World Congress of Families and the Cancellation that Wasn’t
We have reported on plans by the World Congress of Families to hold one of its annual summits in Moscow this month – and the suspension of those plans in the wake of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. This week BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that the event – or something remarkably similar – will take place in Moscow next week after all. It will still be held inside the Kremlin and Christ the Savior Cathedral, and will still include Russian political and religious leaders, as well as American Religious Right figures such as Austin Ruse of C-FAM. Feder reports that WCF’s Larry Jacobs and Don Feder are listed as event organizers in a program for the event, even though Jacobs insisted it is not a WCF event.
It’s been a rough week for the WCF, whose meeting in Australia, as Feder notes, “was disrupted by protests, venue cancelations, and the withdrawal of participation from high-profile politicians.” The group was offered space at the last minute by Catch the Fire Ministries, which was happy to host the event. Catch the Fire said was attended by about 350 people and about 50 protesters.
Also headed overseas this month is Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. HRC reports that Brown will be going to France to take part in a training session sponsored by Manif Pour Tous, the anti-marriage equality group. Brown has a record of participating in anti-gay efforts in both France and Russia.
Nigeria: Christian-Muslim Solidarity and Competition on Homosexuality
At The Immanent Frame, which “publishes interdisciplinary perspectives on secularism, religion, and the public sphere,” Rudolf Gaudio examines “the crucial place of organized religion in the postcolonial Nigerian state’s efforts at forging a unified national public.” He starts by describing the cityscape of capital city Abuja, “dominated by two houses of worship known as the National Mosque and the National Church,” which “symbolically reinforces the Christian/Muslim divide that the Nigerian state is constantly struggling to overcome.” The article examines religious divides — Nigeria is struggling against violence carried out in its north by Boko Haram – as well as efforts at national unity. Gaudio says public discourse about homosexuality is an example of “ecumenical solidarity.”
After President Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in December 2013, for example, Muslim and Christian spokesmen alike praised the government for defending the country’s “traditional” moral values. Yet Nigerians’ apparent unanimity with respect to gay rights is not absolute. A close analysis of Muslim and Christian leaders’ pronouncements on the topic reveals instructive rhetorical differences. In particular, whereas Christian leaders are apt to condemn homosexuality as “un-African,” their Muslim counterparts typically speak more vaguely of shared moral values without clearly specifying an ethnic or racial referent. These subtle differences index divergent ideological stances with respect to a putative “African” sexual culture, as well as historical tensions within and between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria.
The claim that homosexuality is “un-African” is widely understood as marking resistance to the neocolonial imposition of liberal Western values. Yet one of the leading proponents of this claim, Nigeria’s former Anglican Primate Peter Akinola, has explained that his vocal opposition to homosexuality was motivated not by anticolonial fervor, but by the competitive threat of Islam. If the Anglican Church were perceived to be condoning homosexuality, the archbishop risked losing his flock to other Christian churches or, even worse, to Islam. Far from renouncing the legacy of colonialism, Akinola and other Nigerian Christians view the acceptance of homosexuality by liberal Western churches as a betrayal of the values taught by the missionaries. This sense of betrayal is heightened by Christians’ sensitivity to accusations from cultural nationalists that they have forsaken authentically African traditions.
Islamic partisans reproduce a version of this discourse by painting virtually any Nigerian Christian or secularist, or any Muslim who deviates from the orthodox Islamic path, as an “imitator” of the West. This version does not appeal to ostensibly indigenous African traditions, however, for such traditions, like the Hausa practice of spirit-possession known as bori, are typically derided as “pagan.” Indeed, many northern Nigerian Muslims respect “traditional” customs only insofar as these do not conflict with normative Islam. Accordingly, when the leader of northern Nigeria’s Sharia Council condemned gay rights as an “erosion of our accepted principles of morality,” he could be heard as voicing solidarity with his antigay Christian peers without endorsing the latter’s appeal to “the African way of life.” Appeals to cultural, as opposed to religious, traditions about sex are especially problematic for Muslim northerners, who are widely rumored among other Nigerians to have a predilection for homosexuality.
Notwithstanding their internal contradictions, the convergence of Nigerian Muslim and Christian discourses with respect to homosexuality offers evidence of a certain degree of interreligious cooperation. Like the solidarity Nigerians express in other contexts—including football (soccer)—antigay solidarity seems motivated by a common desire to defend Nigeria’s image in the wider world. In this case…there is a shared commitment to defending Nigerians’ sexual honor in terms that are redolent of colonial morality. The cost of this solidarity is borne by Nigerian lesbians, gay men, sex workers, and other sexual minorities who are effectively excluded from the body politic.
Uganda: Religious, Political Leaders Prepare for Reintroduction of Anti-Gay Law
Ugandan members of parliament are making plans to reintroduce the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was struck down on procedural grounds by the Constitutional Court in August, even though it is unclear whether President Museveni will seek changes in the bill.
Meanwhile, “The overturning of the anti-gay law has left the church in Uganda puzzled as to which direction the anti-gay movement should take,” writes Paula Arinaitwe in an August 31 story in the Monday Times of Uganda.
Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of the Kampala Archdiocese and Archbishop Stanley Ntagaali of the Anglican Church have vowed to put more pressure on the government and parliament to pass the anti-gay law again. Recently Archbishop Ntagaali said that all eyes were on the Members of Parliament (MPs) who will not vote for the bill. He implored them to stand in firm support of morality and protection of children in Uganda.
Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, also released a communication that gave the catholic church’s position on gays. He outrightly said homosexuals were against the principles of the church. He called upon MPs and government to ensure that the law is passed as quickly as possible. Archbishop Lwanga is articulating the view that homosexuality is against the cardinal principles of the church because the biblical foundations of the church do not provide for it. On one occasion he said that man was not meant to be with man, but with woman, therefore homosexuality should be outlawed and homosexuals should be subject to criminal law.
BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder continues to report on confusion and skepticism surrounding claims made by the Friends New Underground Railroad that six LGBT Ugandans were stoned to death earlier this month. The group released audio of what it said was a radio broadcast corroborating their story, but the station denied having broadcast it. Ugandan investigators have not been able to substantiate the claims, Feder reports.
The secrecy in which the group operates has caused concern among Ugandan LGBT rights organizations and established international human rights groups in the region since it launched this April. The organization, which operates under the auspices of a Quaker congregation in Olympia, Washington, says it has worked with Ugandan partners to help more than 450 LGBT Ugandans leave the country, with 130 escaping to places like South Africa, Europe, and the United States. Fewer than 100 Ugandan LGBT refugees are known to other human rights and refugee organizations in the area, and those trying to resettle in the West can spend months or years waiting for their visas. Ugandan human rights workers say they know none of the individuals evacuated by FNUR nor the identities of FNUR’s Ugandan partners. FNUR also declined to connect Ugandan investigators to witnesses of the alleged stonings, citing security concerns.
Malaysia: Muslim Religious Police Arrest Women Accused Of Lesbianism
Officers with the Johor Islamic Religious Department arrested two arrested two young women when their hotel was raided and a sex toy was discovered in their room. Gay Asia News reports the women “could face up a fine of 5000 Malaysian ringit (US1,575) or up to three years in jail and six strokes of the cane.” The story notes that earlier this year, the Malaysian government declared one of the country’s leading human rights groups illegal after it lodged a report with United Nations criticizing the country’s stance of LGBTIQ rights.
More from BuzzFeed’s report:
Islam is the official religion under the country’s constitution, and Shariah codes have been enacted by state governments throughout the country. These laws are commonly used to arrest transwomen, and the Malaysian trans rights group Justice for Sisters has brought litigation seeking to stop these arrests. Malaysia’s ruling Islamist government has also used homophobia as a political tool, including repeatedly jailing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. But this may be the first time news has broken of women being arrested under the codes’ prohibition on lesbianism in Malaysia, said Justice for Sisters’s Thilaga Sulathireh.
Scotland: Clergy Leaving Church of Scotland; LGBTs Debate Leaving UK
The Scotsman reports this week that two more clergy members have left the Church of Scotland in protest of the denomination’s “continuing drift” from the Bible, including the naming of gay clergy. They have applied to join eight other Church of Scotland clergy who have joined the Free Church of Scotland. Rev. Roddy MacRae said, “The Church of Scotland often says it is a ‘broad church’, but it has become clear to me that it is not broad enough for Bible-believing Christians.”
Meanwhile, as Scotland moves toward a vote on whether to become independent of the United Kingdom, and as polls show pro-independence forces gaining, gay-rights activists debated. The pro-independence “Yes Scotland” released a “Rainbow Paper” arguing that an independent Scotland would enhance equality by, among other things, enshrining LGBT equality in a written constitution. Edinburgh lawyer Daniel Donaldson dissented, arguing that Britains high court has affirmed LGBTI rights and upheld anti-discrimination laws.
“This position contrasts with Scotland, where the Scottish Government, under the SNP leadership, sought to water down and exclude Roman Catholic adoption agencies from Equality Law to allow them to discriminate against same-sex couples. Contrast this with that of the UK, which refused to amend the Sexual Orientation Regulations, despite Scottish Government pressure to do so.”
In response, a representative of Lawyers for Yes wrote:
No one can seriously question the commitment to LGBT rights of the Scottish Government which has introduced one of the most progressive Gay Marriage Acts in the world and whose First Minister flew the rainbow flag above St Andrews House – the home of the Scottish Government – throughout the Commonwealth Games.…
At present all courts in Scotland and the rest of the UK are bound by the Human Rights Act (HRA) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However the Tories have promised to repeal the HRA and even Labour have threatened to water it down.
Italy: Clash Over Religious Symbolism in Gay Art; Court Allows Gay Parent Adoption
This week the City of Turin and its mayor revoked sponsorship of an LGBT art exhibit over a promotional poster that depicted a naked woman standing on a poster with images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The ad includes S.A.L.I.G.I.A., the initials in Italian for the seven deadly sins. Photographer Mauro Pinotti told reporters that his intent had not been to offend anyone or denigrate religion. He said the woman was chosen to represent Pride.
Last week an Italian court for the first tie allowed a child to be adopted by the female partner of the child’s biological mother. The women had been living together in Rome since 2003. The couple had been married abroad. According to Gay Star News:
Italy, with its close association with the Catholic Church, has lagged behind other European countries in regard to LGBT rights, and campaigners continue to lobby on a wide range of issues. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and joint adoption by same-sex couples is not allowed. Until this ruling, step-child adoption by same-sex couples was also forbidden.
Unsurprisingly, the decision was criticised by some Italian commentators. Carlo Giovanardi, leader of the socially conservative wing of the New Centre-Right party, labelled the judgment ‘subversive’.
Crimea and Russia: Politician’s Anti-Gay Comments Concern Russian Activists
Sergei Aksyonov, the top official in Crimea, told reporters this week that gay people “have no chance” in Crimea. “We in Crimea,” he said, “do not need such people.”
Continuing to say what would happen if the LGBT community attempted to hold a public gathering, he said: “Our police and self-defence forces will react immediately and in three minutes will explain to them what kind of sexual orientation they should stick to.”
Activists expressed concern about the statements:
“For a politician and for the head of a region it is a very upsetting comment. For one thing, it is not for Aksyonov to decide who can and can’t live in Crimea,” says Igor Kochetkov, director of the Russian LGBT Network in St. Petersburg. “Regardless of sexual orientation, no one should have to ask Mr. Aksyonov or his officials where they can live. It is an absolutely awful statement.”
…The Ukrainian gay-rights organization Gay Forum Ukraine estimates there are about 10,000 gays and other sexual minorities living in Crimea. Russian activist Kochetkov says they have been caught up in the “general deterioration of human rights” in the region since it was annexed by Moscow.
Kochetkov said Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is being used widely.
“We are seeing new challenges, including a wave of firings of teachers and university instructors on the basis either of their sexual orientation or their public position calling for equal rights for all people without regard to sexual orientation,” Kochetkov says. “These people are either being fired or have been threatened with dismissal.”
In the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, LGBT activists have been accused by local security services of forming a “gay-terrorist” organization with the goal of fomenting an “Orange revolution” in Russia.
Lebanon: LGBTs Fear ISIS, Police Use of Social Media Apps
LGBTIs in Lebanon are keeping a fearful watch on the actions of Islamic State fighters. Writes Tris Reid Smith:
While the Islamic State fighters (also called ISIS) are currently focused on Syria and Iraq, they have already had skirmishes with Lebanese troops on the border.
And LGBTI people in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, are living in fear they will be targeted if ISIS does make a concerted attack on Lebanon.
A gay man in Beirut told Gay Star News, “From my point of view, once ISIS crosses the borders, I will be taking the first plane to Istanbul. Everybody will try to leave. But a lot of the gay community can’t afford it. Once they are here we will be one of the targets because gay people are evil for them, so we should be killed. We have a lot of dating applications and websites so I think it is very easy to find gay people and therefore to target them.”
Reid Smith writes that there are ISIS supporters in Lebanon who would likely support any invaders. “As some LGBTI people in Beirut have lived open lives by the standards of the region, they will be known to their neighbors.” One activist noted ISIS is a threat to “any free human being…It is not only about LGBT people, anyone who is different from them and does not adopt their beliefs and practice is directly considered as an enemy and consequently will be ‘eliminated.’”
LGBT people face other threats. The website 76 Crimes reports that police in Beirut are using messaging apps on the cell phones of arrestees to try to entrap other gay men. In related news, the smartphone app Grindr, which allows gay men to find each other, announced it would permanently disable an option that allowed people to see their distance from other users. There have been reports that police in Egypt and Iran have used Grindr to hunt and arrest gay men.
Jamaica: Activist Drops Challenge to Sodomy Law in Face of Threats
A Jamaican gay-rights activist dropped his legal challenge to the country’s colonial era anti-sodomy law, Associated Press reported last Friday. Javed Jaghai had initiated a constitutional challenge to the law last year, but says he and his loved ones have been threatened with violence. “Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings,” Jahai said in a statement. As we have reported American evangelicals have traveled to Jamaica to rally support for keeping the sodomy law on the books.
Colombia: Court Allows Same-Sex Partners to Adopt Children
The Colombian Constitutional Court ruled last week that gays and lesbians can legally adopt the biological children of their same-sex partners.
El Tiempo, a Colombian newspaper, reported the judges in a 6-3 decision said gays and lesbians can legally adopt the child of their same-sex partner if he or she is their biological parent. The ruling also stipulates the petitioner must receive permission from the Colombian authorities before they seek to adopt their partner’s child.
As the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers notes,
“The Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled same-sex couples in the South American country could legally register their relationships within two years if Colombian lawmakers failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. The June 20, 2013, deadline passed amid lingering confusion as to whether gays and lesbians could legally marry in Colombia. A handful of same-sex couples have married since last July, but Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado and social conservatives have sought to challenge them.”
Mexico: Coahuila Approves Marriage; Supreme Court Adopts Human Rights Protocol
The state legislature of Coahuila, which borders the U.S., voted overwhelmingly on September 1 to legalize marriage by same-sex couples.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has congratulated the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice for adopting a protocol to assist judges in applying international human rights standards to cases relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. A main goal of the protocol is to prevent stereotypes from impeding justice.
Commissioner Tracy Robinson, Chair of the IACHR and Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons, took part in the launching of this protocol in Mexico City on August 18, 2014. “I want to applaud the Supreme Court for taking this very important step in protecting human rights”, Tracy Robinson said. “This Protocol is pioneering, and one that is worth emulating throughout the Americas. It is a very important start and has the possibility of contributing to the transformation of justice not just in Mexico but in all the places which will model it”, Tracy Robinson added.
Catholic Church: Bishop Says Church Should Welcome ‘Unconventional Couples’
The Religion News Service’s Josephine Mckenna reported last week that Bishop Nunzio Galantino, leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis, said the church should welcome “unconventional couples” who are in “irregular matrimonial situations.” He said, “The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination.”
Galantino was Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy, and from the beginning the bishop has adopted the pontiff’s inclusive approach. That has often landed Galantino in hot water, as he has spoken about the need for the church to welcome gays and to consider optional celibacy for the priesthood.
But Galantino has not softened his views, which are especially newsworthy because in October the Vatican will host a major conference of the world’s top bishops, called a synod, to discuss issues facing the modern family.
How to deal with gay and cohabiting couples is a likely topic of discussion, but the question of whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment can take Communion has emerged as a focal point of disputes among bishops.
Galantino is no stranger to controversy
In a May interview he appeared to denigrate pro-life witness outside of abortion clinics, saying “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”
The bishop was criticized for his claim that Catholics “have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia.” He also attracted criticism for his statement that he hoped the Catholic Church in Italy will be “able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”
Australia: Catholic Newspaper Rejects Ad Featuring Former President of Ireland
A Catholic newspaper in Australia refused to print an ad for an event in Sydney featuring former Irish President Mary McAleese. Peter Rosengren, the paper’s editor said he rejected the ad based on her positions favoring ordination of women and “in favor of homosexuality – whatever that actually means.”
“The problem is that the Church believes God made man and woman equally in the image and likeness of God’s very self – therefore gender actually has meaning.
“Homosexuality and other identifications that people may use to describe themselves such as bisexual, transgendered and so on – may obscure for people the meaning of their lives, but the dividing line for the Church is that homosexual acts definitely do.”
Heterosexual acts have meaning, but homosexuals acts do not and the former Irish president was doing herself no favors by suggesting otherwise, Rosengren suggested.
Hong Kong: Activists Protest BBC Censorship of Lesbian Kiss in ‘Dr. Who’
Gay Asia news reports that gay rights activists are “outraged” that the BBC cut a lesbian kiss scene in the first episode of the new season of Dr. Who.
The BBC Worldwide’s London-based compliance team made the cut to conform with laws against same-sex relations and broadcast content in Asian countries such as Muslim majority Malaysia and Indonesia.
Viewers in South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore also watched the same censored version….
Jeanne Leong, director of communications at BBC Worldwide Asia, said as an international broadcaster the BBC had to comply with the broadcast regulations of the countries in which its channels were aired.
As there was only one edit for the whole of the region, the broadcast had to comply with the regulations of the strictest country, the official pointed out.
Kazakhstan: Ad for Gay Club Provokes Outrage
A gay club in Kazakhstan’s largest city is located at the corner of Kurmangazy and Pushkin streets, named after Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly and Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. An ad for the club featuring a portrayal of the two men kissing won an international award but has sparked outrage at home. Kazakhstan is a Muslim-majority country; same-sex relations were decriminalized in the 1990s. A complaint that the ad insults the dignity of the nation has spurred an investigation, according to Gay Asia News.
“Things have been put in motion. The Regional Department of Internal Affairs has accepted the complaint. There was a prosecution officer there who said that this outrageous case had generated a huge public resonance, and the authorities monitoring the Internet would not miss it,” he said.
Minister of Culture and Sport of Kazakhstan Arystanbek Mukhamediuly described the poster as a crime and said his ministry would take measures against those responsible for it, according to en.tengrinews.kz.
Congo: British Gay Rights Activist Held Captive to ‘Cure’ Her Sexuality
Pink News reports on Christina Fonthes, who was born in Kinshasa but has lived in the UK for most of her life and is a British citizen. She reportedly traveled to the Congo with her mother and sister but had her passport stolen by members of her extended family who wanted to keep her in the Congo to “cure” her gayness. Late last week she was reportedly safe and on her way home after British officials worked to secure her return.
Denmark: Gender Recognition Law Takes Effect
A Danish law passed by Parliament in June has gone into effect, making it easier for transgender people to have their gender legally recognized without being required to undergo surgery.