Catholics Condemn Uganda's Anti-Gay Law As Discrimination Intensifies

MartinUganda_FinalLess than a day after Uganda criminalized homosexuality, a newspaper has already published the names and photos of 200 “top homosexuals” and President Yoweri Museveni repeatedly called gay people “disgusting” in an interview with CNN. This deteriorating situation has captured the attention of Christians speaking out against LGBT discrimination worldwide through the lens of Uganda.

America released this week’s editorial early under the title “When the Law is a Crime,” specifically addressing Uganda’s anti-gay law. Referencing Pope Francis’ famous statement “Who am I to judge?” in light of the violence and discrimination that inevitably results when such laws emerge, the editors write:

“It is especially disturbing that such legislation is immensely popular in predominately Christian countries like Uganda, where 40 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and the Catholic bishops have sent mixed signals about the legislation. When the bill was first considered in 2009, Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga of Kampala, speaking on behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conference, said it was ‘at odds with the core values’ of Christianity. When the bill was reintroduced in 2012, however, the Uganda Joint Christian Council, which includes Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox bishops, expressed support for the bill…

“The church’s vigorous support for traditional marriage, moreover, must be accompanied by advocacy for the human rights of gays and lesbians in equal measure. This is required by the church’s own teaching. Indeed, a growing number of Catholic leaders have offered unqualified support for the decriminalization of homosexuality…

“We add our voice to this swelling chorus. Pope Francis has described gay people as ‘socially wounded’ because ‘they feel like the church has always condemned them.’ Catholics must examine how we contribute, perhaps even inadvertently, to a culture of fear and shame…The church must oppose violence against gay persons and should strongly advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality. No one should be subject to a criminal penalty simply for being gay. If laws like these do not constitute the ‘unjust discrimination’ against gay people that the church rightly denounces, then what possibly could?”

Jesuit priest James Martin added his own commentary on Facebook, accompanying a graphic from AllOut. He spent time working in East Africa, visiting Uganda, and speaks highly of the people there. Still, he remains clear that these laws are intolerable:

“These new laws are part of a general pattern of oppression in Africa today, where in 38 countries homosexual activity is a criminal offense…The Catholic church in Africa has so far done little so far to protect their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from violence…

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu has rightly compared these laws and these attitudes to early anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany. They can also be compared to the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that precedes and accompanies war and genocide. (During the Second World War, the Japanese were called ‘vermin’ by many Americans, and in the Rwandan genocide, Hutus were ‘cockroaches’ by many Tutsi.)

“Every Catholic, every Christian, every person, should oppose these laws. Every Catholic, every Christian, every person is called to love their brothers and sisters–straight or gay. Period.”

Expanding on this idea, Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister who is a senior religion editor at The Huffington Postclaims that precisely because Christians have contributed to LGBT oppression, either through action or indifference, we must be part of the liberation now. This extends beyond Uganda’s borders, and he notes the common thread from Uganda to Kansas to Russia is “Christian complicity.” He writes:

“Those of us who are Christian have to add to and embolden these voices with our own. Christians should make sure that their churches, friends and denominational leaders have a chance to meet and talk to LGBT people and understand how being targeted by these laws makes us feel. Christians should take to their own Facebook pages and other social media and stand with LGBT people.

“Religious leaders on every level must directly speak out against the complicity of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the targeting of God’s LGBT children. Pope Francis, I’m talking to you. It is time for you to use your prophetic voice and speak out against use of violence and for the full equality of LGBT people. All of those on Twitter should reach out to @Pontifex using #PopeSpeakOut

“Recent events around the world show us that sitting on the sidelines is no longer permissible — especially for Christians. We cannot let others speak for Jesus. Our faith is being used to do serious harm to LGBT people. Showing love for our neighbor today, as commanded by Jesus, means stepping up and standing in solidarity with our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.”

In a statement reported on the GLAAD blog, DignityUSA’s executive director Marianne Duddy-Burke said:

“Our hearts and souls are joined with the people of Uganda, especially those whose lives and liberty are threatened by this horrific injustice. We pray that the majority of people, law enforcers, and those in government will continue to live in the recognition that all people embody the Divine, and pledge renewed vigor in working to overturn such discrimination. We call on the people and officials of the Catholic Church worldwide to recognize that such laws perpetrate violence on the entire body of Christ, and to lead efforts to repeal this and similar laws.”

Even National Catholic Reporter‘s Michael Sean Winters, who is sometimes critical of LGBT political issues, is strongly condemning Uganda’s law:

“It is a measure of a humane and Christian civilization that small minority groups have their human dignity protected. There is no straight line from Uganda to the death camps [of the Holocaust]. There is no line at all, just as the situation in Arizona is not like that in Uganda. But, what unites them is this: The Christian Church must learn how to promote family life without attacking the human dignity of gay men and women. That is foundational. It is a sin to do otherwise. The gravity of that sin differs from culture to culture. I do not expect Africa to embrace Upper West Side values tomorrow or anytime. But, the Church must proclaim the dignity of each and every human person in all places and at all times if we are to be true to our most basic dogmatic beliefs.”

If you’re looking to raise your own voice, please participate in #PopeSpeakOut. Send an email or a tweet to Pope Francis and encourage him to condemn Uganda’s anti-gay law and all efforts to criminalize homosexuality worldwide. You can find more information by clicking here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    Yes all Christian groups who have, even just in recent times, come to the point of at least respecting the rights of LGBTQI people, should be speaking out clearly against the 76+ countries who have criminalized homosexuality and where violence is condoned, even inspired by public officials including Catholic conferences of bishops. But there needs to be more than speaking out, there has to be physical/financial accompaniment with people on the ground. I have joined an LGBTQI service center that was closed by violent vandals in December. We have an Indiegogo campaign now underway. As of today, week two, we have had not one donation. Go to camefDOTweeblyDOTcom and see our campaign button. Or go directly to http://ggDOTme/at/CAMEF-HELP These people are willing to put their lives on the line to stay and advocate within their community in spite of the criminal laws. Thanks!

  2. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    In paragraph #3, “predominately” should be “predominately [sic]” because the correct word is “predominantly” and the error appears in the original, quoted source.

  3. Paul Witte
    Paul Witte says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

    The editorial in America magazine should also be applied to the legislation recently passed by the Arizona legislature allowing businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds. And the fact that the Arizona Catholic Conference endorsed the legislation and is calling on people to encourage the governor to sign the bill ( should cause outrage by “every Catholic, every Christian, every person.”

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      The Governor, to her credit, has just VETOED the bill — but I’m appalled that the Catholic Conference was urging her to SIGN it. What would Pope Francis say about such an act of bigotry being perpetrated by officials of the Church that he governs? It’s simply “off the charts” in terms of sheer hatefulness.

      • tomfluce
        tomfluce says:

        Maybe I’m pushing things to post yet another reply to this article. I am 75, ordained a priest in Rome in 1963, degree in theology from the Gregorian U. (Jesuit) in Rome. I’ve lived a bit and been thrown out of the church first for getting married, and then for declaring that homosexuality is a normal state, not a chosen one–something I decided about my own orientation at age 62 just to say that I followed all the rules and checked everything out more than twice!

        What I want to say is that in spite of the salvation that all the pro-Gay orgs–most of which insist on being called Catholic but are in reality excommunicated–and in spite of an unusual pope (not unlike John XXIII, the savior of my generation), the whole ecclesial organization is fatally flawed. Trying to petition the pope, lobbying the bishop conferences….wrong from the gitgo. Why LGBTQI people–and now I include myself–have been killed, ostracized, condemned to hell, kept of our employment is precisely because the Catholic church structure is corrupt at the core, a twisting beyond recognition of what Jesus was about. It’s the same with heretics being burned at the stake, the same as Popes giving the o.k. to slavery, etc etc etc. The organization is all wrong. Even now since the ’86 “All our children” bishops’ letter and there is talk about loving gays, respecting their rights. yeah. But I don’t know of any rational (that’s the problem, isn’t hit?) let alone loving, spiritual mechanism to put dissent onto a discussion table where people like myself could testify to the evil of anti-gay teaching of the Catholic church. No instead we have to find that our brother, father, friend, is gay and now I have to look at reality more closely. And a pope says, “who am I to judge?” Yeah, right. But he has not condemned the killings and violence against gays in Cameroon last year while other international organizations–non religious–have all signed letters condemning this human rights abuse. And let’s not even get over to Uganda.

        I mean the male hierarchy, the insistence on obedience at the pain of hell and, more importantly, at the pain of losing your job–this is wrong, wrong, wrong. And false at the source. The abuse of biblical wisdom (there is some wisdom there, sure) by taking it out of context and assuming infallible interpretation to yourself as a Pope, bishop, priest (father knows best, right?)–an always false organization that has to be totally reformed instead of doing these things that keeps those in power thinking they should have the power.

        Well my last shot didn’t work. I mean pushing the Indiegogo campaign for CAMEF, the Cameroonian LGBTQI service agency. Wrong URL. Sorry. Here it is: Let’s do more than condemn the anti-gay leaders, let’s do more than pressure Catholic hierarchs into condemning this. Let’s empower people on the ground, sure as “hell” that they are right about the beauty of their orientation and willing to give their lives for this. Got to their website Join in! Thanks for letting me rant, Bondings!

  4. mmwms1
    mmwms1 says:

    During the Rwandan genocide, it was the Hutus who were referring to Tutsis as “cockroaches,” not the other way around as you see written here.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  2. […] de todo el mundo han condenado la legislación anti-gay en cada etapa. Figuras como jesuita  P. James Martí n el ex embajador de Estados Unidos ante el Vaticano  Thomas Melady , y el nuncio papal en Uganda […]

  3. […] Catholics worldwide have condemned anti-gay legislation at each step. Figures like Jesuit Fr. James Martin former US ambassador to the Vatican Thomas Melady, and the papal nuncio to Uganda have all […]

  4. […] Catholics worldwide have condemned anti-gay legislation at each step. Figures like Jesuit Fr. James Martin former US ambassador to the Vatican Thomas Melady, and the papal nuncio to Uganda have all […]

  5. […] condemn such laws through the #PopeSpeakOut campaign, and Catholics outside Uganda have been vocal in their defense of LGBT people’s lives. However, Pope Francis has remained quiet while Uganda and other […]

  6. […] in religion. Elsewhere, Pope Francis has laid out his vision for more pastoral bishops. Catholic leaders and organizations condemned Uganda’s harsh anti-gay law passed last week, while in the US […]

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