Episcopal News Service
The pending Ugandan legislation that would imprison for life or execute people who violate that country’s anti-homosexuality laws would be a “terrible violation of the human rights of an already persecuted minority,” Episcopal Church House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson has said.
Anderson was responding to a Nov. 16 request that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Archbishop Henri Orombi of Uganda and she speak out against the legislation. Anderson is the first to issue a statement. Homosexuality in Uganda currently carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. If passed, the bill would extend prison sentences for homosexuals up to and including life imprisonment and introduce the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes assault against people under the age of 18 and those with disabilities.
Opponents fear that people, including family members and clergy, who support and advise homosexual people could be prosecuted and punished under the proposed law, which also would give Ugandan courts jurisdiction over Ugandan citizens who violate the law “partly outside or partly in Uganda.”
The proposed legislation is “an attempt to use the authority of the state to deprive individuals of their God-given dignity, and to isolate them from the care and concern of their fellow human beings,” Anderson said in her Nov. 25 letter to the co-conveners of the Chicago Consultation, a group of lay and ordained Episcopalians General Convention in 2006 condemned (via Resolution D005) the criminalization of homosexuality, Anderson noted.
The church’s Executive Council, an elected group of 40 clergy, laity and bishops that carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention according to Canon I.4 (1)(a), is expected to meet by teleconference Dec. 7 to consider a possible statement on the Ugandan legislation.
“I hope and believe that a vigorous statement will be forthcoming, and that I will be able to support this statement wholeheartedly,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, Anderson said she would encourage House of Deputies members and first alternates to contact their congresspersons through the church’s Office of Government Relations to express their opposition to the bill.