Anti-Gay Ugandan Bill Set to Pass. Warren Silent.

Just this week, the New York state legislature handed the gay and lesbian community another defeat in their battle for marriage equality. This is another in a long line of defeats for gays and lesbians, despite bright spots like the passage of such a measure in Washington, DC.

When I begin to get depressed about the afflictions faced by gays and lesbians in the United States, my thoughts turn to my brothers and sisters in Uganda who soon will face jail, and possibly death, for simply existing. Fighting, and even losing, a battle for marriage equality would be a welcome luxury for them.

Despite international pressure against this despicable and inhumane law, Reuters is reporting that it will likely pass, with some modifications.

Spero News reports that the terms of the bill currently are:

“[L]ife term in prison for one homosexual act. Option of the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, which includes relations with a minor or a disabled person; repeated homosexual acts; and if the offender (initiator of the act) has HIV, or uses drugs or alcohol to procure sex.

The bill further bans the promotion of homosexuality, and proposes a 3-year prison term for anyone failing to report homosexuals to the police.

Changes, according to the Reuters report, could “include modifying the death penalty to life imprisonment, altering clauses nullifying international treaties, conventions and protocols that contradict the act, and removing a section about extradition.”

That’s little comfort for the gay and lesbian community in Uganda, along with anyone who may be accused of being gay or lesbian even if they aren’t. The upshot of the law, overall, could be the indiscriminate use of it against anyone declared to be an enemy of the government. We may be surprised to find out just how many “homosexuals” Uganda has if this law passes and is allowed to stand.

Those opposed to the law say it is illegal and they will challenge it, but barring an injunction, how many gays and lesbians – and those simply accused of being gay or lesbian – will die before that can happen?

Part of the blame for the creation and passage of this law lay squarely at the feet of Evangelical Christians in the United States like Rick Warren. Ugandan officials are convinced homosexuality is a “Western import,” and have turned a deaf ear to religious leaders in many mainstream denominations around the world who have opposed the bill. But, the religious voices that could have made a difference went silent. After all, as Michelle Goldberg has already pointed out here, this law is merely the logical outcome of the anti-gay work that Warren and his religious right counterparts have already done in Africa:

Rick Warren has been deeply involved in planting churches in Africa and mentoring African preachers. Breakaway factions of American mainline denominations, objecting to the ordination of gay priests and the sanctioning of gay unions, have put themselves under the authority of conservative African clerics.

Warren though has a refused to condemn the legislation and washed his hands of the whole affair:

The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.

It was English philosopher Edmund Burke who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Burke got it half right – evil doesn’t need to rely solely on the silence of good people. It can still triumph when bad, apathetic men do nothing. American Evangelical leaders, whose word carries weight in Africa, could have changed the course of this proposed law, but did nothing. Because of their inaction, innocent men, women, children will die, and Warren and his fellows will fold their bloodstained hands and sleep like babies.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)