The country’s Anglicans yesterday added their voice against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Like the Catholics before them, the Church of Uganda officially rejected the Bill.
They proposed that instead of the death penalty for gays who seduce boys - as the Bill put forward by Ndorwa West David Bahati demands – the law should be changed to ensure that vulnerable boys are properly protected.
Archbishop Luke Orombi, in his first public comments on the controversial Bill, however said they do not recognise homosexuality as “a human right”.
“The Church of Uganda believes that homosexual practice is incompatible with the Scripture,” the prelate said in a statement issued yesterday, citing a resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Britain.
He added: “At the same time, the Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning.”
“The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing. As a Church; we affirm the necessity of appropriate amendments within the existing legislation...”
Mr Bahati, who tabled the Bill last year, yesterday insisted in comments to Christians and pastors fellowshipping at Christian Life Church in Bwaise, a city suburb, that he is not giving up.
“As a Member of Parliament, I have a constitutional right to move a Private Member’s Bill and will not be shaken by any external forces because I have the support from within my country,” he said, adding: “Many Ugandans are behind me and we have to fight this battle jointly.”
However, the latest foray by Church of Uganda, which until last year played host and spiritual home for breakaway conformist American clerics/Anglicans disenchanted over acceptance of homosexuals in the Episcopal Church, deprives MP Bahati of the second biggest bloc after the Catholic Church here earlier raised objections to capital punishment embedded in the Bill.
According to Mr Bahati, the Bill seeks to legitimise marriage only as a union between a man and woman, penalise homosexuals, prohibit and or disown pro-gay treaties and freeze licensing of promoter organisations.
Some provisions of the Bill, including the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality, borderless jurisdiction and criminalisation of counseling of gays, have been criticised both locally and internationally, especially by human rights activists
US President Barack Obama, among other powerful western leaders, last week derided the Bill as “odious”, two months after President Museveni urged Parliament to go slow on it due to associated foreign policy sensitivity.
Yesterday’s statement sent to media houses by Church of Uganda’s Communications Director Amanda Onapito, specifically suggests changes to Sections 128-147 that variously touch on sexual-related offences such as indecent assault, homosexuality and defilement to ensure “proportionality” in sanctions.
“The ideal situation would be one where necessary amendment is made to existing legislation to also enumerate other sexual offences such as lesbianism and bestiality,” the statement, already endorsed by the House of Bishops, reads in part.
“This would not require a fresh Bill on homosexuality per se but rather an amendment to the existing provisions which would also change the title to something like: The Penal Code Unnatural Offences Amendment Bill.”
The Anglican Communion has in recent years stood on the edge of division on the issue of gays in the congregation with liberals backing their accommodation while conservatives detest the practice as “sinful and unbiblical”.Church of Uganda has sided with the conformists, helping organise the 2008 Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem after boycotting the Lambeth Conference in London over Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William’s perceived tolerance of gays.
Meanwhile, a man in Isingiro District in western Uganda was remanded in custody after being accused of sodomising a 13-year-old boy.
The prosecution told the court that the 27-year-old had waylaid the boy as he returned from grazing goats and threatened to stab him before forcing him into sex against “the order of nature”.
The magistrate in Mbarara said the evidence in the file was “too scanty to proceed” and he adjourned the hearing.