anglicans, and of several Nigerian denominations trying to establish congregations abroad, including in the United States. The case cited is of a pentecostal church. One wonders if the competition most felt in Nigeria is with puritan Muslims (and from this report the Muslims there are certainly that) or puritan Christians. Is there more concern about apostacy, or just sheep-stealing?

Posted by: Marshall on Thursday, 16 March 2006 at 3:06pm GMT

Interesting contribution to the debate here:

Posted by: Neil B on Friday, 17 March 2006 at 5:06pm GMT

"An Anglican Bishop, Ayo Ladigbolu, has declared that with the growing number of gay and lesbian communities in Nigeria, the country may soon witness homosexuals having their churches ..."

An interesting article which shows that not all Nigerian clergy have the same viewpoint.

Posted by: Jimbo on Monday, 20 March 2006 at 12:36am GMT

Retired Bishop Ayo Ladigbolu was a Methodist Bishop and that was also stated in the article. Why the first reference says Anglican is not clear. In any case, it is worth it to say he has never been and is not an Anglican Bishop.

Posted by: Tunde on Sunday, 26 March 2006 at 8:53pm BST

Thanks for correcting that newspaper's error, but it still shows that not all Nigerian clergy share the same viewpoint.

I also noticed this report on a newslist regarding former Anglican Bishop of Uganda, Christopher Ssenyonjo who has been noted defending homosexuality, describing it as “a reality that has come to stay.”

Posted by: Jimbo on Wednesday, 29 March 2006 at 12:48am BST

Nobody in the Church of Nigeria is saying homosexuals should not live their lives the way they please; the issue at stake is that the homosexual practice is outlawed by the Bible as despicable before God. If the truth must be said by all who study the Bible, there is definitely no equivocations about the position of the Holy writ on the matter. If the Church of Nigeria applauds the law makers in Nigeria for strengthening its already held position on the issue, its only understandable given the fact that the C.O.N has always made its obligation to the Holy Scripture very clear in many places. The position of the C.O.N is that of loving the sinner but hating his sins...Shikina - Beni.

Posted by: Ven Obinna Ibezim on Friday, 13 March 2009 at 9:07pm GMT

Ven Obinna Ibezim wrote on Friday, 13 March 2009: "the issue at stake is that the homosexual practice is outlawed by the Bible as despicable before God."

This is not true of the Bible, it certainly is of certain late modern "translations" into anti Modern Social Politics.

In short: 'tis a Lie!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 14 March 2009 at 6:37am GMT
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