Manhattan Declaration Authors Criticize Aspects of Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill
December 12th, 2009
The three principle authors of the Manhattan Declaration, a conservative Christian manifesto in support of bans on abortion and marriage equality, have published a letter to the “beloved brothers and sisters of Uganda” to criticize two principle features of the Anti-Homosexuality Act that has been introduced before Parliament.
In a letter written by Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview; Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Dr. Timothy George, Dean and Professor of Divinity at Samford University and published on Mirror of Justice, a Catholic legal theory group blog, the three criticize the two main features of the Anti-Homosexuality Act — namely the death penalty and lifetime imprisonment provisions for those convicted of homosexuality. The authors takes great pains to make clear that they consider all aspects of homosexuality to be a sin, and they clearly don’t approve of LGBT people who do not “struggle to live chaste and holy lives.” And they do not address the larger issue of criminalization of homosexuality or the broader aspects of this particular act. Instead, they offer this weak criticism:
We are all tempted by the lure of sin, be it in the domain of sexuality or in other areas of our lives. And none of us is perfect in resisting temptation. All of us from time to time fall short of fulfilling God’s intention for us, and we therefore stand in need of the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. Surely, no one guilty of a single act of homosexual conduct (or fornication, adultery, or other sexual offense) should spend the remainder of his life in prison as a consequence of his sin. Such harshness, such lack of mercy, is manifestly contrary to the example of our Lord and cannot be given the support of those who seek to follow Christ. In response to a proposal to punish consensual sexual crimes with such extreme penalties the Christian must surely echo the words of Jesus: “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”
We recognize that the scourge of AIDS has been devastating to the people of Uganda. Measures must be taken to encourage faithful marital love and to discourage sexual immorality of every type. It is critical, however, that these measures be shaped in a just and Christian manner, and not in a punitive spirit. Harshness and excess must be avoided. Those who experience homosexual desire and yield to it should not be singled out for extreme measures or for revulsion. Homosexual persons, whether they struggle to live chastely or, alas, do not, are human beings. They are children of God made in His very image and likeness. They are our brothers and sisters. Christ loves them as he loves all of us. We must love them, too, even as we encourage them and all men and women—precisely because of our love for them and concern for their well-being—to avoid sexual sins and lead lives of virtue and dignity.
As this letter only addresses two aspects of the proposed legislation, the authors’ position on any imprisonment of LGBT people remains vague. In a statement issued by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren this week, he was unequivocal: ““I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality. The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God.” In an earlier letter by Exodus International addressed to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the authors say, “we believe that deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue.” Colson, George and George do not take a position on criminalization of homosexuality. In 2003, Robert George argued in favor of criminalizing homosexuality as author of an amicus brief on behalf of the Family Research Counsel and Focus On the Family supporting Texas’ anti-sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas.
The letter doesn’t offer any advice except that “harshness and excess must be avoided.” Beyond that, the authors appear to tacitly approve of jail terms for LGBT people by their silence. They are also silent on the other heinous aspects of the Anti-Homosexuality Act:
- Expand the definitions for homosexual acts, making conviction easier.
- Criminalize “attempted homosexuality” with imprisonment of seven years.
- Criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
- Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
- Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
- Penalize landlords and hotel owners with five to seven years imprisonment for renting to LGBT people.
- Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
- Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.