Canadian Evangelical audio program comes out in favour of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Sort of.
Well, perhaps it isn’t a coming out per-se, since it’s questionable as to whether they were ever “in.” But RoadKill Radio commentators Kari Simpson and Ron Gray have more or less made their position known on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill during an interview with Christian Heritage Party leader Jim Hnatiuk, who tacitly agreed. The interview highlighted the growing antipathy among Canadian Evangelicals toward Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Office of Religious Freedom, which will be a topic for another post. But here’s what they said (starts at 4:54 in the video):
SIMPSON: The Minister responsible for this Office of Religious Freedom is Minister Baird, am I not right? And Minister Baird has recently been in the news for two important issues. Wasn’t he the one who condemned and vilified a Christian organization that received $500,000 in funding to help drill wells in… a third-world country… because they had issues related to Biblical truths on homosexuality on their website? And is this same Minister Baird who’s responsible for this Office of Religious Freedom that I believe gave $200,000 to a group in Uganda to fight Christians that were trying to bring in laws that would help curb the epidemic of death as related to AIDS and HIV in that country…
GRAY: And the only country in sub-Saharan Africa that has succeeded in reducing the rate of AIDS in…
SIMPSON: Oh well, minor details, there you go Ron, the truth, again, that’s not allowed…
The first organization Simpson referred to was Crossroads, of course, and the issue about Crossroads’ website statement on homosexuality was that those kinds of views have been fueling the anti-gay hatred that led to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and an intensified environment of homophobic hatred and violence in Uganda. The second group referenced is an initiative to counter the anti-gay fear and hatred pervading that nation.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been more commonly referred to as the “Kill the Gays” bill, although there is some debate about whether the death penalty will still be in the final draft. Here are the other things it contains:
- A definition of “homosexuality” which is so vague that almost anyone could be convicted of it;
- A definition of “aggravated homosexuality” which is overly-broad. If the death sentence remains in the bill, then aggravated homosexuality is the charge to which it would apply. Proponents of the bill represent aggravated homosexuality as referring to pedophilia, but it actually also includes people who are afflicted with HIV (whether they were aware of it or not), who have sex with a person who has a disability (whether the act was consensual or not), and “serial” commission of any of the included and overly-vague offenses) — having gay sex more than once would be included;
- A weird “intent to commit” clause that could open any physical contact to interpretation;
- A financial incentive for people to accuse others of trying to seduce them;
- The targeting of friends, family and landowners for aiding / abetting LGBT people, for failing to report LGBT people, and for renting a room to LGBT people (via a strange reinterpretation of the word “brothel”);
- A 3-year sentence for officiating a same-sex marriage, and a life sentence for being in a same-sex marriage or presenting a same-sex partner as a spouse (it’s not specified whether said marriage needs to occur in Uganda, but keep reading…);
- The criminalization of advocacy for (or even defending) an LGBT person, with a sentence of 5 – 7 years;
- The criminalization of anyone who fails to report in under 24 hours anyone who is gay, who witnessed a same-sex wedding, who rents a room to a gay person, who advocates for LGBT people, or who commits any of the other above acts, with a sentence of up to 3 years;
- The criminalization of any of the above offences regardless of whether or not they occur in Uganda, provided they involve a Ugandan citizen, or a portion of the offense occurs within Uganda (i.e. the “failure to report” part). Extradition demands are also included;
- The nullification of any treaties or portions of agreements which run contrary to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill; and
- The granting of wide, sweeping powers to the Minister of Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce the act, effectively giving the power to initiate a witch hunt.
Male homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda since colonial British rule in the 19th Century, and is already punishable by up to life imprisonment. In 2000, wording was amended so that lesbianism could be criminalized as “gross indecency between two persons of the same sex,” which carries a term of seven years’ imprisonment. So all of the above are in addition to this status quo.
So that’s the bill that Kari Simpson and Ron Gray are cheering on. While it’s possible that they are unaware of some or all of the things in that bill, I’d consider it unlikely, given their converations with Scott Lively, who has been an occasional interviewee at RKR and who advocates for things like total criminalization of LGBT advocacy.
Incidentally, Gray is wrong about Uganda’s progress in the fight against AIDS. From the UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report, 2012:
In West and Central Africa, Ghana was at the top of the list with a drop of 66% followed by Burkina Faso at 60% and Djibouti at 58%. The Central African Republic, Gabon, Rwanda and Togo, achieved significant declines of more than 50%. Other countries with significant declines in the region include Burundi, Cameroon, Mali and Sierra Leone where the decline was more than one third. Ethiopia achieved a 90% reduction in the rate of new HIV infections in the last decade. Despite a 25% reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the region accounted for 72% of all new HIV infections worldwide in 2011.
In fact, the report has indicated that Uganda’s problem with HIV has been getting worse, and attributes it to declining condom use.
Ron Gray is a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party. Kari Simpson is a Vancouver-based activist with Culture Guard, a group that has influenced Parents’ Voice and other groups across Canada that are fighting against LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying education.