Thinking Anglicans

Anti-homosexuality legislation in Nigeria and Uganda

Updated Monday lunchtime

This roundup from Religion Dispatches summarises the situation:

Nigeria and Uganda: Harsh Anti-Gay Legislation Passes

Harsh anti-gay laws that had been pending for years in both Nigeria and Uganda received legislative approval.

The Nigerian bill is called the Anti Same-Sex Marriage bill, but it does much more than ban and punish same-sex marriage with 14 years in prison. It calls for up to 10 years jail time for those who “aid and abet” same-sex marriages and for public displays of affection as well as public or private advocacy – even the creation of social clubs. The fate of the “Jail the Gays” law now rests with President Goodluck Jonathan. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is divided between a mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south, and has dealt this year sectarian violence. According to a Daily Trust story on the bill’s passage, “Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC, Yobe) said Nigeria is a religious country and the two major religions do not accept same sex marriage.” Nigerian student Udoka Okafor has published an open letter to the president, which invokes Nelson Mandela as an example for the country to follow.

In Uganda, where some U.S. religious conservatives have actively backed anti-gay forces there, parliament passed anti-gay legislation that had been pending for years. Once known as the “kill the gays bill,” the legislation as passed did not include the death penalty but makes homosexuality punishable by life in prison. The bill was pushed through even though Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi protested the lack of a quorum.

Passage was celebrated by Martin Ssempa, an outspoken anti-gay pastor who is allied with conservative evangelicals in the U.S., and it was applauded by the Anglican Church in Uganda. On Christmas, Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira praised the legislation and urged parliament to pass a ban on abortion as well.

Gay Star News reported on Dec 26 that in response to demand from Apostle Joseph Serwadda, leader of Pentecostal churches in the country, the he sign the bill, president Museveni said he would review it carefully before deciding whether to sign it. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin explains that under the Ugandan constitution, the president does not have the power to veto the bill but can return it to Parliament twice, at which point it would need a two-thirds majority to become law.

Human Rights Watch released a video warning of violence against LGBT people and urged the president not to sign the bill. The White House reiterated its opposition to the bill, and a Christmas Eve statement from Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, read:

We are deeply concerned by the Ugandan Parliament’s passage of anti-homosexuality legislation. As Americans, we believe that people everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality – and that no one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or whom they love. We join those in Uganda and around the world who appeal for respect for the human rights of LGBT persons and of all persons.

The European Union and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office also released statements. Several news reports noticed the challenge facing western governments whose pro-equality advocacy is depicted as neo-colonial interference.

The UK Foreign Office statement about Uganda is here. There appears, at the time of writing, to be no corresponding statement about Nigeria.

There is a press briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights here.

More detail on the Nigerian bill is in this Buzzfeed report from Lester Feder.

See also this report from Human Rights Watch.

Comments by Changing Attitude are included at the end of this article.

Update

Extensive comment by Changing Attitude is now published in Stark choices face the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 2014.

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Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

The silence from our religious leaders in the face of these egregious abuses of human rights is deafening. Let’s pray that the evil being perpetrated by the governments of Uganda and Nigeria is cause for deep reflection and prayer. And let’s hope that at least one of our religious leaders rises to the occasion of speaking the Good News to all of God’s children in the face of this horror being perpetrated in the name of Jesus Christ.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

African countries and their national Anglican churches have so many pressing concerns: Overwhelming poverty, disease, unemployment, sectarian strife, that urgently cry out for attention, and where churches — and mosques — could do a great deal of good. Well, These bills will not put one bowl of nourishing food in a starving child’s hands. They will not prevent one case of AIDS. They will not kill a single malaria-carrying mosquito. They will not hire a single unemployed man or woman. They will not clean a liter of drinking water. These bills are, however, a way for certain leaders to feel… Read more »

Concerned Anglican
Guest
Concerned Anglican

Silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury, silence also from the likes of Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church of North America whose whole premise is underpinned by an anti gay philosophy. Can it be that they have become as it were ‘bedfellows’ in running away from the harsh realities of gay bashing pursed to its logical extreme?

Revd Laurie Roberts
Guest
Revd Laurie Roberts

These kinds of developments must surely hasten the demise of Christianity or at lest, Churchianity among decent, thoughtful twenty-first century people ?

Jean Mayland
Guest
Jean Mayland

The Nigerian legislation is inhuman.Come on AB Justin let us hear your opposition.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I completely agree that these bills are unjust and inhuman and wrong.

However, I also think that archbishops of Canterbury can’t win. When they try to influence theological debate in the USA they’re told to mind their own business and not act as if they are the Anglican pope. But when they don’t make an immediate comment on state legislation in African countries they are criticized for not speaking out.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“However, I also think that archbishops of Canterbury can’t win. When they try to influence theological debate in the USA they’re told to mind their own business and not act as if they are the Anglican pope. But when they don’t make an immediate comment on state legislation in African countries they are criticized for not speaking out.” Er, um, isn’t there a difference between a theological “debate” that involves justice and inclusion vs. a theologically influenced law that violates human rights with long imprisonment – that also inflames hatred and has resulted in murder and beatings. Are those two… Read more »

John Wirenius
Guest

It’s the one-sidedness of their efforts to influence the debate, Tim Chesterton. My longstanding grievance with the Windsor recommendations is not only that they have been afforded near canonical status, but that only those provisions affecting TEC have been; it’s always been a door that swings one way. I’ve been kvetching about this since 2009: “TEC is one of the very few churches to actually observe the Windsor Report’s recommendations to date. While we have complied with the request ‘to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

@Tim, that might be because putting a face to the Anglican Communion’s commitment to human rights is an appropriate use of the ABC’s time, while intervening in another province’s internal doctrinal and disciplinary deliberations is not. It’s not a “can’t win” situation, just a matter of exercising some judgment about when it’s appropriate to speak, and how.

Judith Maltby
Guest
Judith Maltby

Does anyone know if the Vatican or regional RC bishops have responded to these terrible developments reported here?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim,
even if you personally believed that those two sides were of equal moral weight (and knowing you, I know that you do not believe that), there is still the question of how we are to treat our enemies, how we are to deal with sin. It is entirely appropriate and desirable that an ABC who is anti-gay but believes in Christian values speaks out strongly against this abuse of human rights.

Or does our theoretical concept of fairness in a debate go so far that we ignore the actual serious harm done to real people?

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

A good first step would be for our bishops and archbishops to give their unequivocal and public support to the statements put out by the Foreign Office and the UN Human Rights Commission. That would hardly be a radical thing to do. They should be challenged either to do that or to explain why they won’t. As members of the House of Lords, it isn’t at all unreasonable for Bishops to be prepared to say whether they do or do not support the small government action of making this Foreign Office statement.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It is in this context that we must view the political activity of Andrea M Williams and understand the danger it represents. Christian Concern wants us to believe that the antithesis of imprisoning gay people for life is the criticism she receives for her views. That gay people should be able to live as free citizens and they and their families enjoy all the benefits of a civil society is, for her and her like, a denial of the Christian faith she espouses. Her faith is inimical to us and our own. She stands full square with those bishops who… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

Christianity has a sad proclivity to present itself in the most loathsome light. The Jews were the focus of this hateful self-parody for centuries. Now it is gays. Let us hope that the benighted fundamentalism and hate lances its own boil in an eructation of viscous pus before its poison spreads any further. Perhaps the fluffy feel-good rhetoric of Pope Francis is just what is needed now — as a widely appealing alternative to fundamentalism. Perhaps people will come to their senses and Christianity will once again become a generally benign and comforting religion like Judaism or Buddhism.

badman
Guest
badman

I disagree with Colin Coward’s emphasis on Dromantine. Dromantine was part of a power play, which was morally wrong and politically unsuccessful. The Dar es Salaam fiasco, and the collapse of the Anglican Covenant, coupled with the failure of the Windsor Report’s attempt to bargain Anglican unity out of rejection of gay bishops and blessings has left this whole chapter as history. I do not agree with a communique from Anglican primates as a proper source of quasi law, and so I do not agree with an appeal to Dromantine as if it had any sort of canonical force. The… Read more »

Lionel Deimel
Guest
Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It’s worth remembering that there was a fantastical strategy operating in a quite upfront way in the year from the meeting of the Primates in Dromantine to that in Dar es Salaam. Otherwise sensible people were somehow drawn into an outrageous belief that the Anglican Communion was actually made up of mostly nice ordinary people with a sensible middle ground approach to most things – and then there was “out of control TEC” self destructing and pulling the Communion to bits as it did, along with its less outrageous but still feckless partner across the border in Canada. on the… Read more »

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Yes, Martin Reynolds makes a good point. The so-called Anathema is, ultimately, a lying document that says ‘Peace, all is well’ when all is decidedly not well and there is no peace. It is a work of profound deception and cynicism that shows the emptiness of the Anglican Communion as a coherent structure – on this theme at any rate, maybe they rise to coherence and insight on other topics.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“the most virulent pedlars of this disastrous and deeply flawed policy, hawking themselves around as some sort of honest broker while in fact giving the ammunition to dig deeper trenches”

I could have *sworn* those of us in “out of control TEC” tried to explain this at the time (Dromantine to Dar Es Salaam) and were told, No, WE were the problem, trying to dictate our Radical Gay Agenda to the Faith-Once-Delivered Anglican Communion.

Must.Not.Be.Ugly.Americans.Saying.”We.Told.You.So.” :-/

Tobias Haller
Guest

Thank you, Martin, for this deep and perceptive view of the course by which the trenches were dug and bolstered.

There is the old saying that those who marry the spirit of an age are soon widowed. In this case, the “bride” was the false promise of peace under the pretense of Middle Way moderation, which has led now to some very uncomfortable bed-fellowship.

One might say, They have made their lie, now they bed it!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

What, if anything, is the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York going to say publicly about this latest foray by the Anglican Church in Uganda into homophobia?

Another question: Do these latest statements from Anglican archbishops in Uganda and Nigeria make any difference at all to the constitution of Anglicanism around the world? Are we to be for ever tainted with this ethos of Gay-bashing?

Andy
Guest
Andy

An interesting perspective from within Uganda which highlights the errors in western reporting, the counter-productive nature of the western statements of opposition and the exaggerated influence of Christianity.

http://namugongolife.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/homophobia-in-uganda-is-christianity-the-problem-or-the-solution/

MarkBrunson
Guest

That’s great, Andy, except that it’s dishonest. Perhaps if archbishops wouldn’t speak out in favor of the bills, you could make your case. You can’t, because they do. It is also dishonest to start with the premise that the essay does that – somehow, magically – because the bill doesn’t actually say “Kill the Gays” that it is not a call to do just that. Best case scenario – how do you think prison in Uganda is going to play out for someone jailed for homosexual acts? Now, I’m sorry, too, that the Christian religion has had such a hand… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

This is not the first attempt to airbrush away the legislation in Uganda and elsewhere as a ‘cultural’ response to western notions of morality and ethics. Here is another one http://www.peter-ould.net/2013/12/30/the-problem-with-uganda/ Although both authors in their way condemn the legislation neither accepts that some things are just plain wrong, whether culturally authored or not. Neither condemns the enthusiastic endorsements given to the legislation by Anglican Bishops, who may protest at the international outrage but have no problem about interfering in ecclesial politics elsewhere. Female Genital Mutilation is endemic in many societies. Whatever its cultural roots and its place in the… Read more »

Chris Howles
Guest
Chris Howles

Thanks Mark – I’m the author of the blog above that Andy linked to. It does appear that you have failed to actually engage with the argument I made in the post. You’ve just presumed that “the Christian religion has had such a hand in manipulating and intensifying the apparently inborn level of violence and cruelty found towards gays in parts of the world” but I’m trying to argue that actually that’s not true. Gospel-minded churches are the best hope for persecuted LGBT folk here. You can’t take the opposite premise of the argument and use that as the foundation… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Chris, your blog is most excellent. It is perhaps true that the Christian religion is not as influential as is perceived. However, this is a blog about the Christian, particularly Anglican, response. First of all, it is absolutely true that some very wealthy American conservative evangelicals have been visiting Uganda and affirming the homophobia of the Anglican bishops. Whether or not that plays out as a “proxy war” for the culture wars in the West, I’m not sure. But they’ve been there and they’ve spread their hate along with their money. Second, these African Anglican bishops have been meddling in… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“There’s something much deeper going on in this country/continent regarding cultural homophobia that the Western press, and yourself it seems, are not thinking about and not noticing.”

So have Anglican bishops in Africa (a) supported or (b) opposed violently homophobic legislation?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I’m simply saying that Missionaries, and Christianity in general, are not to blame for this bill.” – Chris Howles – Was it Edmund Burke who said that all one needs to do to promote evil, is to ignore its existence? Unfortunately for the world-wide Anglican Communion (which suffers as a result of the Ugandan and Nigerian statements made to support their countries’ legislation against Gays) this behaviour on the part of Anglican Archbishops is seen as Anglicans actively supporting the sin of endemic homophobia. Whether that is the intention of these archbishops or not, this is the perception that the… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

This legislation is oppressive. Hopefully it will be overturned soon. However, Martyn is making too much of it. Most conservatives don’t think consensual gay sex should be a criminal offence.

On the other hands I sometimes wonder whether there are any liberals who believe that people should be free to be conservative on sexuality – without fear of being sued or sacked!?

MarkBrunson
Guest

‘”There’s something much deeper going on in this country/continent regarding cultural homophobia that the Western press, and yourself it seems, are not thinking about and not noticing.” So have Anglican bishops in Africa (a) supported or (b) opposed violently homophobic legislation?’ And that’s what it boils down to? So, Chris – are you saying these Anglican bishops really aren’t Christian? And, yes, I got you premise. I engaged with it, and you failed to understand that. You started with the premise that Christianity is somehow the last, best hope of LGBT’s in Africa, which denies that there is something there… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Dave,
“On the other hands I sometimes wonder whether there are any liberals who believe that people should be free to be conservative on sexuality – without fear of being sued or sacked!?”

Absolutely. As long as they live out their convictions in their own lives and do not insist on trying to impose them on others.

Revd Laurie Roberts
Guest
Revd Laurie Roberts

For me, the Churches are the greatest single block to faith.

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“whether there are any liberals who believe that people should be free to be conservative on sexuality – without fear of being sued or sacked!?” Dave

Of course – if the way in which that conservatism is expressed is within the law. But if it is within the law then there is nothing to fear anyway.

If the conservatism manifests itself in actions outside the law, why should religious scruple give anyone a free pass beyond the array of privileged equality exemptions the CofE – and others – have already secured for themselves?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“whether there are any liberals who believe that people should be free to be conservative on sexuality – without fear of being sued or sacked!?” Dave I don’t know about being sued or sacked, it depends on how the conservative person manifests their beliefs. Ultimately, some conservative positions are exclusive of other people. That causes suffering and injustice. Why on earth should the person and position causing the suffering and injustice prevail? Causing suffering and injustice on others is immoral. So I would say that it’s fine to hold exclusive beliefs, but it is immoral to act upon them to… Read more »

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

A thread that was supposed to be about clear and present danger to the safety and liberty of LGBTs in Africa has now been hijacked to be about imaginary threats to Christian conservatives in the West. It’s sad how Dave wants all this to be about him and his friends instead of about African gays being locked up for the rest of their lives.

One notes the complete silence of Churches, ginger groups and mission agencies regarding the issue at hand with interest.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I agree with Mervyn. I was prepared to give the churches etc. time. The original news is from 28 December after all, in the middle of the Christmas period.
But were now on 3 January and still no-one seems to have said anything…

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“One notes the complete silence of Churches, ginger groups and mission agencies regarding the issue at hand with interest.” Yes, I think that our leaders have drunk the Kool-Aid that says that pressure from the West only entrenches the human rights abusers… And yet, due to Western outrage the bills were watered down from “Kill the Gays” to simply jail us for a long time. That pressure helped. So it is very, very difficult to understand the silence of our leaders in the face of these abuses. That goes for the ABC as well as the PB of TEC and… Read more »

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

I have a hard time getting all choked up over the travails of right wingers who once dominated everything and now find themselves marginalized. Being fired or sued is hardly in the same league as being jailed, beaten, raped, and murdered. All of those things happened many times over to LGBTs for decades, and are still happening. I can ride the subway to church secure in the knowledge that no one is going to attack me and beat me up in New York City (or in any Western country) for being a Christian. There are no mobs forming anywhere to… Read more »

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Guest
Davis Mac-Iyalla

4th of January and I still don’t hear any comments or press statement from the leaders of the mother Church, the Church of England about the Nigeria and Uganda Jail the Gays Bill.
http://76crimes.com/2013/12/31/new-years-optimism-for-threatened-nigerian-lgbts/

It’s like they simply don’t care, next step for me will be an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and York.

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“It’s like they simply don’t care, next step for me will be an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and York.” Davis Mac-Iyalla

Which is about as much use as writing to the Queen. You will receive an anodyne standard email in response telling you that the Archbishop is too busy to read all his correspondence but thanking you for your interest.

Lorenzo
Guest

Not necessarily, David, I once wrote a very angry letter to Rowan and he answered personally. But that was Rowan, and my bishop delivered the letter. There’s definitely no harm in trying.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

An open letter does not have to be delivered. It doesn’t necesarily require a personal response to the writer. It’s more of a formal public request for an official response. Depending on where it is published an open letter can be quite successful.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“next step for me will be an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and York.” Saying what? That you don’t think Canterbury and York should be silent when their fellow bishops are calling for the criminalisation of homosexuality? Wouldn’t that involve Canterbury and York actually condemning African bishops for their homophobia? Do you really think that Welby is willing to do that? Welby’s firstly completely unwilling to criticise African churches no matter what they do, and secondly unwilling to criticise homophobes in anything other than the vaguest of terms. So he’s entirely relaxed about the whole business. Pretty much… Read more »

FD Blanchard
Guest
FD Blanchard

I think an open letter is an excellent idea, even if the Archbishop never reads it. A lot of other people will.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Where would one post this “open letter?” Could we write one as a group? Include the fact that it’s Anglicans from CoE, TEC, and any other province that wishes mention and ask our leaders to stand up for justice, human rights, and the dignity of every person – all being created in the image of God. Perhaps invoke the UN’s stance on human rights, maybe that Anglican “Dromantine” thing that Martin talked about, and even invoke the loving Christ who served the outcasts in opposition to the powerful. I’m for it. If our leaders won’t show moral leadership, than we… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“But where would such a letter go?”

Traditionally, the letters page of The Times.

Since The Times went behind a paywall, the Guardian has become more popular for such things.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

It’s definitely important that it does not go somewhere with a paywall but somewhere where people can subsequently share the letter to their Facebook or blogs if they want to do that.

Simon, do you happen to know where a letter like that is most likely to be accepted and published?

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

Aim to get hundreds or thousands of signatures from serving licensed clergy. That would be noticed wherever it was published. Needs to be on a suitable petition website where people can add their names. Have a separate letter for laity—what will catch attention is a substantial proportion of the entire clergy.

All just suggestions.

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

The Guardian.