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American Christian Leaders Speak Out Against Anti-Homosexuality Laws

(Washington -- July 24, 2012) Today, a group of 46 American Christian leaders issued an open letter expressing solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans in the face of "increased bigotry and hatred." The letter, coordinated by Faith in Public Life, Human Rights First and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, comes as a new Political Research Associates report released today accuses, among others, evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, Catholics and Mormons of setting up campaigns and fronts in Africa designed to press for anti-gay laws.

Today's letter from U.S. religious leaders, including former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican Thomas P. Melady, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good Rich Cizik, and Soujourners President Jim Wallis, mobilizes Christian voices against rhetoric and actions in Uganda that demonize and criminalize homosexuality. In the letter, Christian leaders from across the United States, including prominent Catholics and Evangelicals, seek to establish that Christian beliefs are in direct conflict with the serious rights abuses perpetrated against LGBT people in Uganda.

The Christian leaders write: "Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith."

They also note that: "As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree. We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs."

"It's important for Ugandans to know that not all Evangelical and Catholic leaders think LGBT people should be criminals," says Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate, "This letter from prominent American Christians is a crucial step in our efforts to introduce Ugandans to more positive and loving Christian messages in contrast to the harmful rhetoric from our own pastors that only leads to more violence and hate."

Sentiments contained in today's letter will also be at the core of lobbying efforts occurring in Washington, DC this week as part of the 19th International AIDS Conference. In that effort, faith leaders and activists from 15 primarily African countries will spend Wednesday, July 25 in meetings with administration officials and Members of Congress to express the need for bipartisan support to address serious human rights violations, including hate crimes, and challenges posed to HIV/AIDS prevention stemming from laws that criminalize homosexuality. These leaders and activists plan to hand deliver copies of the American Christian leaders' letter to administration officials and Members of Congress.

In approximately 76 countries, consensual intimate same-sex conduct is criminalized. In Uganda, a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its current version still includes the possibility of the death penalty in certain cases, and would criminalize any speech or actions the government might deem too positive about LGBT people. It could also criminalize HIV/AIDS and other health services that serve Uganda’s LGBT community. The legislation currently under consideration was first introduced in 2009, eventually tabled after widespread domestic and international pressure, but then re-introduced in the new parliament earlier this year.

 

For more information please contact:

Cate Urban at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 202-463-7575 x234

Brenda Bowser Soder at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 202-370-3323

John Gehring, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 240-644-3712

 


U.S. Christian Leaders Statement of Concern Regarding the Criminalization of LGBT People and Groups in Uganda

July 24, 2012

Our Christian faith recognizes that all human beings have been created in the image and likeness of God, and Christ teaches that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. All acts of bigotry and hatred betray these foundational truths.

Many of us previously expressed our profound dismay at the Parliament of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which would have enforced lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities. Now the bill is back, albeit with some of the harshest provisions likely to be removed, and we are alarmed at recent calls by our Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ for the speedy passage of this legislation.

As Christians we wish to bear witness to the fact that Jesus spoke up for the marginalized in his society. But even in its revised form, the bill in Uganda would forcefully push lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people further into the margins, and it would criminalize anyone, including clergy, who speak up and provide support for their LGBT brothers and sisters rather than reporting them to law enforcement. Persecution of this kind has no place in any community guided by the commandment to love one’s neighbor.

Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, the criminalization of homosexuality, along with the violence and discrimination against LGBT people that inevitably follows, is incompatible with the teachings of our faith.

As American Christians we recognize that groups and leaders within our own country have been implicated in efforts to spread prejudice and discrimination in Uganda. We urge our Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda to resist the false arguments, debunked long ago, that LGBT people pose an inherent threat to our children and our societies. LGBT people exist in every country and culture, and we must learn to live in peace together to ensure the freedom of all, especially when we may disagree.

We condemn misguided actions that have led to increased bigotry and hatred of LGBT people in Uganda that debases the inherent dignity of all humans created in the image of our Maker. Such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.

 

Rich Cizik
President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Ambassador Thomas P. Melady
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican

Jim Wallis
President, Sojourners

Ahmed Abututa
Pastor, First Christian Church, Fallbrook, CA

Kara Ammon
Education Coordinator, United Methodist Church

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Saint Joseph’s University

Nicholas P. Cafardi
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Duquesne University

Tony Campolo
Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Eastern University

M. Shawn Copeland
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.
Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

Nancy Dallavalle, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University

Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University

David P Gushee
Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University

Aaron Graham
Lead Pastor, the District Church

Lisa Sharon Harper
Author, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners

Jason Craige Harris
General Editor, Postcolonial Networks

Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Bradford E. Hinze, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Rev. James Hug, S.J.
President, Center of Concern

John Inglis
Chair and Professor, Department of Philosophy, Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

Reverend Raymond B. Kemp
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Center for Social Justice DC Community Fellow, Georgetown University

Steve Knight
Minister for Missional Initiatives, Open Hearts Gathering (Christian Church/Disciples of Christ)

Paul Lakeland
Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, Director, Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Rev. John Langan S.J.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Professor of Catholic Social Thought, Georgetown University

Andrew Marin
Author, President, Marin Foundation

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, S.T.D.
Professor of Theological Ethics, Marquette University

Joseph A. McCartin
Associate Professor of History, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

Brian McLaren
Author, speaker, blogger, brianmclaren.net

Alex Mikulich
Loyola University, New Orleans

Jeff Miller
Associate Pastor, Cumberland Valley Church

David J. O'Brien, Ph.D.
University Professor of Faith and Culture, University of Dayton

Christopher Pramuk
Associate Professor of Theology, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

C. Allen Ries
Minister of Music, Praxis UCC, Atlanta, GA

Gabriel Salguero
President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Stephen F. Schneck, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies, The Catholic University of America

Dr. Glen H. Stassen
Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary

Keith St.Jean
Pastor of Recovery Ministries, Life Bridge Ministries

Sister Nancy Sylvester,IHM
President, Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue

Dr. E. Warren Throckmorton
Associate Professor of Psychology, Grove City College

Terrence W. Tilley
Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department, Fordham University

Edward Vacek, S.J.
Boston College

Todd Whitmore
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Notre Dame

Tobias Winright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Saint Louis University

Sandra Yocum, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Religious Studies Department, University of Dayton