No, Your Grace, Gay People Shouldn't Be Thrown in Jail

pride parade

Happy belated Pride Month, even though the celebrations are still ongoing across many countries. As an Ulsterman, this corner of Ireland is idyllic for lovers of parades. On 12th July, we celebrate Ulster Protestant history with Orange Order marches. The 2023 Belfast Pride Parade then falls on the 21st of July. There’s much to get excited about over the coming weeks!

As we celebrate Pride with friends and family, though, let’s be mindful of just how much persecution of LGBT people still exists around this fallen world. On 21st March earlier this year, the Ugandan Parliament passed a bill whose long title is the following: ‘An act to prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; to prohibit the promotion or recognition of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and for related matters.’

I despair.

‘Uganda’s penal code already punishes same-sex conduct with life imprisonment,’ reports Ashwanee Budoo-Scholtz for Human Rights Watch, ‘but the new law creates new crimes such as the vaguely worded “promotion of homosexuality” and introduces the death penalty for several acts considered as “aggravated homosexuality.” It also increases the prison sentence for attempted same-sex conduct to 10 years.’ This is now the grim reality for LGBT people in Uganda.

The country’s rulers have, with all their LGBT persecution, disgraced themselves on the world stage. Andrew Mitchell, British Minister for Africa, tweeted: ‘The UK is deeply disappointed by the Ugandan Parliament’s decision to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.’ Antony Blinken, American Secretary of State, remarked: ‘The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.’

Uganda has a large Christian population, so how has the Church reacted? Well, Reverend Stephen Kaziimba, the Archbishop of Uganda, has been outspoken on the matter. In his Easter address for 2023, no less, he prevailed upon President Yoweri Museveni to sign the bill passed on 21st March into law. The President initially stayed his executive pen, choosing to refer the legislation back to Ugandan law-makers, as is his constitutional prerogative, for minor amendments.

To be frank, it sickens me that one of Africa’s most eminent clerics, Archbishop Kaziimba, has chosen to give his blessing, during our Christian season of resurrection hope, to his parliament’s most extreme anti-gay bill ever. What a flying kick in the balls to the Jesus Christ I know, the merciful Saviour who loves the marginalised.

Let’s hear from a certain archbishop again: ‘I urge the President to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill,’ Kaziimba said on Good Friday. His fondness for these homophobic regulations could scarcely be clearer. Notice how strident his language is. I thought Easter was a time of new life; why, then, this clamor for the death-dealing Anti-Homosexuality Bill to come into force?

You can, if you can stomach it, watch Archbishop Stephen promulgate his glowing opinions on the bill for yourself. As you can see from the YouTube video, the bishop delivered his remarks live on Ugandan public television for all the country to watch. Imagine what it was like for gay kids in the Land of Beauty to hear this ugly bile streaming from a so-called man of God.

Kaziimba has claimed since then that his Church is anti-death-penalty. First I’d heard of it. Not once in Stevo’s Easter message did the bishop call for legislators to rethink their stance on capital punishment. What Kaziimba said on Good Friday was, ‘I urge the President to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill,’ which sounds categorical to me.

To make matters worse, Archbishop Kaziimba wields influence beyond Uganda’s borders. The bishop holds a seat on the GAFCON Primates Council, the leadership structure for a worldwide outfit of conservative Anglicans. GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference), established in June 2008, has a notable presence here in Ireland. Mother Mary, pray for us…

7/13/2023 5:19:48 AM
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  • Matthew Allen
    About Matthew Allen
    Matthew Allen is a writer and musician based in Northern Ireland. He is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, where he studied Theology and Liberal Arts.