Black Pastors Express Support for LGBT Ugandans
As persecution intensifies, churches and groups that support LGBT People in Uganda are at risk
(New York | Washington – July 3, 2012) A group of influential conservative and progressive African American pastors released a statement today in collaboration with the Global Justice Institute and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) to challenge Uganda's rising tide of persecution against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The statement, addressed to Uganda's top Christian leaders and signed by more than 30 African American faith leaders, invokes Christian principles to call for an end to the use of religion to justify persecution.
The statement says in part:
"We are deeply concerned that Christian leaders would support policies that censor and harm LGBT people, their families, and communities. Such laws undermine the very lynchpins of freedom and democracy, the right to free expression… We may have some theological differences among us, but we agree that we should not make criminals of those with whom we disagree."
African American pastors responded to top religious leaders in Uganda increasing their demand for passage of the internationally condemned Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Even without the death penalty, the bill could be used to silence and imprison anyone suspected of supporting LGBT people in Uganda.
"Not only does the Anti-Homosexuality Bill threaten to silence our advocacy, it would also deprive Uganda's LGBT community of the ability to practice our religion freely," said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and 2011 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate. "Support from such prominent African American faith leaders gives us hope that our own clergy may one day stop preaching hate and LGBT people might again have access to places of worship in Uganda."
Support among African Americans is growing in the face of actions such as a raid of a human rights workshop ordered by Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity. Government officials then announced plans to "ban" 38 groups who advocate for the human rights of LGBT people in Uganda. Samuel L. Jackson, noted actor, spoke out about Uganda at the BET Awards telecast nationwide on Sunday, July 1. Of paramount concern is the safety of such dignitaries as Frank Mugisha.
"As respect for LGBT people in the United States grows, some conservative Christians are desperate enough to use Africans as pawns in a fatal game of chess," said Bishop Yvette Flunder, presiding bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. "Armed with long discredited stereotypes, they foment fear in an effort to use Africa to undermine respect and acceptance for same-gender loving people in the USA and around the world."
"This statement represents a much needed Christian witness," says Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland. "When faith leaders in both countries speak out against the denial of human dignity and equal rights towards the LGBT community, it is an important step towards making the world a place where all people can live in peace."
"The connection between LGBT Africans and LGBT African Americans is no longer historical and emotional, it is now imminent and tactical," says Pastor Joseph Tolton, national minister of global justice for The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. "As African American people of faith, it is imperative that our voices be prominent as America responds to this crisis. When Evangelists go to Uganda to teach hatred, faith leaders must stand and preach the Gospel truth."
Read the Statement of Concern, below and attached.
Pastor Joseph W. Tolton
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Phone: 212-462-8801 | 646-765-6960
RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights
Phone: 202-463-7575 x 234
Hope In Uganda:
Join in protecting religious freedom! Sign "Uganda: Faith Leaders Statement of Concern"
Uganda: Faith Leaders’ Statement of Concern
We write, as bishops, pastors and members of diverse communions of faith, in deep concern that you, as our fellow Christians, are speaking through the Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Interreligious Council of Uganda to press the Ugandan Parliament to adopt a version of the now infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
As we understand it, even a "modified" Anti-Homosexuality Bill would, at minimum, make it illegal to speak in support of same gender loving people. And, although the options of execution and mandatory reporting by friends, family and health care providers are being downplayed, they are not off the table.
These proposals would harm the fabric of communities and divide families. Our Christian faith calls us to stand with Uganda’s sexual minority community rather than use our religion to justify their persecution. We wholeheartedly condemn the criminalization of homosexuality, especially state-sponsored violence against LGBT people. Silencing and criminalizing any group based on whom they love or how they express their gender goes against core Christian teaching that we treat others as we would like to be treated. Whatever our biblical interpretation and religious tradition, we know that God calls us to love each other, not to judge each other. Jesus tells us, "What you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."
We are deeply concerned that Christian leaders would support policies that censor and harm LGBT people, their families, and communities Such laws undermine the very lynchpins of freedom and democracy, the right to free expression, and particularly the right to diverse faith expressions. Christian traditions that affirm everyone as a child of God, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity would become illegal under the proposed bill. Ministers and bishops within those traditions would be at risk for arrest and imprisonment. We may have some theological differences among us, but we agree that we should not make criminals of those with whom we disagree.
As Christians we have seen how the message of freedom in Christ can be a catalyst for social justice. As African American pastors and allies coming from both conservative and progressive perspectives, we have lived the struggle to embody the vision of a just society. We reach out to you today to walk together in this journey as brothers and sisters in Christ toward the decriminalization of our LGBT brothers and sisters to create a society where everyone can live in peace.
Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, San Francisco, CA
Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD
Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
- Rev. Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL
- Archbishop Carl Beam, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA
- Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, Senior Pastor, The Open Church, Baltimore, MD
- Rev. Vannessa Brown, Rivers at Rehoboth Church, New York, NY
- Rev. Pat Bumgardner, The Global Justice Institute , New York, NY
- Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA
- Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Metropolitan Community Church, Washington, DC
- Bishop Wyatt Greenley, Glory to Glory Church, St. Louis, MO
- Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
- Rev. Cedric Harmon, Many Voices, Washington, DC
- Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
- Rev. Candy Holmes, Metropolitan Community Church, Washington, DC
- Rev. Cari Jackson, The Center for Spiritual Light, New York, NY
- Bishop Zachary Jones, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, New York, NY
- Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, NY
- Bishop James Mills, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, East Coast Region
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss,Jr.,Pastor Emeritus,Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH
- Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL
- Bishop Carlton Pearson, Sr. Pastor, New Dimensions Chicago
- Rev. Dr. Joe Ratliff, Senior Pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Houston, TX
- Bishop Tanyia Rawls, The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Charlotte, NC
- Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark, Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church, York, PA
- Rev. Derrick Spiva, Glide Memorial UMC, San Francisco, CA
- Rev. Kevin Tindell, Pastor of Social Justice, New Dimensions Chicago
- Pastor Joseph W. Tolton, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, New York, NY
- Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
- Rev. Dr. Lance Watson, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's Baptist Church, Richmond, VA
- Rev. Dr. Traci West, Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, NJ
- Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Metropolitan Community Church, Sarasota, FL