Africa: Religious leaders criticize Obama comments on LGBT human rights
A story from the Catholic News Agency rounds up critical commentary from members of the church hierarchy in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s advocacy for the human rights of LGBT people during his visit to Kenya last weekend. In his appearance with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama said, “With respect to the rights of gays and lesbians, I have been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the State should not discriminate against the people based on their sexual orientation.” LGBT advocates were among 70 members of civil society who met with Obama while he was in Kenya.
The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports that Obama also made a subtle reference to LGBT rights while he was in Ethiopia for a speech to the African Union, saying, ““Every one of us is equal,” he said. “Every one of us has worth. Every one of us matters. And we respect the freedom of others, no matter the color of their skin or how they pray or who they are or who they love, we are all more free.”
From the CNA recap:
“Even if people don’t like us for it, our Church has always said homosexuality is unnatural and marriage is between a man and a woman,” Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja told the News Agency of Nigeria July 26….
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, a Ghanaian, also weighed in on the U.S. president’s comments, emphasizing that for the Church, homosexual activity is both contrary to the law of God and “anti-human,” Breitbart News reports….
Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, who is Nigerian, responded to Obama’s advocacy saying, “Most Africans care about religious values, about the family, about the complementary nature of man and woman and the culture that makes us Africans. Why can we not choose what ‘benevolence’ to accept from the West? Why can we not just be helped to fight corruption, terrorism, unemployment disease and illiteracy?”
“Nobody should be killed for private wayward or immoral behaviors that do not compromise other people’s lives,” the bishop affirmed, “but that does not mean all kinds of exotic sexual adventure must be foisted on other nationalities in the name of rights.”
“America claims to be a great democracy and the proof of that fact will be found in her capacity for sincere dialogue and readiness to respect the legitimate values and world view of other peoples,” Bishop Badejo concluded…
Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila has noted that foreign aid given to the Philippines is oftentimes is linked to some measures that the receiving country is somehow forced to accept … some of the conditions for the aid seem to be an acceptance or a welcoming of some views regarding marriage, or sexuality, or what, which could be alien to the vision of the receiving country or culture.”
We reported last week that 700 evangelical pastors had signed a letter urging Obama not to address gay rights on his trip. The organizer of the letter, Mark Kariuki, responded to Obama’s remarks by calling gay rights “a non-issue,” the same language used by Kenyatta. In the U.S., evangelical leader Franklin Graham also slammed Obama’s remarks as “exporting the acceptability of immorality.”
In a related note, on Monday, 125 members of the U.S. Congress wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking the State Department “to deny recognition of the spouses of foreign diplomats from countries that will not recognize the same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats,” reports Lester Feder at BuzzFeed.
Turkey, Islam and Homosexuality
Mustafa Akyol, author of “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty,” published an op-ed in the New York Times this week asking, “What Does Islam Say About Being Gay?” Akyol describes religious anti-gay rhetoric that followed the attack on Istanbul’s gay pride parade in late June, including posters urging the killing of gays, which he says “suggests that both Turkey and the Muslim world need to engage in some soul-searching when it comes to tolerance for their gay compatriots.”
Aykol notes that “Turkey scores slightly better on measures of gay rights when compared with some nearby Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Armenia and Ukraine,” and that some LGBT singers, artists, and designers have been popular. But, he writes, “the traditional mainstream Islamic view on homosexuality produced intolerance in Turkey toward gays and creates starker problems in Muslim nations that apply Shariah,” including those who make homosexuality a capital offense.
Aykol says the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at the heart of the Islamic view on homosexuality, but questions, as Christians debating the same topic do, whether God’s punishment was actually about homosexuality or about violent attacks on God’s messengers.
The even more significant nuance is that while the Quran narrates this divine punishment for Sodom and Gomorrah, it decrees no earthly punishment for homosexuality — unlike the Old Testament, which clearly decrees that homosexuals “are to be put to death.”…
The real Islamic basis for punishing homosexuality is the hadiths, or sayings, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. (The same is true for punishments on apostasy, heresy, impiety, or “insults” of Islam: None come from the Quran; all are from certain hadiths.) But the hadiths were written down almost two centuries after the prophet lived, and their authenticity has been repeatedly questioned — as early as the ninth century by the scholar Imam Nesai — and they can be questioned anew today. Moreover, there is no record of the prophet actually having anyone punished for homosexuality.
Such jurisprudential facts might help Muslims today to develop a more tolerant attitude toward gays, as some progressive Islamic thinkers in Turkey, such as Ihsan Eliacik, are encouraging. What is condemned in the story of Lot is not sexual orientation, according to Mr. Eliacik, but sexual aggression. People’s private lives are their own business, he argues, whereas the public Muslim stance should be to defend gays when they are persecuted or discriminated against — because Islam stands with the downtrodden.
It is also worth recalling that the Ottoman Caliphate, which ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries and which the current Turkish government claims to emulate, was much more open-minded on this issue. Indeed, the Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites. The Ottoman sultans, arguably, were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World.
Despite such arguments, the majority of Muslims are likely to keep seeing homosexuality as something sinful, if public opinion polls are any indication. Yet those Muslims who insist on condemning gays should recall that according to Islam, there are many sins, including arrogance, which the Quran treats as among the gravest moral transgressions. For Turks and other Muslims, it could be our own escape from the sin of arrogance to stop stigmatizing others for their behavior and focus instead on refining ourselves.
Islamic State militants released yet another video of an execution of a man charged with homosexuality.
Vatican: Conservatives unhappy with theological ‘shadow council’
The Catholic News Agency’s Andrea Gagliarducci charged this week that speakers at a May 25 “shadown council” of theologians and prelates promoted changes in church teaching on “contraception, homosexual acts, and Communion for the divorced and remarried” and argued against viewing some acts as “intrinsically evil.”
The document’s introduction explained that the convention was divided into three parts: a reflection on Christ’s words regarding marriage and divorce; on sexuality as an expression of love and “a theology of love”; and on the gift of life and “a narrative theology” – theology based on personal experience.
This “narrative theology,” based on individual experiences – and the consequences of adopting it – is the real news of the ‘Shadow Synod’ convention.
Gagliarducci reports on theologians calling for changes in church teachings on family, divorce, and remarriage, and concludes:
In the end, the proposal of the German bishops, and those who stand with them, is one of a human-centered theology: changing with the spirit of the times, and affirming all situations and choices which become widespread.
Gagliarducci was probably similarly unhappy with a TIME magazine column by Christopher Hale, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, arguing that Pope Francis has “changed the Church on LGBT issues.”
In the U.S., groups representing American LGBT Catholics have asked for a meeting with Pope Francis when he is in the U.S. in September for the World Meeting of Families. A copy of the letter is posted at GLAAD’s website.
GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis and Dignity USA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke signed the letter to the pontiff the Human Rights Campaign, the Latino GLBT History Project and other organizations endorsed. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Mt. Rainier, Md., is among those who also back the request.
“Many LGBT people and family members have experienced a resurgence of hope for full acceptance in our church as a result of your words and reports of personal meetings with LGBT people,” reads the letter. “We see your visit to the U.S. as an opportunity for you to hear from us how central our faith is to our lives, and to work together towards creating a church where all families know that we are truly loved and welcomed.”
The pressure from gay Catholics and their families poses a unique challenge for the pope as he tries to connect with an American church in flux. The hallmark of his papacy has been his pastoral approach to those living at the margins — especially the poor, immigrants and prisoners. But it is unclear whether he includes sexual minorities among those in need of justice, and Catholic groups of all kinds are demanding answers, and discussion….
With gay Catholics clamoring to be heard, and the pope expected to address a crowd of more than one million in Philadelphia to close a landmark Catholic event on family life called the World Meeting of Families, the stage for a reckoning is set.
Nicole Santamaría from El Salvador, an intersex woman, born with the physical characteristics of both genders, plans to attend the World Meeting with her mother. She called on the pope to broaden his welcome beyond traditional families.
“To families who are different, let him speak out and say that we are beloved human beings, that we are beloved of God,” she said. “I don’t want another teenaged boy or girl to take his or her life because they thought that not even God loves them.”
In Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin met with gay Catholics last week.
Israel: Ultra-Orthodox man stabs six people at Jerusalem Pride Parade
“At least six people were stabbed at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade on Thursday,” reports Haaretz. One victim was critically wounded. According to the paper, the suspected attacker is Yishai Shlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Haredi who had recently been released from prison, where he was held after being convicted of attempted murder after he stabbed people at the 2005 pride march.
More from the Guardian:
The march has long been a focus of tension between Israel’s predominantly secular majority and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority, who object to homosexuality.
Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade is smaller and more restrained than the annual gay pride march in Tel Aviv, which was attended by some 100,000 revellers last month.
Before the march, a representative of the far-right Lehava group told the Jerusalem Post in an interview that it considered homosexuality the same as “robbing a bank” and believed it was destroying the Jewish nation….
The Jewish state repealed a ban on consensual same-sex sexual acts in 1988.
BBC reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin have condemned the attack.
An Orthodox newspaper, The Yeshiva World, ran a story with the headline “Charedi Man Stabs 6 in Jerusalem Toeiva Parade.” Toeiva, meaning abomination, is the word some ultra-Orthodox use rather than gay or homosexual; some of the paper’s commenters urged them to change the headline out of respect for the stabbing victims.
Also this week, the Associated Press reported on “Oriented,” a new documentary that chronicles the lives of three gay Arab citizens of Israel, including Khader Abu Seif and “the dichotomy of his life as a gay Arab Israeli citizen considered an outcast by the Palestinian society for his sexuality and viewed with unease by some Israelis for his brand of nationality.”
Mexico: Marriage equality advances; opponents take to the streets
An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people marched in Guadalajara, Mexico, in an anti-abortion and anti-gay protest organized by a coalition called Jalisco Is One for Children and, as reported by EFE, supported by the archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega. LifeSiteNews reported that similar marches took place in other cities, protesting the recent marriage equality ruling by the nation’s highest court. The site quotes an organizer Sofia Miranda warning that the ruling “opens the door to gender ideology and will destabilize our society and damage our children.” As we have reported,“gender ideology” is a term used by some members of the Catholic hierarchy and their political allies to oppose LGBT equality and sex education. Marchers were also protesting a new law that requires sex ed and “access to contraceptive methods.”
Meanwhile, marriage equality’s advance continued, with the Governor of Morelos signing off on a bill to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in that state.
Georgia: Orthodox Church ‘comes out swinging’ against LGBT tolerance
The Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum reported on struggles over gay rights in Eastern Europe as a “battleground” between Russia and the West.
Eastern Europe, long a stronghold of virulent homophobia, is reexamining attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and the debate has become a new battleground in the conflict between Russia and the West. The Kremlin has seized the opening, warning its former satellite states that if they align with decadent Europe, moral collapse will soon follow.
The article reviews both progress (Latvia) and continued resistance (Ukraine) to LGBT equality, and says “in Georgia, opportunities for gay rights advocates seem even more dismal.”
And in Georgia, opportunities for gay rights advocates seem even more dismal. The Georgian Orthodox Church — which has powerful historic ties to its Russian Orthodox counterparts — has come out swinging against any effort to promote tolerance of gays and lesbians. It succeeded in briefly tying up legislation required for E.U. visa liberalization, a popular pro-European measure, because Europe required that Georgia outlaw anti-gay discrimination. The black-clad priests who took a leading role in the violent anti-gay riot in 2013 wielded weapons against a handful of pro-tolerance protesters.
Russia: struggle over ‘gay lobby’ in Orthodox Church; Russia as world’s “moral leader”
A controversy over a supposed “gay lobby” within the Russian Orthodox Church drew the attention of Russian media and was reported on by Le Temps, a French-language newspaper based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Monday night, in [Ulyanovsk] this city 560 miles west of Moscow, the faithful gathered and started to boo the metropolitan Bishop Anastasius before he could even begin his sermon. Newly appointed at the city’s church, Anastasius has been haunted by a scandal since 2013, in which he allegedly harassed homosexuals at the Kazan Theological Seminary.
As Anastasius approached the entrance, 50 people who were waiting for him began to shout: “Anaksios!” (Greek for “disgraceful”). The Cossacks in charge of his security struggled to hold back the protesters, who followed the cleric up to the altar, and a brawl was just about avoided.
Two local Orthodox priests, Ioan Kossykh and Georgy Roschupkyn, were among the protesters. They started the movement soon after they heard about Anastasius’ promotion to metropolitan.
“When I learned of his designation, I was taken aback,” Kossykh wrote on his blog. “How can a man in such an ill-repute be appointed to our community?”
The two priests are calling for his public repentance or, at the very least, explanations from the Church hierarchy, which so far has rejected their demands and declared that Anastasius will remain in his position.
The day after the incident, Metropolitan Anastasius answered to the uproar: “Someone is trying to recreate another Maidan …” a reference to the political uprising in Kiev which has become synonymous with foreign infiltration to undermine Russian interests.
Le Temps said no officials with the Russian patriarchate agreed to comment publicly on the issue.
Andrei Kouraiev, a priest at loggerheads with the clergy, is of the opinion that “the patriarchate had to show to its members that it will not give up on them, if they are loyal. It serves to intimidate the lower ranks as well.”
Kouraiev accuses a gay lobby of undermining the Orthodox Church, and foresees a harsh punishment for the two outspoken priests, Kossykh and Roschupkyn.
Elena Volkova, a specialist of Orthodox Church affairs, says “the existence of a gay lobby is beyond doubt,” and being part of it “assures you will climb the hierarchical ladder very quickly.”
Volkova says there have also been many cases of sexual violence against young priests. “It doesn’t surprise anyone, but it is absolutely taboo. Those who dare to talk about this are hunted down and harassed,” she said.
Senior officials are dead-set on a “no public apologies” policy for incidents of abuse, Volkova says. “This policy explains the patriarchate’s violently homophobic campaigns. The criticism against the gay community are meant to divert the people’s attention away from their own vices.”
Both the Orthodox Church and the Kremlin have been aggressively and openly homophobic since 2012, when President Vladimir Putin launched his campaign for a third term with a far-right agenda. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill regularly praises Putin in public, and in exchange enjoys material and administrative privileges. There is also control over the judicial system, which in the latest case meant that an investigation has been opened in Ulyanovsk against the two dissident priests.
Also in Russia, the Guardian reports that Yelena Klimova, founder of a website intended to support LGBT teens, was fined 50,000 rubles for violating the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law which prohibits promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”
Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch reports that Sam Rohrer, a former state legislator who heads the American Pastors Network declared that Russia under Vladimir Putin is now the “moral leader of the world.”
“Our administration is trying to tie together foreign aid into countries in Africa that have actually passed laws against homosexuality and in favor of traditional marriage. They’re trying to use and force these countries to actually embrace same-sex marriage. Our country, this nation is probably doing more to advance the face of same-sex marriage than anything else.”
“I look over to Russia, Putin, the Russian Orthodox Church has now lifted themselves up as the moral leader of the world,” Rohrer continued. “Believe it or not, Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church [are] the protectors of moral truth. The West and the United States have become the leaders of moral depravity.”
Australia: Conservative Christians target anti-bullying program in schools
The Australian Christian Lobby is attacking an anti-bullying program, arguing that it promotes “radical sexual experimentation.” From Pink News:
The Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) scheme – which is also available in Victoria, Tasmania, The Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales – is fully federally funded and has been used to make schools in the area, as Brisbane Times puts, “more inclusive for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse young people.”
In order to promote acceptance within these educational environments the resources are captioned with lines such as: “this is a discrimination free zone. Homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated, K thanks” or “safe schools do better”.
As well as posters, the scheme also aims to tackle improper language use – such as “that’s so gay” – by showing children how to use other phrases to describe something negative.
Wendy Francis – Queensland state director of the ACL – told the Brisbane Times: “No one should be bullied at school, including children grappling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
“But this program goes way beyond an anti-bullying program…Children have the right to their innocence…the wallpaper of our children’s lives should not be continually sexual.”
The ACL has launched a petition calling for the government to “immediately cease this program which promotes radical sexual experimentation from Queensland schools.” They are also arguing that some of the program materials did not go through a parliamentary filter, even though the materials in question are not utilised in the Queensland scheme.
In other news, an Australian man, Brian Leonard Golightly Marshall, who has long proclaimed himself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, drew some media attention this week after a poster on Reddit said his wife’s father-in-law was leaving his family to join BLGM, as he calls himself. The self-proclaimed messiah says former Pope Benedict “planned to officially proclaim him the second coming in March, 2013, only to have the announcement foiled by Pope Francis, who he refers to as ‘the anti-Christ.’” His Facebook page announces that he is also “ Sri Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the 10th incarnation of Buddha, Pahani the True White Brother of the Hopi, Yahweh, the 12th Imam Medhi the End Times Caliph of the Shi’ah Muslims.” The Daily Mail reproduces a graphic with Marhsall’s image surrounded by flames, proclaiming “Almighty God BLGM is taking back his rainbow the LGBT will be destroyed as they were at Sodom and Gomorrah in their day.”
Italy: Opus Dei lawmaker says gays who want to marry should change gender
Paola Binetti, an Italian lawmaker who is reportedly a member of Opus Dei, said that a recent Court ruling recognizing the ability of transgender people to legally change their gender means that gay people who want to get married should just change their gender.
“Why do we need to pass a law on civil unions for homosexual couples, and to engage in a lengthy semantic debate around what ‘marriage’ means today?’ she asked. “Why must we embark on a bitter parliamentary battle on the value of the family, to decide whether certain reforms will strengthen it or weaken it further?”
“It would be a complete waste of time: all debate has now been rendered void by the recent verdict of the Supreme Court in the case of the individual who has demanded the right to change sex without surgical intervention.”
Colombia: Constitutional Court has hearing on same-sex marriage
The Colombian Constitutional Court held a hearing on marriage equality for same-sex couples on Thursday. LGBT advocates and government officials argued in favor; among the opponents was a representative of the US-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which as we reported last week, has recently expanded its operations in Latin America. From the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:
“A judge or registry is not violating fundamental rights when they refuse to register the marriage of a same-sex couple,” said Javier Suárez Pascagaza, president of the Husband and Wife Foundation.
A representative from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT group from the U.S. that has supported efforts against the repeal of colonial-era sodomy laws in Belize and Jamaica, also testified during the hearing.
Lavers notes that the Court “in 2011 ruled that same-sex couples could register their relationships in two years if lawmakers in the South American country did not pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.” But lawmakers have defeated legislation to extend marriage equality to same-sex couples and “Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado has challenged the rulings that allowed them to marry.”
Anglican Communion: Conservatives slam Episcopal Church
The conservative Anglican Communion Institute is complaining that the Episcopal Church’s General Convention;s approval of a trial rite for same-sex marriage has put the church at odds with the broader Anglican Communion.
All this points to a time ahead of stress and uncertainty for Anglicanism in the United States. ACI believes that the following elements, however, must be recognized and acted upon if this time ahead is to prove fruitful rather than simply destructive.
First, we must acknowledge that TEC as a national body is no longer recognizably “Anglican” in an Anglican-Communion sense. A broad range of commonly defining features of Anglican Communion churches — e.g. the Lambeth Quadrilateral, which makes Scripture the “rule and ultimate standard of faith”; the definition of Anglicanism specified in TEC’s own constitution and in 1930 Lambeth Conference Resolution 49 (i.e., “upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer”); other Lambeth resolutions including 1998 I.10; the Windsor Report and its moratoria that were subsequently adopted by all the Instruments of Communion; the framework of an Anglican Communion “Common Law” (as N. Doe and others have identified it), etc. — no longer exists in TEC.
Second, dioceses, bishops, priests, and laity who are currently members of TEC, but who do continue to hold their identity within the common Anglican elements noted above, need to set about, corporately and in a coordinated way, to work with the larger Anglican Communion for a way forward. That kind of work has, in the past, been subverted by a range of local and larger factors, including personal ones. Something different has to happen at this point, and both the American and Communion leadership concerned with this must work with a new consultative forthrightness and clarity.
Third, we believe that American Communion-minded Anglicans must formally call on Canterbury, and the Primates to respond to the need expressed above expeditiously and constructively. Past reticence, foot-dragging, deference to local politics, and simple failures to follow through are no longer viable ways forward.
Fourth, we urge friends and ecumenical partners to play a consultative, constructive and creative role in this process.
Insofar as TEC has claimed it has a life in the Anglican Communion it cares about, just to that degree it is necessary for the Anglican Communion to clarify what that might be, in the light of General Convention actions and the new self-understanding in NEC. General Convention has acted and declared its mind. What will the response of the Anglican Communion be?
U.S. Territories: Same-sex couples marry in Northern Marianas, U.S. Virgin Islands
A Chinese lesbian couple became the first same-sex couple married on the island of Saipan. Mayor David Apatang told the Marianas Variety that although he is a devoted Catholic, “he believes that his religion also requires him to abide by the law of the land.” The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is an American territory and after the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, Attorney General Edward Manibusan issued a memorandum bringing marriage application and recording rules in line with the decision. The first gay couple has also been married in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Japan: Second municipality to recognize same-sex partnerships
Japan Times reports, Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward said it will start issuing certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships as early as November to support the rights of sexual minorities, becoming the second municipal government in Japan to take such a step.” The recognition is not legally binding but aims to assist couples facing discrimination in housing and dealing with hospitals.
Jamaica: Advocates preparing for first pride celebration
LGBT advocates are preparing for the country’s first Pride celebration, which will run concurrently with the country’s Emancipation and Independence celebrations from August 1-8.