Christian witness for gays in Uganda

In the wake of a recent online campaign, millions of Americans now know the name of Ugandan Joseph Kony, whose … Continued

In the wake of a recent online campaign, millions of Americans now know the name of Ugandan Joseph Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army is responsible for countless atrocities. But in the shadows of these developments, another campaign that would undermine fundamental human rights in Uganda has been ramping up– one that would establish legislation to criminalize homosexuality. As a Catholic who served as U.S. ambassador to Uganda and an evangelical Christian who has traveled throughout Africa, we believe it’s time for more U.S. faith leaders to speak out against systematic efforts to demonize gay Ugandans before it’s too late.

A 2009 bill introduced in the Ugandan parliament would have enforced lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual acts, as well as punish citizens for not reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities. The radical proposal stalled after an international outcry, but this inhumane legislation has been reintroduced.
Some efforts have recently been made to strip the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of its most extreme provisions, but any effort to persecute people for their sexual orientation or gender identity offends intrinsic human dignity and violates Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

While there are different theological views about the morality of homosexuality and divided opinions on same-sex marriage, the criminalization of homosexuality is incompatible with the teachings of our faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “every sign of unjust discrimination” against gays should be avoided. Evangelicals read in Genesis that the breath of the divine gives life to human beings. We are all made in God’s image. The entire Judeo-Christian worldview is built on this unshakable foundation. Any actions that defile the sacred architecture of human dignity must be opposed.

Ugandan religious leaders like Bishop Christopher Senyonjo have already been excommunicated from their traditions for voicing their opposition to the persecution of gays and lesbians, but the proposed bill, according to activists would make his Christian social witness a criminal act. Even the revised version of the legislation would still criminalize speech about gays and lesbians the authorities might deem too positive—setting an incredibly terrifying precedent for the persecution of any minority group.

U.S religious leaders perform vital humanitarian work in Uganda by addressing the ravages of severe poverty, AIDS and other societal challenges. However, some Christians from our country have also preached a vile gospel of hate in a nation where hostility to homosexuals already runs deep. A 2010 New York Times investigation documented how thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, attended a series of talks led by U.S. Christian evangelists who denounced the evils of homosexuality and stirred up irrational fear that gay people would sodomize their children.

Brave Ugandans who speak out have been persecuted. Earlier this year, Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, personally broke up a leadership training workshop for gay activists, saying “we do not accept homosexuality in Uganda.”

Uganda is a proud, vibrant country that faces stark challenges and great opportunities. U.S. faith leaders who have come to know the indomitable spirit of her people now face an urgent question. Can we remain silent when human beings made in God’s image are persecuted? “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us. Let us heed that moral wisdom today.

Thomas Patrick Melady is senior diplomat in residence, The Institute of World Politics, former U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Uganda and the Holy See and President Emeritus of Sacred Heart University.

(Rev.) Richard Cizik is president, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

  • RevSpitz1

    Homosexuality should be criminalized. Homosexuals commit crimes against God, against nature, against the Holy Bible and against the human race.
    After reading this story I now know why God wrote:
    Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
    Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    :26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    :27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

  • olterigo

    I thought Christianity was about treating others the way you want to be treated. I guess then you don’t mind if Christians are persecuted in Muslim countries.

  • carlaclaws

    Louder, please. Before it’s too late.

  • carlaclaws

    I don’t know which I find more appalling: your selective acceptance of Biblical verse, or your belief that secular law should be based on the religious beliefs of what is now a minority in this country.


    Christians in America like Mike Huckabee want to lock up gays in concentration camps – who in their right mind would think that American christians would want to help gays in Africa? They’re gay, they’re poor and they’re black – three unforgivable sins in the minds of American christians. Oh, and they have no oil or valuable exploitable resources. Four unforgivable sins.

  • oryssman

    This is as ignorant a comment as any I have read in a long while…at least when it comes to Catholicism it is a mortal sin to support what Uganda is proposing. Ugandan Catholics ought to know that this is wrong, and all Americans ought to oppose this Uganda criminalizing homosexuality.

  • dcrswm

    Yeah, but this has never been, is currently not, and never will be a christian nation, so keep your god and bigotry to yourself.

  • egburton

    oryssman is correct, soddi, that you overgeneralized … there are many Christians in America who do not agree with Huckabee on much of anything, and there are many American Christians, likely most of them, who do not look down upon Blacks or the poor or the gay. After all, Christianity is the majority of Americans and a majority of Americans elected a Black President who favored the poor from the outset, and has now endorsed gay marriage.

  • egburton

    RevSpitz1, you must remember that when Leviticus was first an oral tradition, Judea and Samaria, the latter not yet overrun by Assyria, were in need of infantry, and gay relationships do not produce infantry. Ask yourself, ‘why’ an abomination?
    But then i commit the fault of reading Scripture by recognizing it was not written yesterday by a newspaper reporter, the fault of reading Scripture in its own historical context as it might have been understood by someone listening to the oral tradition at that time. (The writing down possibly alluded to by the story in Nehemiah about finding Scripture in the Temple and reading it to the assembled people.)

    By the audience when first listened to, you perceive meaning.

  • mbindner

    Some of the Ugandan effort is driven by C Street and the Family. Ecumenism should not include validating such nonsense. Of course, it was not too long ago that homosexuality was criminal in much of this country as well. The sophistry that it is somehow disordered, which the hierarchy still clings to, depends on their being some natural order outside of personal human experience which God must enforce. The whole concept is a sophistry to deal with the fact that a perfect God cannot be harmed by human action – so instead the natural order is harmed. Poppycock! Human natural is maleable and always has been.

  • mbindner

    It is also an abomination to serve scallops wrapped in bacon at a gay wedding. Big deal.


    I do not believe that for one second.

  • annedanielson

    One only needs to look to Christ to know that a person should not be put to death for the sin of adultery. This does not change the fact that any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect the inherent Dignity of the human person, is not an act of Love.

    Those who are Christian understand that from The Beginning, God created every human individual (definition of person) equal in Dignity, while being complementary as male and female, relating each peron to one another as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters…, not as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, polysexual…, which would be in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery.