The United Reformed Church (URC) has become the first major Christian denomination in the UK to issue a statement condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
In a press release today, the Church said that its commitment to justice and equality meant it was "appalled" at the "draconian measures" proposed by Bill.
The URC passed an anti-homophobia resolution at its 1999 General Assembly saying that: “The Assembly condemns violence against homosexual people and urges all members of the United Reformed Church to be vocal in their opposition of homophobia.”
Homophobia was defined as “intense hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality.”
Simon Loveitt, the URC’s spokesperson on public issues said: “This draft legislation represents a clear infringement of human rights and is morally repugnant. It also infringes the African principles of ubuntu and we add our voice to the many calling for the immediate withdrawal of this discriminatory Bill.”
Ubuntu is the African concept ‘that my humanity can only be expressed through the humanity of others’
Campaigners have been urging all church leaders in the UK to speak out against the Bill.
However, so far both the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, who grew up in Uganda, have stayed silent despite calls from Christians in both Uganda and the UK to condemn the bill.
An online petition launched by Ekklesia which urges the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to speak out against the bill has brought signatories from priests, ministers and other church leaders around the world and those who, despite differing beliefs over homosexuality, have come together to expose the religious rhetoric used by the Bill's supporters.
The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill prescribes life imprisonment for any sexual activity between adults of the same sex, with the death penalty for anyone whose same-sex partner is disabled or is under 18. Ministers or priests would face three years imprisonment if they failed to report an incidence of homosexuality of which they became aware.
The Bill is proposed by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament who emphasises his commitment to Christianity. It is supported by the Minister for Ethics and Integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, a member of the Anglican Church of the Province of Uganda.
It is due for further discussion in the Ugandan Parliament in January 2010.
The petition calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders to speak out against the Bill in public can be found at: