Williams under pressure as Christians condemn Ugandan anti-gay bill

By staff writers
November 18, 2009

Global opposition is growing to the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” recently proposed in Uganda, which would introduce the death penalty for certain homosexual activity between consenting adults.

An increasing number of Christian organisations are condemning the Bill but the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is facing criticism for not speaking out on the issue.

On Sunday (15 November), the Executive Council of the Anglican Church of Canada voted unanimously to oppose the Bill as a “fundamental violation of human rights”. Several groups dedicated yesterday (17 November) as an international day of prayer on the issue.

Today (18 November), an online petition was launched calling on Rowan Williams “to end his silence on the matter, to condemn the bill in public and to urge Ugandan Christians to oppose it”.

While several Christian leaders in Uganda are sympathetic to the proposals, other Christian groups, such as Integrity Uganda, are campaigning strongly against them.

If passed, the legislation would allow priests and ministers to be imprisoned for up to three years if they failed to report any homosexual activity of which they became aware.

The bill has been condemned by a number of African organisations which promote equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people, including Sexual Minorities Uganda, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) and The Rainbow Project of Namibia.

Sexual Minorities Uganda said that the legislation “goes against the inclusive spirit necessary for our economic as well as political development” and described it as “profoundly undemocratic and un-African”.

The organisation is likely to become illegal if the Bill is passed, as it introduces new offences of “promoting homosexuality”.

Christian groups in Britain opposing the Bill now include Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, Courage, Ekklesia, Fulcrum, Inclusive Church and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM).

The evangelical group Fulcrum, who have issued a detailed briefing on their website, have described the bill as “fatally flawed from a Christian perspective”. While Fulcrum consider sexual activity between people of the same sex to be unethical, they condemn the Bill as encouraging “irrational fear of homosexuals”.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has made it clear that he will make no comment on the Bill, but pressure is growing on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to make a statement.

“I am sure that the vast majority of Christians - who hold a range of views on sexual ethics - will be horrified by the extreme and violent measures proposed in this Bill” said Symon Hill, associate director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia.

“By speaking out, it is possible to expose the hollowness of the religious rhetoric used by the Bill's supporters,” he added, “Given the place of Anglicanism in Ugandan life, it would be right and proper for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to end his silence and to oppose the bill in public."

The online petition urging Rowan Williams and other Christian leaders to oppose the Bill can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Uganda_Christians/

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