Uganda: Members of Parliament Call for Another Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday members of Uganda’s Parliament called for legislation akin to the failed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. Beginning in 2009, Uganda had the world’s attention as the nation’s Parliament debated a bill which would have implemented the death penalty for repeat instances of same-sex behavior between consenting adults. A slightly modified bill finally passed in 2013 only to be struck down by a Ugandan court in 2014.
In protest, nations around the globe cut off aid to Uganda and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the bill at the 2010 prayer breakfast. Evangelicals were divided over the bill with some giving quiet support to the evangelical parliamentarians in Uganda. Others, like Rick Warren, criticized the bill and urged Ugandan pastors to come out against it. See the end of this post for more reading on the issue. I wrote scores of articles about the bill and came out strongly against it.

A New Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

After speaking out against same-sex marriage at the March Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, members of Parliament passed a commendation of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.


Here is Kadaga at the IPU meeting:

The recognition of Kadaga Wednesday led to other members of Parliament making statements about a need for a new law against homosexuality.


That homosexuality spreads “like a wild fire” is just one of many misconceptions which members of Parliament use to generate support for their efforts. As a response to a request from President Museveni for scientific information relating to homosexuality, Jack Drescher and I wrote a scientific consensus letter in 2014 which was signed by over 200 scholars and sex researchers. I would like to think it helped but he signed the bill anyway. Furthermore, when I read these statements from the Parliament, I can see we have more work to do.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement
History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals  – Daily Beast
My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill
Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers
The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic
All posts about Uganda
 

In His New Book, Eric Metaxas Whitewashes George Whitefield on Slavery

In his new book If You Can Keep It, Eric Metaxas provides an overview of early American history in order to remind us what is special about America. In the process, he provides a pithy formula for national success, but he makes significant historical errors and glosses over important facts. One such fact is the involvement of evangelist George Whitefield in introducing slavery to Georgia.
In his chapter on Whitefield (which appears to be summarized without attribution from Thomas Kidd’s excellent book on Whitefield), Metaxas asserts that Whitefield’s preaching was a great equalizer among American social classes. On page 111, he adds:

The egalitarian strains of the Gospel extended to women and blacks as well. Many female preachers were spawned by the revival of the Great Awakening and many African American preachers too. Unlike most of the mainline ministers of his day, Whitefield often spoke to “Negroes” and once remarked that he was especially touched when one of them came to faith. One of them even asked Whitefield, “Have I a soul?” That Whitefield believed he did meant that the Negro was in this most important respect perfectly equal to whites.
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 111). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This is a disturbing whitewash of Whitefield’s views and actions relating to African slaves. As Kidd documents in his book (see also this post), Whitefield was “convinced that introducing slavery into Georgia was essential to the colony’s economic prospects…” Prior to Whitefield’s advocacy for slavery, Georgia had banned it. Whitefield himself owned slaves. On March 22, 1751, Whitefield wrote about the need for slavery in Georgia:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt, since I hear of some that were bought with Abraham’s money, and some that were born in his house.—And I cannot help thinking, that some of those servants mentioned by the Apostles in their epistles, were or had been slaves. It is plain, that the Gibeonites were doomed to perpetual slavery, and though liberty is a sweet thing to such as are born free, yet to those who never knew the sweets of it, slavery perhaps may not be so irksome. However this be, it is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

Africans are expendable and whites are not.
Yes, Whitefield preached to slaves and expressed pleasure when they converted. However, he also resisted the urging of at least one of this colleagues to reject slavery.  Not only did he own slaves, but he used his considerable influence to change the attitudes of Georgia decision makers to allow slavery in the colony.
Whitefield biographer James Gledstone commented in 1871 on Whitefield’s efforts to bring slavery to Georgia:

How complete and miserable a failure was the attempt to unite slavery and Christianity will be seen by and by. Meanwhile we think of the orphans being habituated to look upon Negroes as a servile race, of their growing to manhood and womanhood educated in the ideas of slaveholders, and of their being able to throw over all the abominations of the system, the reputation of a philanthropist so humane and a saint so sincere and so holy as was George Whitefield; neither can we forget that every man who owned a slave would be able to justify it by Whitefield’s example.

This reminds me of David Barton’s whitewash of Thomas Jefferson on slavery.
It is beyond absurd for Metaxas to write, “The egalitarian strains of the Gospel extended to women and blacks as well.” In what universe can Whitefield’s approach to Africans be construed as regarding them as “perfectly equal to whites?”
Apparently, Whitefield worship is a matter of great importance to Metaxas. He needs Whitefield to fill the role of the great Christian reason we had the revolution. About Whitefield, Metaxas says:

We might also say that providence brought them [unity and self-government] into existence through the life and work of a single man, very little known to us today. We are talking about the life and work of the man named George Whitefield, without whom the United States simply could not have come into being.
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 77). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Did providence also bring about slavery in Georgia?
Apparently, Metaxas needs Whitefield to be larger than life in order to bring God into the founding. At the close of the chapter on Whitefield, Metaxas says:

When we take the full measure of Whitefield’s role in creating what would become the United States, who can help but wonder whether our history is one in which God himself— and if not God, then at least those who are motivated by the idea of God and all it portends— has played a central role?
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (p. 114). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

If you want a book to delight you with pleasantries and clever phrasing, this one could work. However, if you want accurate and honest history throughout, this is not the book for you.
 
*In my Kindle copy, there are only 7 end notes. I could be wrong but it seems like Metaxas owes a large debt to Kidd’s book on Whitefield.

Ugandan Scientist Who Chaired President Museveni's Anti-Homosexuality Committee Runs HIV Project Funded by CDC

UPDATE: I have updated the title of this post to reflect new information from the National Institutes of Health. According to NIH spokesperson, Renate Myles, the CDC funds the grant led by Jane Aceng, not the NIH. Myles wrote:

NIH does not fund this grant.  The grant referenced in your blog was awarded by the CDC.  Please correct your post since it is causing quite a bit of confusion.  NIH Reporter includes data files on research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I would recommend that you contact the CDC to learn more about the grant and how it is structured.
All the best,
Renate Myles

……..
The committee of Ugandan researchers and scientists who gave President Museveni cover (see their final report here) to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was chaired by Jane Ruth Aceng. Dr. Aceng is a pediatrician and Director of General Health Services at Uganda’s Ministry of Health. She also is a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health, currently leading a project which addresses “HIV response” in Uganda. See below to see the three grants she has received since 2012.

I wonder if the CDC and NIH will evaluate such requests for funding differently now in light of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  Dr. Aceng is supposed to be leading an effort to address HIV response and yet her failure to stand up to the President’s misuse of science will weaken her nation’s ability to reach vulnerable populations. It is also quite possible that straights will fear coming forward for testing and treatment because they may be afraid of questions about their sexuality. People from all over the ideological spectrum agree that the bill will harm Uganda’s efforts to address HIV/AIDS (e.g., UNAIDS, Harvard’s Ed Green).
At the least, I hope the NIH and CDC will take steps to secure project leaders who are actual leaders.
H/t Joe Amon

David Barton: AIDS is a Consequence of Homosexuality

History is not the only disciplined tortured by David Barton.
Either unaware or uncaring that AIDS is transmitted primarily among straights in Africa, Barton today said AIDS won’t be cured because it is God’s judgment on gays. Then he added, even if the disease is cured, some other disease will come along as punishment.
Religious leaders can be a force for good in stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa but not with messages like Barton’s.
 

What Uganda Should Be Worrying About

At the same time Uganda is threatening to make consensual same-sex relations punishable by death or life in prison, the nation is facing a jump in the rate of HIV infections. The Ugandan Parliament website reported today on a Ministry of Health briefing which disclosed that the HIV rate has increased to 7.3% in 2011 from 6.4% in 2004.

Given the rush to enact a law depriving gays of life and liberty, one might think that the driver of this increase is homosexuality. However, that is not the case. According to the article, married couples are driving the chamges.

Dr.Musinguzi warned that the HIV/AIDS rates that had gone down in the 1990s have now shot up and require urgent redress. The new statistics point at Women bearing the biggest burden of the disease with 55% of the new infections discovered amongst women.

The research attributes the trend to multiple sexual partners as the key driver to the spread of the disease. 80% of the men interviewed by health experts accepted leaving with concurrent multiple sexual partners while 68% of the women lived the same lifestyle.

The Speaker of Parliament Rt.Hon. Rebecca Kadaga who officiated at the opening of the dialogue re-echoed the need to lay new strategies to reverse the HIV/AIDS trend.

“Although a number of achievements have been made in the fight against AIDS, the epidemic seems to have shifted from single young persons to those married and in long term relationships. I am also concerned that the rich women are now more vulnerable to HIV than others. This is a worrying trend,” the Speaker noted.

Gays are a negligible aspect of the HIV picture in Uganda but the Parliament is wasting time debating homosexuality. The MPs should be spending their time worrying about the sexual behavior of straights. It is beyond belief that the Ugandan Parliament is risking donor funding over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when the more immediate issue for HIV is infidelity among straights in long term relationships.

 

 

 

Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Wants Anti-Homosexuality Bill Debated Next Week

So says the Monitor.

The Speaker of Parliament has directed the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to present the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2011 on the floor of Parliament.

The committee chairperson, Mr Stephen Tashobya, passed on Ms Rebecca Kadaga’s directive to committee members yesterday as he summoned them to attend next week’s session in person “to have the Bill concluded”.

In her November 13 letter, the Speaker advised Mr Tashobya to be mindful of what she said was the high demand by the public to address homosexuality.

“I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality,” the letter reads in part.

“This is therefore to inform you that I shall place the Bill on the Order Paper immediately after conclusion of the Oil Bills,” she wrote. Parliament is concluding consideration of the Petroleum (Exploration, Production and Development) Bill as the House breaks off for Christmas recess on December 15, which suggests that after the Bill is hopefully completed by next Tuesday, MPs can expect to debate and probably pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Mr Tashobya said his committee had “a working document [ready] because we had a lot of responses during the public hearings.” The Bill was presented as a Private Members’ Bill by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati in the 8th Parliament and has since become a subject of international discussion, with a number of Western countries threatening to cut aid to Uganda if it is passed.

The working document is a report left over from the 8th Parliament and makes very few changes in the anti-gay bill.  I wrote about the committee report in May, 2011:

A paper designated as the final report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee was leaked last Thursday, just ahead of Friday’s final session. I have good reasons to believe that the report did come from the committee although I cannot say for certain that the report would have been presented on the floor of the Parliament had the bill gotten that far. You can read the report, converted to a .pdf, by clicking here.

To help see what a revised bill would have looked like, I compared the original Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the report. This version makes the changes called for in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee report (Click the link). In this version the sections crossed out were in the original bill and those underlined are the ones suggested by the committee.

Even after the changes, the penalty for private, consensual  same-sex intimacy would still be life in jail and the death penalty would remain since it is the penalty provided for aggravated defilement in Uganda. Clauses 4, 7, 8, 14, 16 & 17 were deleted but a new penalty for participating in the marriage of a same-sex couples. Presumably, this would discourage ministers from performing the ceremonies. Even if the bill had been amended in the manner suggested by the committee, the bill would have defined homosexual behavior in a way that criminalized the most modest forms of intimacy with either life in prison or death for HIV positive individuals.

According to the Monitor report, the Speaker wants to have the second reading of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after the Petroleum Bills are completed. According to today’s agenda, the oil bills were debated in today’s session (click here to read the order paper for today). The listing of business to come does not list the AHB but according to the Monitor, Kadaga is going to put it on the order paper for sometime next week.

 

Latitude News covers the relationship between Scott Lively and Uganda’s anti-gay bill

I provided comment for this series of Latitude News reports. They are worth looking at for those who are interested in the relationship of Americans (notably Scott Lively) and the Uganda bill.

Click these links for the reports:

Uganda, U.S. export anti-gay pressure (podcast)

U.S. exporting homophobia to Uganda – Part I (print story)

U.S. exporting homophobia to Uganda – Part II (print story)

The facts and players will be familiar to anyone who has followed this blog for the past three years. I think they have done a nice job of summarizing the situation and getting us up to the present.

Latitude News covered the divide among evangelicals in the United States over the Ugandan bill. This is a balanced approach I appreciate.

 

Ghana's Western Region Minister orders arrest of all gays

Yesterday, I reported on the worsening situation in Ghana for human rights for GLB people. Today, a government minister ordered the arrest of all gay people in his region.

The Western Region Minister Paul Evans Aidoo has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region.
He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex.
He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals.
His directive follows months of campaigns against the practice of homosexuality in the country.
Only yesterday, the Christian Council of Ghana capped months of protestations against the practice of homosexuality with a strongly worded message against the practice and courting Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals.

UPDATE: In a sign that there are forces of reason in Ghana’s leadership, the President said he was misquoted when a news source said he intended to crack down on gays legally. It is not clear what he will do about this call for unlawful arrests.

UN restores reference to sexual orientation in violence policy – UPDATED

UPDATE: Paul Canning has this story from all angles. He has the vote changes listed and notes that 47 countries switched votes from the last time this issue came up.

His summary demonstrates the striking changes in votes from the first time around when sexual orientation was removed as a basis for condemning executions.

This means that 23 nations changed their vote to yes, 15 didn’t vote no and nine more abstained – 47 in total went in a positive direction. This is a quarter of the UN membership.

  • One third of African countries changed their vote positively, including Rwanda and Angola voting yes. 
  • Almost the whole of the Caribbean changed their vote positively, including Jamaica.

In the debate at the UN the most moving contribution was from the Rwandan delegate who said that a group does not need to be “legally defined” to be targeted for massacres and referenced his countries experience. “We can’t continue to hide our heads in the sand” he said.”These people have a right to life.”

“These people have a right to life,” said the Rwandan delegate. Will this sentiment spread to neighboring nations, including Uganda? We shall see…

This just in from Reuters…

The United States succeeded on Tuesday in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

Western delegations were disappointed last month when the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

The committee’s move also had outraged human rights activists and groups that lobby for gay rights. Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said at the time that it was a “step backwards” and “extremely disappointing.”

The 192-nation General Assembly approved a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, none against and 59 abstentions.

The main opposition to the U.S. amendment came from Muslim and African nations, which had led the push to delete the reference to sexual preference from the resolution last month.

Zambia moves against criminalization of homosexuality

An interesting report out of Zambia

FORMER president of Botswana Festus Mogae has urged President Rupiah Banda’s government not to criminalise homosexuality and sex work because that would make the fight against HIV/AIDS difficult.

And President Rupiah Banda said he understood the need not to criminalise homosexuals.

Speaking when he led a group of prominent Africans that include Dr Kenneth Kaunda, former Vice-President of Uganda Dr Speciosa Wandira and former chairperson of Kenya’s National AIDS Control Prof Mirriam Were, who are calling themselves Champions of an HIV-Free Generation, Mogae said there was no need to enact laws that criminilise homosexuals and sex workers.

He explained that the Botswana constitution criminalized homosexuality and sex work but since he left office he had been arguing with the government to repeal the law.

Mogae said over the last three years nobody had been prosecuted for being homosexuals or sex workers in Botswana.