The Ugandan parliament is considering legislation that would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual acts (which are already illegal), require people to report every LGBT individual they know, and criminalize renting property to gay men and women.
As Rachel Maddow repeatedly highlighted on her MSNBC show, this anti-gay push in Uganda was inspired — and promoted — by the religious far right in the United States. In March 2009, three American evangelicals — whose anti-gay teachings have been widely discredited — went to Uganda and preached about the “dark agenda” of LGBT individuals. Just one month later, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati introduced the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill.”
While many evangelical leaders who promote hatred toward gays have tried to distance themselves from the Uganda bill, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Anglican bishop from Uganda and Chaplain of Integrity Uganda, spoke at the Center for American Progress this week and blamed global anti-LGBT sentiments on the religious right in the United States. From his discussion with CAP Visiting Senior Fellow Bishop Gene Robinson (13:35):
ROBINSON: One thing that I often say to groups here is that the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic communities are responsible for most of the discrimination LGBT people have experienced. And it seems to me that the church, synagogue, the mosque needs to repent of that kind of emotional and spiritual violence, as I say, which often leads to physical violence. Do you see any movement of the churches or the Muslim community in Uganda — any movement to a recognition to the harm that has been done or is it still the source of much of the prejudice?
SENYONJO: It’s very, very unfortunate because there are even some Christian groups coming from here — that is to say, the United States — who are making it very difficult by preaching a gospel of hatred to the LGBT people. One wonders, if God — whom I do, many of us, I say, do believe — that God is a god of love, but some people are preaching a gospel of hating a certain group of people. … It’s very unfortunate, people also read the scriptures. They usually pick bits which fit them. And they pick them and say, “Oh, in the Old Testament this happened, in the Qur’an and all that.”
Robinson also pointedly criticized anti-gay religious leaders by comparing them to people who start campfires in California and then don’t want to be held accountable because they claim “that they did not intend to burn down half of Los Angeles” (18:49):
ROBINSON: It seems to me that that’s an image we ought to be using with those who go to Uganda, for instance, and in the name of the Gospel preach this kind of message. And then when violence occurs, or this legislation, like the Bahati bill occurs, you know when we confront them here in this country about that, they say, “Oh my goodness! That was never our intention!” Well, when you set off that kind of sparks you should not be surprised when it turns into a wildfire.
Watch the full event here:
Robinson is the bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church in New Hampshire and was the first openly gay priest ordained by a major Christian denomination. Senyonjo had to leave Uganda because of his efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and increase tolerance there.