Ugandan politicians and evangelical leaders have been on the defensive for different reasons since the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni. Many evangelicals are having to account for support for the bill which arose from the far right element of the evangelical world and Ugandan leaders, facing loss of aid from donor countries, are spinning the bill beyond recognition.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey posted a thoughtful article at Religion News Service (picked up by WaPo) earlier this week which included reactions of various evangelicals to the bill (yours truly among them). Bailey noted the strong opposition to the bill from Rick Warren. Warren felt the need to repeat his opposition recently as apparently some critics were erroneously blaming him for influencing the bill’s passage. Russell Moore was also vigorous in opposing the bill but sadly was incorrect in at least one of his statements:
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.
If you count Scott Lively, Bryan Fischer and Darryl Foster among evangelicals (I would rather not), then Moore isn’t correct. Maybe Moore means he doesn’t personally know anyone. I must say I was glad to hear from the Southern Baptists. I do wish they had spoken out louder and sooner.
Among Ugandan leaders, Uganda’s UN envoy has the unenviable task of defending the indefensible. About the law, Onyanga Aparr said
“It seeks to protect our children from those engaged in acts of recruiting them into homosexuality and lesbianism,” he said.
The law also sought to curb the use of paid homosexual sex to induce disadvantaged and vulnerable people, he said.
This is a farce. There are already laws on the books that criminalize any sexual contact with people under 18. If prostitution was in view, then why did the law not address only those transactions? In truth, the law criminalizes consensual relationships with the threat of life in prison. Perhaps, the UN envoy has not read the bill. He can read it here.
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,
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
NTV Uganda devoted multiple segments to coverage of the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Here is what the network posted on You Tube:
Entire signing ceremony (over 1 hour)
(H/t Box Turtle Bulletin)
The Uganda rag, The Red Pepper, has published what it says is a list of 200 Top Homosexuals.
One problem with the story is the statement that first time offenders can be sentenced to 14 years. According to the copy of the bill I posted yesterday, first offenders may be sentenced to life in prison. For touching.
This action is disgusting. I pray it does not incite Ugandans to persecute these people.
In this NY Daily News article, a picture is posted of Martin Ssempa who is now offering “rehabilitation counseling” for gays. Here is a similar picture from Twitter:
US exgay leader Darrell Foster congratulates Martin Ssempa.
American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer thinks putting gays in prison for life is a good thing.
Scott Lively says Africans don’t really mean what they legislate.
A pdf of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2014 as signed today in Uganda is here.
Some reports indicated that the penalty for “the offence of homosexuality” would be 14 years in prison. However, the penalty is actually life.
The offence of homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if—
c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.
(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life.
Life in prison for touching.
The Ugandan professors who stood with Museveni have some explaining to do.
According to a Uganda Media Centre spokesman, President Museveni will sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill today. However, he will do so amid discord on the committee he has appointed for political cover. Dr. Eugene Kinyanda is one name that was on the initial committee but does not appear among the signers of the final report. I have learned that he has declined to sign the report.
Dr Kinyanda wrote to fellow committee member Dr. Ezati and said:
I would like to state that I will not be signing the above document. This is mainly because what was initially just an inquiry to inform the scientific understanding of homosexuality from a medical standpoint has taken a very political direction. I will not be used to justify the passing of a bill which as a doctor I do not fully understand.
Dr Eugene Kinyanda
Dr. Kinyanda is certainly correct to question the political direction of the committee and I applaud his action.
I have obtained a copy of the final report of the Ministry of Health Committee on Homosexuality. Dated February 23, this report is more extensive than the first report with changes to the contents as well as the membership of the committee.
This report provides a more extensive look at research (although it is still missing some very important papers) and more significantly does not include recommendations regarding legislation. Two members were added to the committee: Assoc. Prof Charles Ibingira and Dr. Hannington Kasozi, and two names which were on the meeting minutes and first report do not show up on this report: Dr. Seggane Musisi, and Associate Professor Eugene Kinyanda.
The premise of this whole exercise should be called into question. If genetic determination is going to be the doorway to civil rights, then we should begin looking for the gene which determines membership in the NRM. It is beyond discouraging that the members of this committee did not raise this concern and discuss the limits of science to address the questions Museveni raised.
A particularly cruel part of this report is the recognition that reparative therapy interventions have not been successful. So what are Uganda’s GLB people to do? This anti-gay law can only be seen as abusive if the people who are the target can’t help it and can’t change it.
The copy of the report I have does not yet have signatures. One can only hope that the members will rethink their stance before the report comes to them for their signature.
UPDATE: Apparently, Museveni will sign the bill at 11am.
In a statement dated February 18, but widely available just today (e.g., the Observer), Uganda’s President Museveni seems to leave open the door that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could be put on hold while he seeks additional input from researchers and scientists. Here is Museveni’s statement in full:
According to a Reuter’s report, the president’s spokesperson said the bill was on hold pending more research.
As I noted earlier this evening, one of the committee member’s of the Ministry of Health ad hoc committee is raising questions about how the committee’s work has been misused.
According to Museveni’s statement, he wants the U.S. government to work with Uganda’s scientific community.
Earlier this week, Peter Mwesige of the African Centre for Media Excellence scrutinized the way the Ugandan press handled the facts surrounding President Museveni’s decision to sign the Anti-Homosexuality based on a report by an ad hoc committee of the Ministry of Health. In his article on the matter, Mwesige points out that the president’s political party caucus distorted the committee report by saying homosexuality was “an abnormal behavior.” Significantly, Mwesige quoted one of the committee members, psychologist Paul Bangirana. Bangirana accused the caucus of leaving out vital information which influenced many media reports.
While there are problems with the committee report, Mwesige is correct that the NRM press release did not accurately portray the report. Mwesige ends his article by pointing out that Uganda’s press should have included input from those who will feel the effects of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
And [balanced] factual or accurate reporting would also include journalists not ignoring the human rights-based argument that the gay community invokes in defending their sexuality.
I don’t know how President Museveni came up with the conclusion he did but it is obvious that he misread our letter about scientific consensus on sexual orientation. On the website of Uganda’s State Department, the following was posted yesterday:
While attending the NRM Parliamentary Caucus Retreat at the National Leadership Institute (6th -16th February 2014), President Museveni promised to circulate a letter in response to his request to rule out a possibility that some human beings are genetically born homosexual.
The President partially read out the response by over 200 international experts on the science of homosexuality written to him on the 5th of February 2014 before he said he would sign the anti-homosexuality bill on grounds that no evidence was adduced to the effect that there are human beings homosexual by genetics, by both the international experts and the department of genetics of Makerere University Medical School.
The letter states clearly that “While it is unlikely that there is one simple biological or genetic cause for homosexuality in all people, there are neural, cognitive and personality differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals which appear to have at least some basis in biology.”
Elsewhere in the letter, we were clear that choice plays no role in the onset of sexual attractions:
For the vast majority of people, homosexual and heterosexual, sexual attractions emerge spontaneously without any prior sexual experience, exposure or recruitment. Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
There was risk involved in writing the letter and engaging in this process. However, we felt it important to go on record in the manner we did. The signers of our letter are united in condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and it is completely false to imply otherwise. After getting the Ugandan Ministry of Health report, President Museveni expressed his desire to pass the buck to others for his decision. However, the world is watching, and if Mr. Museveni signs that bill, history will record that he is responsible for that action.