More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Earlier this week, we reported on a statement released by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical group which includes Catholic Church officials, in which they expressed support for that country’s notorious legislation which proposes severe criminal penalties for homosexuality.   At that time, there were scant details about the present incarnation of the bill, which in the past had included the death penalty as a punishment. has published an essay by Peter Montgomery, their associate editor and Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, which offers a few more details. Montgomery confirms that the news of the UJCC’s support

“is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to ‘a Christian caring approach to this issue,’ though he also said ‘We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.’ “

You can view video of Lwanga’s earlier (2009) denouncing of the bill here, and you can read the text of that earlier statement here.  Around the same time, the Vatican made oblique reference to the bill in a statement denouncing anti-gay violence to the United Nations, which you can read here.

Montgomery offers some insight into the recent confusion about whether or not the death penalty is included in the current version of the bill which Lwanga and the UJCC now support:

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved last year, but reintroduced this February by its sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati (the same month the government shut down a conference of LGBT activists). Some news reports at the time said the death penalty had been removed from the bill. But Warren Throckmorton noted that the death penalty in fact remained.

“A BBC report quoted Bahati saying the original bill was reintroduced for procedural reasons, and that the death penalty would be removed in committee. ‘However,’ notes a commentary on, ‘readers familiar with the legislation’s history will know that such assurances have been made before only for the bill to go to the voting stage intact and without the death sentence deleted.’ ”

Montgomery also notes that the bill still includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors or people with disabilities, consensual or no, or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • A mandate to break all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Since about 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic (the largest denomination in the country), the influence of Catholicism can be very strong there.

The story of Archbishops Lwanga’s reversal of stance on this bill highlights how dangerous it is when Catholic leaders do not take seriously the church’s condemnation of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.  A commenter on Twitter noted that perhaps Lwanga’s support may be intended to prevent the more draconian aspects of the bill. Even if that were the case, such an ambiguous position is irresponsible in such a highly volatile and dangerous political situation.  Moreover,  Lwanga’s “defense of traditional family and values” rhetoric certainly makes it difficult to interpret his message in a way that is other than anti-gay.

When it comes to condemning same-sex relationships and marriage equality proposals, Catholic bishops often claim that they must be clear, strong, and consistent in the denouncements.  Why doesn’t the same clarity, strength, and consistency apply to their denouncements of proposed legislation which is such a gross violation of the human rights of LGBT people?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



17 thoughts on “More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

  1. Marian Ronan June 15, 2012 / 6:59 am

    This is scary stuff. I suppose it’s a lot to hope that the Vatican will move to bring the archbishop to heel as vigorously as they’ve done with US Sisters.

  2. Gerald June 15, 2012 / 7:19 am

    This Ugandan Atrocity and “Abomination before God and Humanity” is a growing scandal which The Church seems to be ignoring. On far lesser issues the Vatican Dancers would have been jumping all over a topic or topics of which they strongly disapprove. To use the alleged removal of the death penalty sentence as a reason to hold off or excuse the Ugandan Bishops’ support for the legislation is sheer neglect and sinful. Obviously there is no leadership in the Ugandan Church worthy of listening to. . . . We need to raise “a cry in Rahma. . . Rachel mourning her children. . .”

      • Ned Flaherty June 16, 2012 / 7:40 am

        “Grave” sin is a woeful understatement.

        Since 2008, under official Catholic doctrine, opposing social justice (e.g., oppressing LGBT people of other faiths) is a mortal sin. Cardinals and archbishops re-commit this sin every week, worldwide, under the Pope’s direction.

        There’s Holy Mother Church for you.

  3. Annette Magjuka June 15, 2012 / 9:43 am

    This is horrific. The Catholic church must denounce this legislation immediately and forcefully. I am outraged.

  4. Ned Flaherty June 15, 2012 / 10:51 am

    Everyone should remain cognizant of the fact that this bill provides for the death penalty in 2 places, one overt, and one covert:

    • Overt, explicit language about “suffer(ing) death” remains today where it always was in the original bill.

    • Covert, hidden language appears elsewhere. To pacify civilized people around the globe who are appalled at the entire bill, legislators at one point temporarily deleted the phrase “suffer(ing) death”, but instead inserted a reference to the penalties associated with an already existing law — without spelling out those penalties — which also call for the death penalty.

    As this bill creeps forward and international outrage mounts, the overt language may again be removed, but the stealthy reference to the other law (requiring the same death penalty) is likely to be retained.

  5. Pauline June 16, 2012 / 3:08 am

    How can we let people there know that there are Catholics who do not agree with either this theology or this legislation? Count me as one fof them, and all my family and friends. (We live in Australia.)

  6. Richard Baldwin Cook June 16, 2012 / 12:54 pm

    Thanks to New Ways Ministry for this detailed presentation of the human rights emergency in Uganda. No one else has reported these details so cogently, as far as I know.

    The Ugandan government is intending, yet again, to introduce a holocaust upon its own citizens. This is idiocy but it is also a grave and direct threat to individual human beings.

    Laws which impose severe penalties, up to and including prison and death, upon consenting adults and which impose imprisonment upon any citizen who does not become a spy upon family members and neighbors – such laws are also idiocy but go far beyond dangerous legislative posturing.

    A responsible reaction to this crisis must not end with spotlight shining on religious leaders who obfuscate and reverse their positions.

    Permit me to suggest a consumer boycott of Ugandan products until the David Bahati Bill is withdrawn

    THE GOAL – US Trade with Uganda must be cut off. Imports from Uganda must be stopped. US Tourism to Uganda must cease. Academic conferences, if any there be, should be re-located.

    First step:

    ask the US trade representative and the US Sec of State Clinton to get into this dialogue in a decisive way. These entities should be asked to announce trade-ending policies, until the DAVID BAHATI BILL is withdrawn:

    US Trade Representative Office of African Affairs: 202-395-9514
    US Trade Rep Office of the Rep (Ambassador): 202-395-6890
    Sec of State Clinton – main: 202-647-4000
    Sec of State Desk Officer – Uganda (Kampala) AF/E 647-5924

    Ask for a written response to your request.

    Second step:

    find out which US retailers sell Ugandan produces to the US public: these would include Ugandan spices, coffee and tea.

    You can begin with the food chains where you shop. Find the website link to customer service; visit the grocer’s facebook page, and “friend” the retailer and then comment about the DAVID BAJATI BIL and the responsibility to boycott Ugandan products until the bill is withdrawn.

    Ask, always, for a response in writing.

    Third Step:

    The Fair Trade Foundation must be asked to tell the Gumutindo Coffee Co-opertive in East Uganda and any other supplier that their products are no longer welcome – until the offensive legislation is withdrawn.

    Ask for a written response to your request.

    Contact the Fair Trade Foundation:

    Fourth Step:

    ask the International Court of Justice to investigate Ugandan member of Parliament David Bahati as a criminal against humanity for proposing imprisonment and death to LGBT Ugandans.

    International Court of Justice – email address:
    Peace Palace
    2517 KJ The Hague
    The Netherlands Telephone +31(0)70 302 23 23
    Telefax +31(0)70 364 99 28
    Telex 32323

    At Every Step:

    Tell the Ugandan Embassy in Washington DC of the actions you are taking:

    Embassy of Uganda in Washington DC: (202) 726-7100
    His Excellency Professor Perezi K. Kamunanwire
    Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
    Tel: (202) 726 4758

    Ms. Justine Namara
    Personal Secretary to the Ambassador
    Tel: (202) 726 7100 ex 225;

    Ask for a written response to your request.

    • newwaysministryblog June 16, 2012 / 1:40 pm

      Thank YOU, Richard, for these excellent suggestions and for supplying all the practical contact information! I heartily encourage all readers of this blog to follow as many of these suggestions as you can!

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