(RNS) American evangelicals are denouncing a new Uganda law that criminalizes homosexuality, reiterating a position that many have held for years but which has nonetheless drawn scrutiny and skepticism from critics.

Since 2009, several American pastors and leaders have condemned legislation in Uganda that in its initial version imposed the death penalty for some offenders. Under the revised law signed recently by President Yoweri Museveni, the death penalty was removed and replaced with life in prison in some cases.

Now, American evangelicals who insist they never supported either version of the law nonetheless find themselves playing defense, saying their statements against homosexuality at home are being twisted as an endorsement of harsh penalties against gays and lesbians abroad.

Russell Moore at the Washington offices of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Russell Moore at the Washington offices of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Decrying laws in countries such as Uganda and Russia, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he knows no evangelicals who would support legislation like Uganda’s.

“We always must balance a fear of Western cultural imperialism with a responsibility to speak to global human rights around the world,” said Moore, who has also denounced Russia’s anti-gay laws because he has adopted sons from Russia.

“Those of us who hold to a Christian sexual ethic don’t want to see those who disagree with us jailed; we want to see them reconciled to God through the gospel.”

The timing of Uganda’s legislation coincided with heated debates in the U.S. over the proposed legislation in Arizona that would have allowed businesses in the state to deny services to people who are gay if they felt that serving them would violate their religious rights.

“The situations in Uganda and Arizona are galaxies apart,” Moore said. “I think that in Arizona and several other states, in an attempt to preserve our religious liberties, regardless of how we agree with how it’s being done, can hardly compare with persecution around the world.”

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill. In 2009, Warren posted an “encyclical video” on YouTube saying he opposes the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Last week, the nation of Uganda passed a bad law, which I have publicly opposed for nearly 5 years,” Warren wrote. “I still oppose it, but rumors persist because lies and errors are never removed from the internet.”

Evangelical humanitarian organization World Vision has opposed the bill since 2009, arguing that it could hamper efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS.  “More people would be reluctant to seek, receive or even provide care and compassion out of fear of being reported,” the organization said in a statement. “This would also make their families and children even more vulnerable.”

A look at daily life on the streets of Kampala, Uganda on September 28, 2012.

A look at daily life on the streets of Kampala, Uganda, on Sept. 28, 2012. Photo courtesy of Black Sheep Media via Shutterstock

Uganda is not the only country to criminalize same-sex relations. The United Nations estimates that 78 countries ban homosexuality.

Since the law passed, Uganda has been hit with substantial aid cuts from Western nations; the World Bank has postponed a $90 million loan for the country’s health systems. Secretary of State John Kerry has likened Uganda’s law to South Africa’s apartheid-era ban on interracial unions. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Tuesday that “homosexuals are not criminals” and should not receive a sentence of life in prison.

Media reports have connected the bill to a 2009 conference in Uganda, at which three Americans condemned homosexual behavior and promoted therapy for same-sex attraction. One of the men, Scott Lively, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries, said that he is not responsible for the bill.

“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”

He said he does not support the bill in its final form.

“I have mixed feelings about the final law,” Lively said. “I support the portions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse among children, intentionally spreading AIDS through sodomy. The penalties in the law for simple homosexuality are still too harsh.”

He said that if he had power to implement legislation in the U.S., he would make laws related to sexuality similar to new marijuana laws, where the government would be prohibited from advocating and promoting it but advocates who practice it would left alone. He said he also would have recommended reparative therapy, the disputed belief that sexual orientation can be changed.

“There are many who are compelled to same-sex behavior, like alcoholism or any other behavioral disorder,” Lively said. “The government should be concerned with helping them overcome their problems and not just punish them for it.”

Initial opposition to the bill was strong among evangelicals, but it gradually faded due to “Uganda fatigue,” said Warren Throckmorton, a professor of psychology at Grove City College.

“Early on, Rick Warren went out on a big way against the bill, and he still got blamed for it at times. Some of the vigor early on was worn down over time,” Throckmorton said. “The bill came up and then died several times. Just when you thought it was gone and over with, the Ugandan parliament passed it in the middle of the night, so to speak.”

He said he would have expected a more vigorous response from evangelicals who have a stake in Uganda.

“Evangelicals have missionaries there, televangelists have shows on TV there. There is a substantial American Christian presence there,” Throckmorton said. “From the Ugandans’ point of view, the bill was passed as a way to make Uganda a more Christian nation; evangelicals could’ve been more vocal by saying, ‘This is not how it’s done.’”

KRE/MG END BAILEY

57 Comments

  1. Earold Gunter

    Whew, for a minute there I thought American evangelicals wanted to impose harsh criminal penalties against gay humans in America like those in Uganda.

    What a relief it is that they only want to treat them as second class citizens.

    Religion is poison!

    • Like Dr. Throckmorton said, pastor Rick Warren publicly and heavily opposed the Uganda law, but the homosexual gang STILL insisted on blaming him for it anyway.

      THAT’s how the Gay Marriage Cult operates. Zero ethics. They are equally as vicious as the Uganda government, maybe more.

      • Earold Gunter

        Doc,
        Do you use the word “cult” for pure hyperbole, or is this some sort of “Freudian slip” because it is normally used in the context of a religion gone very wrong?

        Religion is poison!

      • So Rick Warrant when asked about the law ini Uganda and what his thoughts were he never said:
        “It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”

        instead if saying something like “It’s an abomination and every decent human being should condemn Uganda for their stance on this issue”.
        Because that’s what I would have said.

        Wait another 20 years and people like him will be claiming they marched “with the gays” for their freedom.
        Hypocrites.

      • Hey, buddy. I’m married. I am not part of a cult. I merely want the same legal protections straight people enjoy. By slandering your fellow citizens in this manner you do yourself no favors.

  2. In other words, the plan to institute a murderous agenda in a developing nation under the radar of world media scrutiny has been discovered and they are engaging in CYA,

  3. Christian doctrine says women, gays and non-believers are second class citizens.

    Gays comprise 10% of the population.
    Women comprise 50%.
    Agnostics and Atheists are 20% of the population.

    Though there is significant overlapping,
    a quick glance of 80% of the population is considered beneath
    the value of a MAN OF CHRISTIAN FAITH.

    Such extraordinary claims and such condescension.
    One wonders how Christianity can find anyone left ‘to love’ who it doesn’t already hate.

    • Christian doctrine says God created all people equal; men, women, sinners, saints. All people (but not all behaviors) are created equal.

      In contrast, Atheism offers no historical claims to promote the idea that humans are equal.

      • @DOC ANTHONY,

        You said, “Christian doctrine says God created all people equal”

        NOT TRUE!

        “They” are “dogs”- Jesus said (Matthew 15:26) referring to non Jews.
        Jesus endorsed slavery. Is a slave equal to his master?

        “Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse.” (1 Peter 2:18)

      • in late July when Francis, fresh off a trip to Brazil for World Youth Day, said he could not judge Catholic priests who identify themselves as homosexual. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” said Francis to reporters on board a plane returning from Brazil. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society.”

  4. Yet another example to expose bible teaching for the drivel it is…those who claim to know it’s meaning find themselves backing away from it when faced with the real time enactment of its laws. Christians are quite comfortable spewing their bigotry as long as no one gets what they perceive as hurt in their screwed up mission to get them into heaven. Truthfully, they need an eye opener like this that turns the mirror back unto themselves. How does it feel to be responsible for the torture, murder and imprisonment of innocent people? Would it be too much to hope that they will put the book aside altogether and start using common sense.

    • Hey, would you like to take responsibility for all those gay murders (including that of fashion icon Versace) that the gay guy Andrew Cunanan committed?

      Would you like to take responsibility for all those guys that the gay guy Jeffery Dahmer literally ate for dinner?

      Gotta watch those two-way streets, people!

      • Mental illness was the reason for the actions of Cunanan and Dahmer, not being gay. So your two-way street argument is bogus, and you probably know this. That you’d use it anyway is revealing.

        In stark contrast though, some, not all, christian act in hate towards gays because of their religious beliefs. I think some of these christians may share one commonality with Cunanan and Dahmer.

        However all christians absolutely share a commonality with Dahmer; cannibalism, or perhaps better stated, faux cannibalism, at least on the part of most christians. Catholics though believe in transubstantiation, and think they are actually eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a man. Disturbing insanity.

        Religion is poison!

      • Logic just isn’t your friend, is it “Doc,” surely a self-ascribed nick-name? Why should any group be responsible for Andrew Cunanan or Jeffery Dahmer? If you can’t tell the difference between your occasional sociopathic murderer and the historical record of violence done to gays and lesbians under the umbrella of Christian prejudice, then that’s your problem. Just don’t make it anyone else’s, ok?

      • @Doc,

        Did you say “two way street”?

        “Love your enemies” – Jesus (Matthew 5:44)
        “But…Kill the Lord’s enemies” – Jesus (Luke 19:27, Parable of the 12 Minas)

        No wonder Hell follows Christianity wherever it goes.

        All you need to do is decide what sort of enemy it is and you have God’s permission to KILL.

        How terrifying is religion?

      • You are very simple minded aren’t you? What about all the homicides by straight people then? What about all the heterosexual predators? Is that really the game you want to play? Because if it is you are going to lose.

        How very despicable of you and you have the guts to call yourself a “Christian?
        I am not a Christian but I studied both the Man and the way Christianity sees him. The man may very well agree with you, but the Christ you people worship would never approve of the way you are framing the issue.

      • Those mentally ill creeps did not go to a foreign country with the express purpose of spreading a toxic ideology.

        They did not actively recruit a hate grouo around themselves.

        They did not spread falsehoods useful to hate groups.

        They probably were smart enough – unlike this moron Pastor – to understand that doing so would implicate them in any murders they inspired.

  5. Do Christians squirm when they are confronted with the Ugandan legislation? Yes, we do. But it is not that we have any doubt about whether homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God. In the theocracy of the Old Testament sodomy was a capital offense. That penalty was instituted by God and was perfectly just and equitable. The New Testament teaches that those who engage in homosexuality (and especially those who given hearty approval to the practice) will not enter the kingdom of God; they will be consigned to hell. That too will be perfectly just and equitable.

    The problem with anti-sodomy laws is that the NT scriptures have made it clear that the Church is not a theocracy. Paul tells the church at Corinth that a man who was having sexual relations with his step-mother was not to be stoned but rather put out of the church. Homosexuals and adulterers and swindlers (the list goes on) are all worthy of death for what they do, but it is not the job of the Church to execute them.

    Of course, the Church itself, in a country like the US where there is no established church, has no power to pass civil laws regarding sodomy or any other transgression. Which leads to the most difficult question: Should Christians (if given the opportunity) vote for laws that would criminalize immoral behavior? Of course murder and child molestation are crimes. Why? Because, for now at least, pretty much everyone believes those acts are criminal. But should a Christian vote for sodomy to be penalized or make divorce illegal? In those cases Christians may feel that they would be imposing their views on others. I don’t think there is a true consensus on this; it is difficult. For example, if as a Christian you believe an abortionist is killing human babies, why wouldn’t you think that such a person should be charged with murder?

    Ultimately, God will be vindicated in all. Whether or not people are punished for their sins in this life is really a secondary issue. It is also worth saying that Christians believe that anyone, no matter what they have done, can receive mercy and forgiveness and eternal life by placing their trust in Jesus Christ as savior.

    • Warms my heart when good Christian folk trot out the ol’ “convert or burn” language. God is gonna getcha, one way or the other! *yuck, yuck* And always that cherry on top of the steaming pile of hate at the end: just trust in JC and his wonderful mercy and love.

    • This is hate speech.

      To cite Leviticus on homosexuality but not about diet.

      To advise cruel Biblical punishments for things not important enough to rate one of Ten Commandments but to dismiss out of hand the endless false witness and idolatry of Wall Street or murders by the CIA or Pentagon.

      To exploit science to abuse women, e.g. mandatory ultrasounds, while denying it applies to evolution or astronomy.

      Hate delusion hate bigotry hate murder hate torture hate.

      Utterly ignoring the real clear hellfire message of Matthew: Feed the hungry, water the thirsty, visit the poor in jail, clothe them, protect…or no Jesus happy future afterlife for you. Sneering outright at genuine Christians in politics like Jimmy Carter. Or at better religious leaders like Desmond Tutu or Pope Francis.

      No wonder there are fewer right wing Christians with every generation. Perhaps the Rapture the pseudo-Xian ebangelicals talk about is when we finally have had enough

    • The Christian Dilemma:

      The greatest threat to Uganda, and indeed to the rest of world, at this point in history, comes from the staunch advocates of right wing ideology, and I must submit this warning to you: There is a grave problem with the right wing movement, in that; they seem to possess a distorted sense of entitlement. They’ve set themselves apart, and seem to think that their faith gives them the right to view the world from a platitude of conceit, through condescending eyes, and with a false sense of superiority. They actually believe themselves to be superior beings, with a manifest destiny and some strange notion that God is on their side. A people with a desire to conquer, under the false guise of Christianity, seeking to dominate in the name of Christ, their view of humanity being reduced to nothing more than a matter of “us” and “them”.

      What they fail to realize is; if the Christ you believe in leads you to view other humans as lesser beings, then you are a follower of the anti-Christ. The plain truth is; God doesn’t have a religion and God doesn’t discriminate. Any religion that professes to be the only true religion, or that they‘re special in the eyes of God preaches false doctrine. If the Spirit of God is truly with you, it will only be known by acts of “unconditional” love and charity. No religion can claim exclusive rights to God. He belongs to all that He has created, and to foster a belief in “us” and “them” is to divide humanity, not unite it.

      And so it will be, in The End, that those who have set themselves apart from their fellow man will find that they have set themselves apart from God. The worth of a soul will only be measured by how much it has loved, nothing more, nothing less. Woe to those who have taken the widow’s mite and built castles and empires in His name. They have incurred a great accountability, their suffering will be unending.

      Even Jesus will not claim to be Christian, but will only proclaim the glory of the Father. And when He returns they will shout: “Here we are Lord!” And He will respond: “I never knew you”. They have forsaken the Word and have become prisoners of the Numbers.

      Those who have put themselves first will be last.
      ~
      Dear President Museveni,
      You say that you are a Christian, yet by your own words you have claimed the label bigot. You can take and wear that label and espouse all the prejudice it represents, or you can cast it aside and follow Jesus Christ, but you can’t have it both ways. It’s your choice, you have a free will, no religion required.

      ~ “Above all else I command you love one another”.

      Why do you waste your time, your energy and your soul on hatred?

  6. “Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he knows no evangelicals who would support legislation like Uganda’s.”

    Hogwash. He does too. Just read the comments on his article, to which this piece is linked. Some of those fine Christian fellows are calling Moore a liberal and worse. Why? They think he’s going soft on the gays because he doesn’t want to kill them dead right this now.

    • Absolutely clearly true.

      Especially those that whine about merely wincing or squirming as inwardly they cheer hallelujah.

      The worst are those who appear or pretend to be moderate. Like supporting “parts of” a bill that address extremely rare events. In Uganda it is straight men that rape virgins to cure themselves of HIV. Where is that mentioned in this “legislation”?

      The USA needs to take all charitable status away from all churches in Africa that have any trace of anti gay doctrine. Its the continent of Desmond Tutu and many other champions of human rights.

      Surely some pastors who are not associated in any way with hate causes can take over those missions.

  7. News articles describing how US Evangelicals had their grubby mitts all over the Uganda Law
    http://amanpour.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/24/how-american-evangelicals-may-be-responsible-for-ugandas-anti-gay-law/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?_r=0

    http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/01/4858428/some-critics-see-a-local-role.html

    You can also see how the Federal Case against Scott Lively’s involvement is going.
    http://ccrjustice.org/files/SMUG_OrderDenyingDefMTD_08_13.pdf

    • @Larry

      You highlight the reason why “Christian” is a bad word.

      The concept of spreading a theory of “Absolute, Compulsory LOVE” and forcing it on people (proselytizing) with threats of Hell is fundamentally evil and inhuman.

      It cannot work, which is why it self-corrupts and runs out of steam wherever it is tried. Burning of Gays and ‘Witches’ is happening in Africa today!

  8. It is distressing to read the polarizing debate in response to this article. Christians come in many shapes and sizes, my friends. And there are many churches that openly welcome and affirm homosexuals. Please do not place us all in the same basket.

    • @Fr. Mark,

      Here is the problem:

      Non-believer – “I have no reason to dislike or disagree with Gay people.”

      Christian – “I have many reasons to dislike Gay people’s behavior. I have reasons to fear Gay people for their behavior. I could argue that it is evil to be Gay. I could argue that I should love Gay people though I must reject their ‘nature’. If I am Catholic I must repress any Gay thoughts in myself no matter how much damage that does to me psychologically. I can argue that Gays must be eliminated from the community. I could argue that Gays are particularly evil since they spread their culture against Christian doctrine. I have reasons to hate Gays as I should hate all people who are enemies of God – I have permission to hate those who do the devil’s work.” etc…etc….

      Religion is toxic. How do we know?
      Because it always must be TAMED.

      And who does the taming? We consider a religion ‘tamed’ when it disposes of all its doctrines and decides to lean toward humanism.

      • “And there are many churches that openly welcome and affirm homosexuals,” writes Fr Mark. “Here’s the problem,” answers Atheist Max.

        In short, that IS the problem–namely, that there are many churches that openly welcome and affirm gays. It challenges Max’s one-note take on Christianity. It humanizes a demographic (the faithful) which he religiously refuses to accept as fully and equally human. That’s pop humanism for you.

        • @Mario,

          I never said the ‘faithful’ are inhuman. I was a believer once myself.
          Religion is an sort of affliction.

          I didn’t get smarter when I became an Atheist any more than a cancer patient gets smarter when they are cured of cancer.

          Christianity = Good people doing good deeds + God
          Atheism = Good people doing good deeds

          Notice the useless bit in the that equation. :-)

          God is especially useless when you consider that He only adds divisiveness, uncertainty, bitterness and threats to the equation.

    • You are in that same “basket” until you flatly condemn selective quoting of Leviticus and any imposition if a theocracy and focus on Jesus’ declared NT agenda.

      Join the left that Jesus was clearly part of and fought for.

      Or remain amongst those damned in Matthew to go join the devil. Those who did not do the charity work. Those that ignored the prisoners.

  9. “The situations in Uganda and Arizona are galaxies apart,” Moore said. “I think that in Arizona and several other states, in an attempt to preserve our religious liberties, regardless of how we agree with how it’s being done, can hardly compare with persecution around the world.”

    “A Ugandan lesbian says she was served with an eviction notice on Monday, and while the landlord acknowledged that she had been a “wonderful” tenant, he cited the country’s recently enacted antigay law as the reason she could no longer rent her home.” http://www.advocate.com/world/2014/03/05/ugandan-lesbian-evicted-landlord-cites-jail-gays-law

    I’d really, really love to hear Russell Moore say Uganda and Arizona are “galaxies apart” after reading this.

    • Russell Moore would love for those situations to not be so far apart…

      That does it. I am going to teach yoga and Buddhist principles to anyone I meet raised by Xian criminals.

  10. Christians advocate daily that all gay people in the world should be put to death as they have for decades. Not a loving religion at all but one of death as history has proven many times over.

    • Sadly agreed.

      Much worse history of anti Semitism also than Islam has historically.

      First thing the Crusaders did before leaving for Jerusalem was slaughter Jews. Then in Jerusalem itself they slaughtered lots more Jews.

      Upon reconquering the city the Islamic leader refused to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre saying it was for Christians. So he spread his mat in the dusty street and prayed there. There where every Christian in the city could see it.

      Islam also fostered science in medieval times. Without Islam no Renaissance and no Internet.

      Religion does not always do ill in the world but from time to time very bad people dig out the worst aspects of religious doctrine and selectively apply it to others.

      Here is your clue:

      If its difficult to do like tolerance or humility or charity or just shutting up THEN YOU PROBABLY SHOULD. If its easy like hate or sneering or violence then avoid it.

      Praying in a dusty street in a city you just conquered losing many good friends could not have been easy.

      Thats why he did it.

      Get a clue Christians.

  11. Every “Christian” who has supported the Naziesque barbarian anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria will be punished for their crimes against humanity just like the blood thirsty anti-gay Nazi Heinrich Himmler would have had the coward not killed himself first. You brought what is about to happen onto yourselves. You were warned to back off, to mind your own business and to stop interfering in the lives of others. Instead you pushed and crossed personal boundaries you had NO right to cross – now you will be pushed back into your place.

  12. NAKASEETA PROSCOVIA

    “If u know the truth,the truth shall set u free” Don’t pretend u don’t know why Sodomy and Gomorrah were punished. God is the same yesterday,today and tomorrow.Nations practicing homosexuality wait for God’s anger surely.

  1. Comment marked as low quality by the editors. Show comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.