As passage of a new law in Uganda requiring jail time and possibly a death sentence for gays and lesbians, or those who aid and abet them, seems inevitable, a group comprised of both conservative and liberal U.S. Christians has issued statement opposing the measure:
As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda. […] As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation.
It’s heartening to see such a diverse group of people come together on this statement and actually express not just “dismay” but “condemnation” of this pending law. Would that voices like Rick Warren’s be raised so forcefully against this inhumane law that will certainly spell genocide for gays and lesbians in Uganda. Alas, Warren and political leaders with religious leanings like those who belong to The Family remain silent, even though there is evidence of their relationship with the author and supporters of the proposed law.
What’s interesting is to inspect the signers of this declaration. The first to jump out at me was Ronald Sider from Evangelicals for Social Action. Sider was also a signer of the Manhattan Declaration that clearly spells out its opposition to marriage equality for gays and lesbians here in the states, along with promising civil disobedience to laws allowing such marriages and actively fighting against abortion rights and the curbing of (their) religious freedoms. While Sider may want to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying, at least he has the decency to honor the sanctity of all life, including gays and lesbians. Other conservative signers include Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council. Rodriguez also signed the Manhattan Declaration and was a supporter of California’s Proposition 8 to overturn marriage equality in that state, and has been called the “Karl Rove of Hispanic evangelical strategy.” Another notable signer is Mercer University professor and author David Gushee, who has refused to sign the Manhattan Declaration.
Other names on the statement are no surprise like Rev. Debra Haffner from the Religious Institute, which strongly supports LGBT rights. I’m glad to see other names, including Geoffrey Black, the general minister of my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, on the list of signatories, along with Emerging Church authors Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass.
Other usual suspects include Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, The Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, Incoming President of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA, Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, the General Minister and President of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, and Melissa Rogers, the Director of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs. What’s troubling about their signatures, however, is that each of them sits on President Obama’s advisory council for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. One of the mandates of this office includes “beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.” So far, President Obama has been silent on the pending law in Uganda. I feel that it is incumbent upon these signers to bring pressure to bear on the president over this issue. I certainly hope that is what they are doing behind the scenes, because so far, Obama’s continued silence speaks volumes.