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Manhattan Declaration Authors Criticize Aspects of Uganda’s “Kill Gays” Bill

Jim Burroway

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.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of the past year’s anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Comments

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wackadoodle
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

At this point you could just say “more anti-gay bigots realize their position on Uganda is bad PR and pretend to denounce it while still reminding everyone in Uganda homosexuals are sick evil godless people who deserve whatever they get for their CHOICES”

Its a much shorter article.

Quo
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

It’s interesting that the authors of the Manhattan declaration would appeal to the story of the woman caught in adultery in John to argue against capital punishment for homosexuality.

Aside from the fact that it’s a late addition to the text of John that isn’t present in early manuscripts, the Manhatten declaration authors appear to be using it without any regard for its context.

The story describes a scene where scribes and Pharisees are about to commit an act of mob violence, stoning an adulterer on their own initiative. It isn’t about capital punishment carried out by the state. There are other passages in the Gospels, notably Luke 23:39-43, that strongly suggest Jesus would have approved of capital punishment performed by the state, as opposed to random mobs.

The Manhattan declaration authors are trying to evade the fact that support for capital punishment is perfectly compatible with Christianity, and they’re doing it out of their own squeamishness, rather than for any other reason.

Richard Rush
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

Quo said:

The Manhattan declaration authors are trying to evade the fact that support for capital punishment is perfectly compatible with Christianity, and they’re doing it out of their own squeamishness, rather than for any other reason.

My perception is that, as a group, Evangelical Christians are the most enthusiastic supporters of capital punishment (and of wars) in the United States. And they are the same people who would have us believe they own the concept of “the sanctity of life.”

While it pains me to say something positive about the Roman Catholic Church, they do seem to have evolved into having some consistency on the life issues.

Emily K
December 12th, 2009 | LINK

That story from the gospels is rife with falsehood. Not only did hardly anybody at all get stoned through “official” sanction by the Pharisaic Jews (today’s Rabbinical Jews), that form of stoning – randomly throwing rocks at somebody in a street – was not the prescribed legal manner to do so.

If Jesus were a person who followed Jewish law closely, then he would agree with the Pharisees of the day, who imposed stringent restrictions on circumstances that would allow for stoning. Rav Gammaliel said himself that a court that condemns someone to stoning once every 70 years is a murderous court (Makkot 1:10).

John Doucette
December 13th, 2009 | LINK

If the world governments had any guts, they’d boycott Uganda as they did to South Africa in protest of that country’s apartheid.

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