Christianity, homosexuality and the law

I am repeating in full a post from August, 2008 regarding religious arguments for the separation of church and state. I do this in response to the calls from Stephen Langa, Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively to maintain laws criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda (and elsewhere). First the post:

Sally Kern, with help from my friend and colleague at Grove City College, T. David Gordon provides today’s open forum discussion.
Mrs. Kern is in the news today about a speech she gave in Norman, OK about her entrance into government and her role as a “culture warrior.” She says:

“I started praying about whether or not the Lord wanted me to run,” Kern said. “And the more I prayed, the more I felt He did.”
Kern said she expected to “run, lose and just be a much better government teacher.”
“But lo and behold I won,” she said. “And so here I am, and I’m not the typical legislator. The Lord showed me right off the bat that I’m not supposed to be. As a matter of fact, my Lord made it very clear to me that I am a cultural warrior. And you know I tried to say ‘no’ to that, too, ’cause that’s pretty hard. But, anyway, that’s where I am.”

I cannot discern however, what Mrs. Kern believes government should do. On one hand, she talks about preserving the founders reliance on “one true religion” and on the other she indicates that

“Government cannot force people to change, and yet we see that’s what government is doing,” she said. “Every time government passes another law, they are taking away some of our freedoms.”

I do agree that government cannot force people to change, but I am unclear how government is making people change. If homosexuals pursuing the democratic process to elect legislators and pass laws is more threatening than terrorism, then what would winning the culture war against homosexuality look like? I have a clearer picture in my mind about winning over a foreign aggressor would look like. But if homosexuals are using the democratic process (elections, laws, courts) to pursue their interests, then how will the Christian culture warriors win? What will victory look like?
I fear that many colleagues on the religious right want the coercive power of the state to enforce a particular view of morality, one that comports with their understanding of Christianity. I might like others to believe like me but I surely think it is futile to seek the state to bring it about. Closer to the therapy world, where I usually labor, I do not believe that counselors should use the coercive power of the counseling relationship to attempt to inculcate religious fruit. We can provide information but the results are not in our hands.
On this point, last school year, Religion prof at GCC, T. David Gordon presented a paper titled, “Religious Arguments for Separating Church and State” at our annual Center for Vision and Values conference. I was edified by this presentation and link to it here. A couple of excerpts gives the tone and direction of the paper:

In the so-called “culture wars” of the late twentieth century, one commonly hears allegations that the separation of church and state reflects and promotes a “secularist” agenda. It is certainly true that most secularists (such as Paul Kurtz, in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) wish to separate church and state. However, many religious individuals and societies favor such separation also; therefore it is misleading to refer to separation of church and state as a secular or secularist idea. The purpose of this brief survey is to list some of the religious arguments that have been presented in favor of separation, so that religious people may consider those arguments as “friendly” to their faith-commitments, rather than hostile to them.

and regarding individual liberty:

For Protestant Christianity, the doctrine of the conscience plays a very important role. Unlike the Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church, where conscience normally appears only in sections dealing with Penance or Confession, some Protestant confessions have an entire chapter devoted to it, such as the Westminster Confession’s chapter on “Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience.” Within this understanding, an action or belief is only morally approved when it is a sincere act, an act that accords with conscientious faith. The conscience is thus “free” from false authority to serve God, the true Authority. Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Some laws which coerce moral behavior are needed to protect us all from each other. I am very glad when going to my car at night at the mall that the threat of punishment from the state might prevent some would be attackers from carrying out the desires of their evil hearts. However, as T. David states so well, some (many, which ones?) matters of personal liberty should be off limits from the state.
With that background, I will turn it over to the forum. I encourage you to read Dr. Gordon’s well-crafted paper. What is the proper role of a Christian in governance? How are legislators to govern in a plural society? Given that Christians were so involved in the founding of the nation, why did they create such protections for pluralism of belief, including the ability to believe nothing and pursue happiness via that worldview? How do we best advance the mission of the church? In which vision of governance is personal and religious liberty best achieved?

Here is another quote from Dr. Gordon’s paper which speaks to how religious people ordinarily confuse criminality and immorality.

Confusion on this point often centers around a misunderstanding of Paul’s comments about the civil magistrate in Romans 13, where he refers to the magistrate as one who is a terror to evil conduct. Many religious people conclude, therefore, that the magistrate’s duty is to punish all evil conduct, as the Bible describes “evil”. In its historical context, however, this interpretation is unlikely. The particular magistrate to whom Paul refers is the Roman authority, who knew nothing of the law of Moses or the commands of Christ, and yet Paul referred to this pagan Roman magistrate as a “minister of God for your good.” The “evil” spoken of by Paul is societal evil, evil of a public nature that threatens the well-being of the commonwealth or its
individual citizens. From what we know of first-century Roman law, it appears that Paul rightly assumed that the magistrate would punish crimes against persons and crimes against property. If the magistrate did this, Paul was content that he was serving his divinely-instituted role fine.
Many other behaviors might well be sinful and immoral, but they are not and need not be criminal. In the late eighteenth century, John Leland, the Massachusetts Baptist, addressed this important distinction:

What leads legislators into this error, is confounding sins and crimes together — making no difference between moral evil and state rebellion: not considering that a man may be infected with moral evil, and yet be guilty of no crime, punishable by law. If a man worships one God, three Gods, twenty Gods, or no God — if he pays adoration one day in a week, seven days or no day — wherein does he injure the life, liberty or property of another? Let any or all these actions be supposed to be religious evils of an enormous size, yet they are not crimes to be punished by laws of state, which extend no further, in justice, than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor.

Leland reflected common views in his day: That states exist to preserve the natural or inalienable rights of humans, frequently considered to be life, liberty and property as referred to by Leland. Thus, an act is criminal when it harms another’s person or property, or restrains his liberty; but other acts are tolerable by the state.

It will not impair the Church for homosexuality to be legal but nations which attempt to coerce moral sexual behavior will impair the free exercise of conscience by same-sex attracted people. To repeat from Dr. Gordon’s paper:

Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Brief post: Scott Lively on criminalization of homosexuality and compulsory therapy

I have posted several times on the Ugandan conference on homosexuality last weekend. In researching this, I wrote to Exodus International, International Healing Foundation and Scott Lively to ask if they were quoted accurately regarding calls for criminalization of homosexuals and forced therapy as an option to jail. Exodus International issued a statement for today’s Christian Post article on the subject. Neither Richard Cohen nor Caleb Brundidge have issued statements; Extreme Prophetic – Mr. Brundidge’s other affiliation has not issued a statement. However, Scott Lively did answer my request for a statement. I asked him if he favored criminal penalties for homosexuality in Uganda and if he favored compulsory therapy as an option. He requested that I present it exactly as written so here goes:

I did promote therapy as an option to imprisonment, citing my own experience benefitting from optional therapy after an arrest for drunk driving many years ago. In fact, it was during that period I accepted Christ and was spontaneously healed of alcoholism and drug addiction.
I don’t think under the circumstances homosexuality should be decriminalized in Uganda since it seems to be the only thing stopping the international “gay” juggernaut from turning Uganda into another Brazil.

It is hard to know where to start here. The assumptions are that an analogy to drunk driving is reasonable (nope) and that disagreement with homosexuality should be enforced via the coercive power of the state (we can’t go there – what other ideas and beliefs might states want to coerce?).
For now, how about readers taking over…

Christian Post article on the Ugandan homosexuality conference

Michelle Vu, reporter for the Christian Post, penned an article regarding the Ugandan anti-gay conference.
Exodus International is quoted in this article, I think for the first time since the controversy began:

In response, Exodus International said it applauds its board member Don Schmierer, who attended the Uganda conference, for his effort to convey an “alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality,” according to a statement by Exodus International president Alan Chambers to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Exodus says neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy. Rather, the ministry says it “unequivocally denounces” the positions the government of Uganda has towards homosexuality.

The full statement is here:

Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, responded to reports about an Exodus board member’s participation at a conference in Uganda on homosexuality:
“Unfortunately, Uganda as a country has demonstrated severe hostility towards homosexuals supporting criminalization of homosexual behavior and proposing compulsory therapy – positions that Exodus International unequivocally denounces. It is our sincere desire to offer an alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality not just here in America, but around the world. We applaud our board member’s attempt to convey these truths to a country in need.”
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There is nothing in this statement that changes my view of this conference. It was ill-advised for several reasons, some of which were described in this Christian Post article. Another issue, largely undiscussed, is the collaboration of Exodus with Richard Cohen’s associate, Caleb Brundidge. Mr. Brundidge believes he can raise people from the dead by God’s power but he can’t heal gays without beating pillows with a tennis raquet and getting in touch with the inner child. Is this the kind of compulsory therapy Ugandan gays might have in their future?
On this subject, I highly recommend thoughtful posts by Wendy Gritter at Bridging the Gap and Karen Keen on her Pursue God blog
Also, Scott Lively provides a quote regarding his views on the Ugandan conference here…

Report from the Uganda conference on homosexuality: Open forum

Frank Mugisha is the chairperson of a gay advocacy group in Uganda called Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). An unnamed person from his group attended all of the meetings in Kampala and filed this report. Obviously, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of it and I think it should be considered one person’s impressions of the event. There are some issues raised in it however, which I am exploring and will probably post about in the future. For now, I am just going to post a link to the report and open the floor for comments.

Gay Ugandan man seeks asylum in UK; EU group condemns Ugandan homosexuality conference

Gay Without Borders is reporting that John Bosco Nyombi is back in the UK after being returned to Uganda against his will. While there, he was beaten and had to hide from police to avoid detention, according to GWB.
Nyombi’s case made headlines in September of 2008 but little has been reported since. I post this case in light of the recent ex-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda involving Exodus International board member, Don Schmeirer, International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively. During this series of meetings, a new anti-gay group was formed, and Scott Lively called for tougher criminal laws and forced therapy of homosexuals.
Bosco claims he was beaten and lived under threat.

He fled to the UK from Uganda where homosexuality is illegal and carries a punishment of life in prison.
His case has attracted publicity in Uganda.
Mr Bosco said in a statement seen by the court that, on his return to his homeland, his circumstances had become “quite desperate”.
He had been beaten up during a period in detention and he had now gone into hiding to avoid being interviewed by the police about his homosexuality.
The judge said the evidence before him made it perfectly plain that Mr Bosco had come to the notice of the authorities, and this had added to the risk of his human rights being breached by reason of his homosexuality.
In rejecting the Home Office’s argument that it was safe to return Mr Bosco to Uganda, the judge said: “I find it impossible to conclude, on the basis of the evidence as it now is, that there is not the real possibility that a judge might find that he is at risk if he is returned (to his homeland) by reason of his homosexuality.”

Elsewhere, a LGBT group affiliated with the European Union blasted the Uganda conference and the American participants by name:

European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights strongly condemns the meeting of 5 March between several Ugandan parliamentarians and Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Stephen Langa of the USA and Uganda-based groups working to diminish human rights of LGBT persons.

In my view, American groups should be condemning the situation in Uganda and not enabling it.

Reparative theory takes center stage at Uganda conference

Yesterday morning I reported that Ugandan officials were considering stronger penalties for homosexuality. In the same meeting, Family Life Network seminar leader Scott Lively promoted further criminalization of homosexuality but added an outrageous consequence — forced therapy. If reports from the conference are accurate, we don’t have to wonder what kind of therapy would be imposed.
Gay Uganda has a description as does IGLHRC. Both accounts feature prominently the theory that homosexuality is father related.
As an example:

An LGBTI activist told me that Caleb was contradicting himself. “First he testified that he didn’t have a good relationship with his father. Later, when a participant noted that there are a lot of homosexuals that she knows that come from great families and have good relationships with their parents, Caleb interjected and said that he had a great relationship with his father. That was contradictory!”

Given the description, I wonder if Mr. Schmierer showed Homosexuality 101.
Here is another meeting report from “a fly on the wall.”

Ugandan ex-gay conference goes political: US presenter suggests law to force gays into therapy

The Ugandan anti-gay seminar now is coming into sharper focus. In this disturbing article from UGPulse, Scott Lively, invited by Family Life Network to speak at a church-based conference on homosexuality, spoke to a government conference and called for the forced therapy of homosexuals.
Here is the article in full:

The Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo has today told a conference organized to discuss the ways to fight Homosexuality that he will soon submit a bill on pornography and homosexuality for discussion in Parliament.
The conference that took place at Parliament was organized by Defend the Family International, an organization in the United States of America that was formed to fight homosexuality.
Buturo says the he will present the bill against pornography first before presenting that against homosexuality though he declines to mention exactly when these bills will be presented to Parliament.
He says pornography is partly a cause of homosexuality since it negatively affects the morals of the victims of pornography and makes them easily susceptible to the vice of homosexuality.
He says the provision in the penal code on homosexuality is too small to cover all concerns in homosexuality.
Buturo says the government will not only end at making laws against homosexuality but will also engage in sensitizing schools and churches in the fight against this vice.
The President of Defend the Family International, Scott Lively says it is good for the government of Uganda to criminalize homosexuality but the government should subject the criminals of homosexuality to a therapy rather than imprisoning them.
Lively says this is aimed at the criminals recovering from homosexuality which is the main objective of those fighting homosexuality and not to punish homosexuals through imprisonment. He says even schools should borrow this idea of therapy in dealing with gay students.

Exodus International and the International Healing Foundation must now come out clearly and make a statement condemning this proposal. This is a chilling development and one which must be addressed. The presence of these ex-gay organizations in this environment most likely sends a message to the Ugandan people and government that such forced “therapy” is plausible and humane. Cell phones and other modern forms of communication exist. If I were Alan Chambers and Richard Cohen, I would be on the phone yesterday to insist that their representatives make public statements distancing themselves from Mr. Lively’s views. And they should come home early.

More on the Ugandan ex-gay conference

Wanting to know more about the Family Life Network ex-gay conference in Uganda (first covered here), I wrote FLN Director and conference organizer, Stephen Langa.
In contrast to rumors that the Ugandan government funded the conference, Langa said that the Family Life Network funded it locally. I asked why he chose the speakers (Schmierer, Brundidge and Lively) and he said, “they each have unique expertise which we feel will address the needs we have in Uganda and Africa in general on the subject of homosexuality.” He noted that the speakers are not being paid for their time.
Regarding the need for the conference, Langa said no prior conferences had provided true information. He believed this conference would offer hope for “recovery and restoration” of homosexuals.
I asked some follow up questions but have not received a reply as yet. As noted in this African news report, I am very skeptical that value will come from the attempt to transplant US ex-gay ideas into a country with such a hostile climate for people who are same-sex attracted.

Uganda's strange ex-gay conference

I decided to post about this after reading an article about an upcoming (this weekend) conference in Uganda on homosexuality. The article begins:

Parents to train on how to handle homosexuality issues
Family Life Network and other stakeholders in Uganda have organized a three-day seminar to provide what they termed as reliable and up to date information so that people can know how to protect themselves, their children, families from homosexuality.

Reliable and up-to-date information? I doubt it given line-up of presenters (Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Brundidge). I have little awareness of Mr. Lively’s work but Mr. Schmeirer and Mr. Brundidge I know more about.
It is ironic that Mr. Schmierer is speaking at a conference for parents. He recently spoke on Family Life Radio which prompted several parents to contact me – not with good feelings, I might add. Some parents who have been through the reparative therapy gauntlet are weary of programming they seek for spiritual support providing misleading information which serves to demoralize them. An portion of Mr. Schmierer’s book, An Ounce of Prevention was provided to parents to help them pick out their pre-gay child.

Signs That an Adolescent May Be Struggling with Gender Issues
Don Schmierer
None of these are clear-cut indications of homosexual tendencies. However, if several of them are evident, the young person may be struggling with gender issues.
1. A sensitive child being forced to feel different because of mocking or downgrading by peers or family
2. A young boy who hangs out with girls exclusively; history of playing with girls instead of boys prior to puberty
3. Effeminate behavior/appearance in boys or extreme macho behavior; mannish style and “butch” posturing in girls (not to be confused with simply being athletic)
4. Unnatural friendship that is compulsive, secretive, or inseparable developing between siblings, cousins, relatives, or neighbors—especially in merged families or foster families
5. Exaggerated rejection by same sex parent
6. Fatherless home or emotionally unavailable father
7. Dominant mother
8. Youngest male child
9. Young girls with much older female “best friend” in a relationship that excludes others of the girl’s own age
10. Anger—often manifested in sarcasm, cynicism, or withdrawal
11. Frail, deformed, deaf, or otherwise “outcast”; physical appearance not socially acceptable; “slow”
12. Comments, “I must be gay,” or “I guess I’m bisexual.”
13. Loner, preoccupied with self
14. Boys may avoid fights/physical altercations

I don’t know where to start with this list. More to the point, I don’t know what a parent would do with a list like this. Take number 3: “Ok, son, time to tone down the machismo, you might be gay.” or “Son, how about being a little more macho, you might be gay.” I am trying to imagine how this list will go over in Uganda.
Mr. Brundidge, I featured here in the post just prior to this one. He divides his time between fringe groups – Extreme Prophetic and the International Healing Foundation. Here is another YouTube video of Mr. Brundidge when he was a pupil of Mr. Cohen. At least, it appears he was still a client in this video. With Mr. Cohen, you can be a client and staffer so maybe he was both. Embedding is disabled so you have to watch to about a minute into the video to see Mr. Brundidge and then again at 18:31. I wonder if he will demonstrate the tennis raquet technique in Uganda.
BrundidgeRaquet
Overall, I am surprised that an Exodus board member would go to a conference like this in a country where criminalization of homosexuality is still an issue. My impression is that Exodus had no position on such things or if there was a position it was that homosexuality should not be considered a crime. For a change, I agree with Exgaywatch that it sends the wrong message for these people to go where the agenda is not simply congruence with religious teaching but also on state intervention in private behavior.
PS – Here is an article describing some of the attitudes in Uganda. This conference will be aiding and abetting this kind of thinking, I fear.

Invisible Children Documentary

I interrupt the normally scheduled blog to bring you this important public service announcement. Everybody reading this, please go to www.invisiblechildren.com. I saw the documentary this morning in church and I was blown away. The documentary is a call to action for the West to help the children of Sudan and Uganda. I think we will be doing the Global Night Commute later in April. Pass the word (maybe it is all over blogosphere already, I don’t know, but here is my little part).