‘Religion Dispatches’ – LGBT News

This week’s global LGBT recap again highlights vast differences in legal status for LGBT people, and in the role played by religious leaders in advancing equality or advocating discrimination – or death – for LGBT people.

Uganda: New Anti-Homosexuality Act Considered, HIV Criminalization Law Signed

We noted last week that Ugandan religious and political leaders were pushing for a quick re-passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in the wake of an August 1 decision by the Constitutional Court that the law was invalid because it was passed without a quorum in Parliament. ThinkProgress reported last week that there are signs that President Yoweri Museveni will try to slow the momentum. All Africa hasreported that Museveni will back a new version: “According to MPs backing a new version of the bill, the law will be watered down and focused on the threat of supposed homosexual recruitment of children.” Medard Bitekyerezo, an MP supporting the law, said it would not “harass” consenting adults.

A Catholic Bishop said people frustrated by the Constitutional Court’s action “should not take the laws into their hands and harm homosexuals since they are also human beings though with different sexual feelings.’

John Baptist Odama, the bishop of the Church in Gulu, has reminded Ugandans that homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God.

‘Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,’ he has said.

But according to activist Denis Nzioka, six LGBT people were stoned to death in the Ugandan countryside last weekend. A press release from the Friends New Underground Railroad and the Safe Passages Fund says that Christian leaders responded to the Court ruling overturning the Anti Homosexuality Act by stepping up anti-gay messages on evangelical radio programs. According to the release, “Since the Railroad’s debut in April, a total of 448 Ugandan LGBT individuals who sought help to leave Uganda were successfully helped with funding from Quaker groups, The Safe Passage Fund, churches, nonprofits and individual donors.”  [Update 8/22/14: BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that some human rights activists and investigators in Uganda are skeptical about FNUR’s claims about stonings, and are questioning the group’s unwillingness to provide more information about its allegations. Feder reports that Ugandan activists are concerned that non-credible claims of violence may undermine their own work, and have called for further investigations to clear up the matter as soon as possible.]

FNUR also says that a campaign has been waged against students at Christian schools:

In recent months, students attending Ugandan Catholic and Christian universities, colleges and other schools have also been major targets of the national antigay witch hunt being coordinated by Ugandan evangelical bishops and clergy. They have demanded that Catholic educational institutions identify and expel any students suspected of being LGBT. Dozens of students have recently been “outed” and expelled at three universities, some then evicted by their families, their names and details of their private lives, including names of friends, have been broadcast oncommunity radio stations. Attacks and threats have followed.

From May thru July, 22 gay male seminary students, over two dozen self-identified lesbians, and several trans students at three different Catholic universities were outed, went into hiding, and were provided successful safe passage out of Uganda. The 22 seminarians have been granted asylum and are now resettled in European countries. Several of the lesbian and trans students are also in the process of being permanently resettled. Currently, 13 lesbian university students at another university are in hiding and hope to leave after being outed, according to FNUR sources.

The Observer reported on Monday that the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda had fired its staff after USAID withdrew funding that accounted for about 90 percent of the group’s revenues. IRCU leaders have been vocal supporters of the Anti Homosexuality Act, and the Observer reports that relations “soured” when “religious leaders questioned American’s support to pro-gay activists within Uganda.”

The local organization says it is a victim of its anti-gay stance, which the donor finds unacceptable, although some sources claim IRCU failed to meet some of USAID’s rigorous accountability procedures.

Suspension of funding was communicated to IRCU in a June 26 letter by USAID Country Director Lislie Reed. She told the religious body that their partnership was being terminated effective July 31….

The money was part of USAID’s five-year HIV/Aids support project. The major components of the project included care and treatment of people living positively with Aids, prevention, psycho-social support, support for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), coordination and advocacy.  At least 70,000 patients were supported under palliative care, 40,000 on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and 45,000 children under OVC support.

A senior member of staff who has been laid off told The Observer that USAID was maintaining support for all the beneficiaries of the projects previously executed by IRCU but now under a different framework. The IRCU brings together Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Seventh Day Adventist churches to address issues of common interest.

This week Museveni did sign a law criminalizing the transmission of HIV. The U.S. had denounced the legislation back in May when it was passed by Parliament, saying stigma, discrimination, and fear would “further fuel the epidemic by deterring those most in need from accessing lifesaving HIV prevention, treatment, and care services.

Meanwhile,Joan Tumwine, a Ugandan who moved to the UK in 2013 to work for a Christian charity, Youth for Christ, lost her employer’s support when she sought asylum as a lesbian. According to Pink News, “The charity said it could not trust her to work with children because she is a lesbian.”

Tumwine says she applied for asylum without coming out to her employer

On considering whether to come out, she said: “I studied each one of them and the way they used to talk about gay people was not good and that made me not trust them with my problems and not only that, being Christians they did not like gay people.”

She did not come out as gay, but when she attempted to seek asylum in the UK, she says the charity would not support her, and instead tried to remove from the UK, forcing a plane ticket on her.

The Out and Proud Diamond Group African LGBTI is mobilizing a petition campaign to stop her deportation to Uganda, which is reportedly scheduled for this Friday.

UK: Bishop Opposes Church’s Marriage Ban; Debate Over ‘Conscience’ Exemption for Registrars

Last week the Right Reverend Dr Alan Wilson, a Church of English bishop, spoke on behalf of same-sex marriage, in spite of the fact that gay weddings are still prohibited by the Church of England. According to the Oxford Mail:

Bishop of Buckingham the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson this week spoke at a debate on the issue at Kidlington’s St John’s Church.

A prominent supporter of gay marriage, he told worshippers at the Broadway church that the Christian tradition holds “the root of marriage is not sex but companionship”.

He said: “The idea that marriage is about friendship has become extremely powerful in England.”

Christians must symbolise “good news”, he said: “One of the really painful things I have had to learn is how the Church can be really bad news to people”.

This can “stir feelings of guilt and lack of self worth”, but he said: “God has made us like that. If he wanted to make us another way he would but he didn’t.”

Echoing the ongoing debate over “religious exemptions” in the U.S., a columnist for the Telegraph argued that the state should protect registrars whose religious views will not allow them to marry same-sex couples. Pink News notes that last year, a former civil registrar from Islington lost an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Christina Odone, former editor of The Catholic Herald, argues in the Telegraph that religious believers receive fewer protections from the government:

“Sexual preference and gender equality are taken seriously: laws and a host of employment regulations protect these rights with a convert’s fervour. A schoolboy who calls another one ‘gay’ as a term of abuse faces arrest; a woman can sue the pants off her boss if she can prove his sexual discrimination

“But people’s beliefs are of no account. The conscientious objector who cannot marry a gay couple because to do so would run counter to her religious beliefs will lose her job; the pharmacist who won’t sell the morning-after pill because he thinks abortion is a sin will lose his.”

She added: “The state will not protect belief – and in some countries it will actively quash it: as the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination on Christians in Europe found two years ago, the EU has introduced more than 50 laws that discriminate against Christians.”

According to Pink News, Odone formerly opposed same-sex marriage, but announced last year that she had reversed her opinion based in part on Vladimir Putin’s homophobia.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech this week that his government is taking steps to remove lingering inequalities for same sex couples and said that “prejudice” should not stop gay couples from adopting children.

“When there are children in need of a loving family, and gay couples with so much love to give, we should not allow prejudice to stand in the way of progress for our children or for our wider society. “That sends a powerful message about who we are as a country in the modern world.”

He also said that Britain has not properly recognized marriage in its tax system and his government is changing that.

“Let me be clear. I don’t think that this will suddenly mean people deciding to get married for a few extra pounds. That’s not what it’s about.

“It’s about sending a clear message that in Britain we recognise and value the commitment that people make to each other. And that’s just as vital whether the commitment is between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and another woman.

“I believe in the right of marriage for all people.

“As I’ve said, when people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.

“So we’ve changed it.”

______________________________________________

At least one Roman Catholic Bishop in Uganda is against his country’s tendency towards the persecution of LGBT people – as stated hereunder”

“John Baptist Odama, the bishop of the Church in Gulu, has reminded Ugandans that homosexuals are also human beings created in the image of God.

‘Let us learn to love God’s human creatures. It is not that I am advocating for homosexual practice in the country, but we should not take laws into our hands to harm and hate the homosexuals because we all have weaknesses,’ he has said.”

How different is the reaction of certain  ‘Evangelical’ (Anglican?) Bishops, reported here:

“In recent months, students attending Ugandan Catholic and Christian universities, colleges and other schools have also been major targets of the national antigay witch hunt being coordinated by Ugandan evangelical bishops and clergy.” 

Conversely, here is a report on Prime minister David Cameron:

“Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech this week that his government is taking steps to remove lingering inequalities for same sex couples and said that “prejudice” should not stop gay couples from adopting children.

“When there are children in need of a loving family, and gay couples with so much love to give, we should not allow prejudice to stand in the way of progress for our children or for our wider society. “That sends a powerful message about who we are as a country in the modern world.”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

Advertisements

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s