Executions in Uganda

Uganda Leads The Way In Africa's Fight Against AIDS

A bill being debated in the Uganda legislature would execute homosexuals who are infected with HIV. Here's a bit from an Associated Press story on the sad matter:

The Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. "Serial offenders" also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.

Anyone who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality" faces seven years in prison if convicted. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years and anyone with "religious, political, economic or social authority" who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.

How awful that people who most need care from their neighbors might instead receive the sword. Human rights groups, including various Christian groups, have been critical of the bill. World magazine and the Baptist Press reported on evangelical opposition weeks ago. Other Christians with varying views on homosexuality issued a joint statement this week. Rick Warren, though, said his job as pastor is to "never take sides." (He clearly has never met any of my pastors.)

Anyway, the AP story strongly insinuates that Christians are behind the legislation in various ways. I'm not sure how well they make the case. Here:

The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

The use of the word "after" makes it seem as if the legislation is a result of the visit by the three gay therapy activists. But if that's the case, the reporters in no way show that to be true. The only substantiation for the statement is as follows:

Debate over the Ugandan bill follows a conference in Kampala earlier this year attended by American activists who consider same-gender relationships sinful, and believe gays and lesbians can become heterosexual through prayer and counseling.

Of the three Americans, two didn't respond to interview requests and the third said he thought the proposed legislation was awful. In another interview, he says he'd prefer that Uganda's current laws be liberalized. There are a lot of people in the world who believe that same-sex relationships are sinful. That doesn't mean they're calling for the execution of people infected with HIV. Now, maybe there are American evangelicals who are pushing for this legislation. If so, the article can't just allege it -- it has to back it up with information for readers. I mean, it doesn't even mention Rick Warren's "not taking sides" approach, which is at the very least relevant to the issue at hand.

We also get this snippet. The Ugandan ethics minister disagrees with the AP belief that the law is the result of foreign evangelical influence but gay activist David Cato says otherwise:

"In the beginning, when the missionaries brought religion, they said they were bringing love," he said. "Instead they brought hate, through homophobia."

Now, it's certainly fine to include such a statement in an article. But that is a very serious charge and the missionaries should be given a chance to respond. None are quoted in the article or characterized, even. That's not right.

I also fear that the article is framed with such a progressive worldview that it doesn't even attempt to understand the cultural and ethical values of the Ugandans. I mean, I oppose capital punishment as a rule, but I also know that advocates of capital punishment don't view said punishment as "hate" -- as the article portrays it. They view it as a tool of punishment for particular crimes. I learned very little, if anything, about how the Ugandans view this issue.

I mean, Thomas Jefferson -- who is not generally considered a Founding evangelical -- authored the Virginia penal code that punished sodomy with castration. Some people view homosexual behavior as a crime and one deserving of punishment. Other people think gay sex is all good. Still others think it's a sin but not a crime. There's a spectrum of belief here.

But this Uganda story isn't even about crimes for homosexual behavior, per se. It's about having HIV being a capital crime, along with many other draconian provisions.

This makes no sense to me and the story doesn't even attempt to explore the reasoning behind this. I doubt that there's anything that could be said that would make me feel less hostile to this legislation, but I'd still like to know a bit more about why others might support it.

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