[Marxism] A gay witch hunt in Uganda

David Thorstad binesi at gvtel.com
Fri Nov 27 10:03:59 MST 2009

A gay witch hunt in Uganda

Why are the English archbishops silent over Uganda's grotesque 
anti-homosexuality bill?

A bill currently before the Ugandan parliament (pdf) 
proposes seven year prison sentences for discussing homosexuality; life 
imprisonment for homosexual acts; and death for a second offence. Sober 
observers believe it will be passed. The Anglican church in Uganda 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/uganda> appears to support it, and the 
Church of England in this country is absolutely silent. The Archbishop 
of Canterbury and the Bishop of Winchester solemnly denounce violence in 
the Congo <http://bit.ly/5MxtfP>, where they have no influence at all, 
but on Uganda they maintain a resolute post-colonial silence.

The position of the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/john-sentamu>, is more complicated, and 
his silence more eloquent. He is himself Ugandan by birth. One of his 
younger half-brothers, pastor Robert Kayanja, is a highly successful 
pentecostal preacher in Kampala <http://bit.ly/5aVbMk>, running a church 
called the Rubaga Miracle Centre. Such people are highly rewarded, and 
the business is extremely competitive. A rival preacher, the gloriously 
named Solomon Male of the The Arising Church was accused this spring of 
kidnapping Kayanga's assistant <http://bit.ly/7VIZ2w> and torturing him 
for five days to get him to confess that his boss was gay 
<http://bit.ly/4JnJg7> and partial to young men.

The admission would have been social death. Come to think of it, under 
the new law, it would be physical death as well.

Sentamu's office say that he has not spoken to his brother for some 
months and was unaware of the story. So the suggestion on some websites 
that this was the cause of his silence can't be right. On the other 
hand, his office is quite clear that he has "no plans" to speak out on 
the proposed bill.

Perhaps the English Archbishops feel their position is already clear. 
Sentamu, Williams, and Archbishop Henry Orombe of Uganda along with all 
the other primates of the Anglican Communion all signed up to a 
communique in 2004 <http://www.anglicanessentials.ca/dromantine.htm> in 
which they stated that

   We continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and
   care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of
   human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of
   the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that
   they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of
   the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.

Compare and contrast the language of the Ugandan bill:

   A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in
   acts of homosexuality commits an offence and is liable on conviction
   to imprisonment for seven years.

   A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of
   the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be
   liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

   A person who … who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or
   in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an
   offence and is liable on conviction to … imprisonment of a minimum
   of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and

One reasons why the church might be reluctant to oppose, let alone 
anathematise, this monstrous law is that any NGO or body which does so 
might be prosecuted for "promoting homosexuality" can be dissolved and 
its leaders jailed for seven years. Failure to report homosexuality or 
its incitement gets you three years.

This is a witch craze, pure and simple. It takes the perfectly genuine 
prejudices of the ignorant, inflames them, and enshrines them in law. I 
do not expect any bishop of the Church of England to have the courage to 
speak against it. Give them a hundred years, though, and they will turn 
up at a memorial service to weep for the victims.

How did we get there?

The inquisitors who roll into the town and rouse the peasantry against 
witches may not actually want to see and smell the witches burning, but 
once witches are found, there is nothing else to do with them. Although 
respectable Christians now do not believe in witches as such, there are 
some for whom gay people play the role that witches once did and the 
gay-hunting frenzy which is central to the the relationship between 
American right-wingers and some African evangelicals is reaching the 
point of organised legal killing.

The left-wing American think-tank PRA has just published a report on the 
activities of the rightwing American thinktank The Institute for 
Religion and Democracy <http://bit.ly/8qWveD>, which has for much of the 
last 10 years been successfully recruiting homophobic African Christians 
to the civil wars within American protestantism which have tended to 
concentrate on equal rights for gays.

Some of this story is familiar to Guardian readers. The American right 
funded and organised the disintegration of the Anglican Communion as a 
part of its efforts to break up the Episcopal Church of America. But the 
report teaches us that there are real advantages to African churches or 
at least their leaders, who take money from the right rather than the 
left. There is much less bureaucracy, or accountability as it is spelled 
in the west. But the sheer blatancy of the process is still sometimes a 
shock. The report has a photograph of the mobile phones handed out for 
free at a world United Methodist conference, along with the slate of 
approved conservative candidates to vote for.

We can't know whether the protests of Anglican leaders outside Uganda 
will make the bill more or less likely to pass. There is a history in 
recent years of nationalist thugs in the region using western support 
for gay rights <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gay-rights> to increase 
their own popularity as homophobes. This has happened in a church 
context both in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and it might very well happen again 
in Uganda. So it is possible to argue quite reasonably in favour of 
doing nothing, or quiet diplomacy as it is known in the trade.

But I don't think these arguments are in the end convincing, and for 
three reasons. The first is that the situation could hardly be worse. If 
nothing is done, the bill will very probably pass. So the worst that any 
intervention could accomplish is to fail to prevent what we are trying 
to stop, rather than bringing it about. The second is that the Anglican 
church of Uganda is not really part of the same communion any longer as 
the Church of England. It was one of the driving forces behind the 
Gafcon <http://www.gafcon.org/> meeting last summer. The third, and the 
most important one, is that the Church of England needs to retain some 
connection with the generally accepted morality of the nation around it. 
These days, killing gay people for having sex is no longer regarded as a 
moral act. It may be that the Ugandan church will excuse itself by 
saying that it cannot flout Ugandan public opinion. But why should the 
Church of England be allowed to flout English concepts of decency by 
acquiescing with its silence in this crime?

Posted by Andrew Brown <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/andrewbrown> 
Thursday 26 November 2009 14.30 GMT guardian.co.uk 

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