An Urgent Call from U.S. Faith Leaders in Support of Gay Ugandans
Washington, D.C.—In response to news that Uganda’s Parliament will discuss and vote on a proposed anti-homosexuality bill by December 15, a group of prominent American Christian leaders have united to reiterate their firm opposition to this deeply discriminatory piece of legislation, the adoption of which the Ugandan speaker of parliament recently suggested would be a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people. In an open statement issued today, American Christian leaders denounce the fundamental injustice of labeling lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people as criminals. They also decry propagation of the dangerous myth that LGBTI persons pose an inherent threat to children. The signatories of the statement reiterate their belief that the criminalization of homosexuality in any form is incompatible with Christian faith in democratic societies. “Christians may have theological differences, but we all share a common call as followers of Christ to stand up for the persecuted minorities in our own communities and around the world,” write the signatories, concluding that: “As the Christmas season approaches, we hope Christians everywhere will join together to reject the idea that a bill targeting a vulnerable minority could ever be an appropriate celebration of the birth of Christ.” Consensual same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda, but the bill proposes tougher penalties for homosexual acts and criminalizes the “promotion of homosexuality,” an ill-defined new concept that could impact those who provide medical or pastoral care the LGBTI persons. The bill also establishes a dangerous precedent for the persecution of minority groups in the country. The statement issued today, coordinated by Human Rights First, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Faith in Public Life, was signed by Richard Cizik, President of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, Maryland; Thomas Patrick Melady, Former U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Uganda and the Holy See, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois; and Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners. The signatories had previously articulated their positions in a July 24 statement signed by 46 Catholics and Evangelicals, as well as in a July 3 statement signed by 33 African-American Christian pastors. Julius Kaggwa, a prominent Ugandan LGBTI rights activist in Washington, DC this week for Human Rights First’s inaugural Human Rights Summit, hailed the supportive calls from faith leaders, noting, “As a Christian, the rhetorical assault coming from our political and faith leaders in Uganda is particularly disheartening. My own faith remains strong, and the support we receive from American political and religious figures is important.” “We are trying to influence our own government, but we need all the international help we can get at this critical juncture,” says Kaggwa. Earlier this week, Human Rights First issued “How to Protect LGBTI Persons around the World from Violence,” a blueprint for next Congress and Obama Administration. The document addresses, among other recommendations, the need for American leaders to combat criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad and offers steps to achieve this goal.