They said it would make my life better. They said I would find my “purpose.” It was my 8th grade school year. My pastor said I should read this book that would change my life. The name of the book was A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It’s always interesting to reflect back to my pre-teen life and think about the different things I was involved in. Some of my childhood experiences were amazing and shaped who I am today, other experiences—like buying Rick Warren’s book—are just embarrassing. I was reading a book by one of the most divisive and homophobic/anti-gay men in America, at 13.
The author of the very same book, seven years later is now in the limelight being accused of supporting the Uganda Anti-Homosexual Legislation Bill. Proposed on the 13th of October 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati, the Bill would criminalize key aspects of comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention education and imprison health-care workers who refuse to report sexually active gay patients to the police. If enacted, it would also broaden the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda, including introducing the death penalty for HIV positive people who have previous convictions, instituting extradition for those engaging in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda, and penalizing individuals, companies, or media organizations who support LGBT rights.
Right when you think your out of oppression, there always seems to be something that tends to pull you right back into it. This is nothing less than a gay-genocide and I wish our government (democrats and especially republicans) would stop being so inactive when it comes to fighting for LGBT rights within our country and around the world. Personally, I’m still waiting on “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” to be overturned. I mean really, is this American or not, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the home of the “some are free, and maybe brave” continues to marginalize and stay silent with the oppression of others. I do have to give some credit to the Obama administration; they put out this statement last month (2 months after the bill was introduced):
“We urge to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties– in particular, execution, arrest or detention. If adopted a bill further criminalizing homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda.”
One of the major supporters of this bill in Uganda is minister Martin Ssempa, who has been to Rick Warren’s Church several times. Rick Warren tried to ignore the issue for a couple months until he recently put out a video and went on record condemning the Ugandans for their gay-genocide bill. Conservative pastors all across the country have gotten themselves into some trouble on this one. Even when Rick Warren desperately tried to clear his name by sending a video to Ugandan pastors criticizing the bill, he still feels the need to emphasize his belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. Teachings like this are exactly what fuel what David Bahati calls the 95% disapproval rate of homosexuality in Uganda.
More pastors around the country are almost forced to condemn the Ugandans legislation. But every time I read a story like this, I feel the pastor basically saying that “we have taught you to hate these gay people, but lets not go and kill them, lets just try to change them.” All in all I think conservative pastors have been at the backbone of religion in Uganda for quite sometime, and consciously or not, they have some ownership over the anti-homosexuality bill.
On the other side it is of course a bill directly proposed by a Ugandan politician.
“And if you’re a Ugandan politician, would you rather be talking about the rebel uprising and child soldiers, the fact that you’re stealing most of the aid money, the looming environmental disaster, or how you’re protecting the country from the gay? Add in a bit of rick warren and other Christian fundamentalist influence at the point of a bayonet and it’s pretty easy to see how this came about.”
In the mean time, here is my prayer…God help us, these conservatives are getting ridiculous!