Monday News: Uganda’s New Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Today (Feburary 24, 2014), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law, despite international outcry. The bill, called the ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’  originally called for the death penalty for homosexual acts when it was first proposed in 2009.  Although the death penalty was removed from the final draft, prison sentences of 7 years, 14 years, and life are the new penalties for violating this law. 

 Under this law, LGBT people face life imprisonment if:

  • someone engages in a sexual act with a person of the same gender
  • someone marries a person of the same gender
  • someone touches another person of the same gender with ‘intent’ to engage in a sexual act

Also, prison sentences for anyone(including a straight person) who tries to support LGBT people:

  • 7 years in jail for officiating a marriage between people of the same sex
  • 7 years in jail for trying to aid or counsel LGBT people
  • 5-7 years in jail for offering premises or supplies to LGBT related activities
  • 5-7 years in jail for directors of any business or non-governmental organization (NGO) who supports LGBT people
  • Similarly, any national or international company or human rights organization in Uganda, which supports lesbian, gay, bi or trans people (including their own employees), could face 7 years jail and de-registration of the company (Montreal Gazette). 

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have expressed concern that this law could essentially outlaw much of their work in Uganda, making it extremely difficult to legally advocate for increased gay rights, or even offer adequate health services to LGBT Ugandans.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights warned the law was “formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone”.

 According to President Museveni:

“Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money,” Musaveni said.

He added “there is something really wrong with you” if you were gay, adding that he didn’t understand how a man could “fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man”.

The LGBT community in Uganda face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.

In 2011, Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.

Currently, there is a petition from All Out that is calling on Ugandan leaders, global governments, corporations and religious institutions to take forceful action to denounce the law. To sign this petition, go to http://www.allout.org/kill-the-bill.

Amnesty International Statement

 

 

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms.

Monday News: Anti-LGBTQ Violence in Russia

LOVEboldly is starting a weekly blog post highlighting current events in the LGBTQ community. Every Monday we will blog about a specific topic/story that we believe the Church should be aware. 
GayRussia-2

Right now, there are laws being passed in other countries that make it illegal to be LGBTQ or even be associated with supporting this community’s rights. Prison sentences, torture, and the death penalty are possible punishments for violating these laws. Although there are numerous laws being passed or already passed criminalizing homosexuality, we want to bring attention to what’s happening in Russia.

During June 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ to minors. This law makes it illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.

The federal law defines propaganda as:

 “distribution of information that is aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes, attractiveness of non- traditional sexual relations, misperceptions of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest to such relations . . . .”

Since the law passed, there has been a surge in violence against the LGBTQ community. Self-proclaimed vigilantes have targeted LGBTQ persons with both public and private acts of brutality and torture. For example, a group called ‘Occupy Paedophilia‘ has been on what they call a ‘safari’ hunting gays. Videos of this group’s violent attacks document incidents where unsuspecting LGBTQ teens are lured through online dating sites and then brutally humiliated and tortured.

According to the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance (SHRA):

“These self-proclaimed ‘crime fighters’ perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to the general public that indifferently passes by or even commends them.”

“Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized.”

There are reports that other Russian citizens have also attacked openly LGBTQ persons in public areas, while onlookers do nothing to prevent the violence from occurring. Several government officials have denounced and degraded LGBTQ people on television and in other media.

Sadly, groups of Russian Christians have been reported as participating in some of these public attacks (CBS report).

(For more information: CNNThe Guardian, CBS News)

 

LOVEboldly condemns these and any acts of violence against the LGBTQ community. 
Be sure to watch for a future blog post where we provide practical ways you can help the LGBTQ community in Russia as well as other places where this violence is occurring. 

 

Even the Christian who cannot feel comfortable supporting or protecting LGBTQ relationships should be appalled by the brutality to the community (and for that matter – brutality to any person as we are all made in the image of God.

 

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms.

Consider This Perspective – Logan Mehl-Laituri

Welcome to another installment of LOVEboldly’s interview series. Previously Tripp York, Wesley Hill, and Jen Thweatt-Bates offered their perspectives on a number of issues related to faith and sexuality. Now we are privileged to share some wisdom from Logan Mehl-Laituri as he draws some parallels between the issues that veterans and LGBT folks face in the church.

Logan Mehl-Laituri is a six-year Army loganveteran with combat service in Iraq in 2004 and author of Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism & Conscience. In 2008, he co-founded Centurion’s Guild, where soldiers and veterans wrestle between faith and service in fellowship with other current and former military members. Logan resides in Durham, NC, where he is a masters student in theological ethics and a Co-Coordinator of the Women’s Center at Duke Divinity School. You can reach him through his blog.

 

Tell us a bit about the work you do with Centurion’s Guild.

We try to create space for conversation around the issue of Christian faith and military service. There are only a few of us, and we are not incredibly organized, but we try to make ourselves available to individuals struggling with their allegiances to both God and country, usually by email or phone calls. Folks either find out about us on Facebook, Twitter, or personal referrals from friends and family who have heard about us and what we do.


What have you found is the biggest struggle for the military community in relating with churches?

It is getting churches to talk about these issues deliberately and compassionately. In the US, it is taboo to talk about politics and religion, but these are two of the most important things to speak with one another about because they both demand so much of us.

Think about it, we will die for what we believe in politically or religiously, but God forbid we talk openly about it around the dinner table or in the pews! Especially during war, like we have been for the last decade or more, we absolutely must be having conversations of consequence; young men and women need to think critically about what it means to be prepared to give your life for the values our communities (national or religious) instill in us from birth. Refusal to do so condemns individuals to this incredible moral task in isolation, we put them in a moral vacuum.

Few people can withstand the ambiguity, doubt, and feelings of guilt that often result from conducting (even justified) violence in defense of a common good. Silence is not an option, it is a betrayal – of one’s trust, and of Christian theology.


What similarities do you see between the ways some churches treat military folks (especially war vets) and the way they treat LGBT folks?

LGBT issues are also taboo in many churches, and it is tragic that so many parishes are now only confronting the issue because it dominates general conferences and dioceses, and a few national headlines. We are dealing with this subject in hasty response instead of thoughtful foresight and compassion. We have shoved conversations to the background and waited until we can no longer avoid the issue.

With issues of war, we spoke of it for awhile, but as the violence in Iraq and elsewhere escalated, the number of, and reasons for, distractions increased. We don’t want to talk about war, and we don’t particularly want to talk about non-heteronormative sexuality, so when we do, discourse is dominated by ad hominem attacks and sloganeering instead of healthy, mutually respectful dialogue. I see the same thing in the realm of war; “chicken hawks” throw platitudinous trivialities at soldiers from the safety of their living rooms and self-righteous progressives use language just short of “baby-killer” to describe recruits that more often than not enlist out of economic desperation. Polemics have overtaken the public square, actual dialogue has all but ground to a halt.


What do you think it will take for the church to become a safe place, a sanctuary, again?

The first act in conversation is usually to listen. Sometimes I notice that when I get self-righteous or defensive, I’ll already be planning in my head what I will say next, even before the person I’m addressing has finished their sentence. That’s not listening. The Church needs to put their pre-conceived notions and biases (which are not in themselves a bad thing, accountability requires a kind of judgmentalism) on hold long enough to hear from those who have been affected most directly and harmfully by the current situation. Our biases need to be revised, our pre-conceived notions might need to find a new center.

To do that, all of us in the Church need to loosen our grip just a bit so that we can really hear from the least of those among us. I don’t know exactly how many or few are LGBT congregants, but soldiers make up less then 1% of the American population. That’s about as close you can get to the language of “the least of these” from Mathew 25. I can’t speak as someone who is non-heteronormative, but as a veteran the church needs to stop telling me that I am only either a hero or a monster. The church needs to hear my story, and in it hear a fellow human being. I suspect some LGBT folks might feel similarly.


How can Christians do a better job at showing hospitality to both groups (even, and especially when we disagree)?

I think listening is hospitality, and it is at the heart of the Gospels (hospitality, that is). Hospitality has nothing to do with dogma or doctrine or uncompromising convictions, it has to do with responding to the image of God in our neighbor; gay or straight or trans, Christian, Jew, or Muslim, man or woman or… not. Listening is the first step, but responding must follow, and how churches respond will differ. I can’t begin to imagine the ways that God might work in various congregations, but if the Spirit is there, it will move in love, not condemnation, not in indifference, not in distancing ourselves from one another. Preachers will preach difficult, loving sermons, pastors will pray difficult, loving prayers, and educators will teach difficult, loving subjects. It won’t be easy, but it needs to be loving.


Any other projects in the works?

I always have projects in the works  J  Next year I’ll be publishing my next book, For God & Country (in that order); Faith & Service for Ordinary Radicals (Herald, 2013), which will profile a number of soldier saints and patriot pacifists throughout Church history as a way of diversifying the voices we hear on the subject of faith and service.

I am also trying to compile music, books, and other resources with Centurions Guild to help the military community and their families narrate their stories more coherently, with all the pain, suffering, hope, and joy they encounter. There are some amazing things being done in new fields called “moral injury” and “soul repair” for soldiers that give me hope of which I am privileged to be a part. Other than that, I want to finish my theology degree and continue following God around the gates of hell that we call war, pointing people back toward home. Someday those gates will fall and men and women can come all the way home from their multiple deployments and crippling depression, and the church will be there with open arms. That’s the world I see, for all ‘the least’ of us.