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TIME Is Right And TIME IS Wrong

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2012

There is so much to love about Tim Padgett’s column in TIME magazine this week. Padgett, a Catholic, examines the rhetoric of the Church and of conservative Christians generally demonizing gay people in the U.S. during recent marriage campaign, and, noting the influence some American Christians have in Uganda, connects their rhetoric to what’s happening there now:

No, the real question that conservative Christians from Florida to France to Fiji need to ask themselves at this point is this: By crusading to deny gays and lesbians the right to legally marry — by insisting that God doesn’t consider loving gay unions morally worthy of matrimony and therefore the state shouldn’t either — do they risk demonizing “the phenomena of homosexuality” as inhumanely as the Ugandans are? It’s of course a good thing that the Vatican has condemned the “abuse of homosexual persons.” But as a Catholic, I’m all too aware that Pope Benedict XVI has also said that saving humanity from homosexuals is as crucial as saving rain forests from lumberjacks. And that a Vatican spokesman, after last month’s pro-gay-marriage votes in the U.S., made the equally cruel remark that gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy. Don’t blame Ugandan Catholics if they’re getting dangerously mixed signals from Rome.

Still, conservative Christians will claim that St. Paul’s denunciation of homosexuality leaves them no scriptural wiggle room. But St. Paul also condoned slavery, and I think we can safely say Christianity has managed to wiggle out of that one, just as Jews today feel O.K. about ignoring the Torah’s edict to stone nonvirgin brides to death. Like everything else in life, religion has to evolve. If it doesn’t — if it remains as rigidly static as so much Christian doctrine has so far in the 21st century — it risks the irrelevance it increasingly faces in the U.S.

Padgett’s argues that Christianity is in danger of not just being on the wrong side of history,but also “on the wrong side of Christianity, as Ugandan Christendom is this Christmas.” It’s a compelling thought-provoking piece. But, it’s one that’s marred in its setup with these factual errors which — you know me — I can’t let go:

The anti-homosexuality bill speeding through Uganda’s parliament right now — which that body’s Speaker has pledged will pass by year’s end as a “Christmas gift” to its backers — would impose draconian new punishments. Among them: a seven-year prison sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex, life sentences for people in same-sex marriages and jail for even those who don’t report gays and lesbians in their midst. Fortunately, Ugandan lawmakers say they’ve dropped the bill’s death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality,” in which HIV is spread or gay adults have sex with minors.

Yeah. Fortunately the lawmakers say they made those changes, but unfortunately there is no basis whatsoever for taking them at their word. These lines seriously mar an otherwise splendid piece, and since TIME doesn’t seem to have an up-to-snuff fact-checking staff — maybe they took an early Christmas break — I’ll go ahead and do their work for them.

When members of the Legal and Parliamentary Committee emerged from their closed-door meetings two weeks ago, they announced that the lifetime sentence in Clause 2 was reduced to seven years and the death penalty in Clause 3 was changed to life imprisonment. And then they said this: they can’t show you their draft recommendations because, you know, it’s a secret.

Seriously. They said that.

Which means that we have no idea what the committee actually recommended. And that’s important because the last time the committee claimed that they recommended removing the death penalty from the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2011, they lied. Completely, totally lied.  Their report claiming the recommend removing the death penalty actually recommended that it be replaced with a reference to the penalty spelled out in Section 129 of the Penal Code — which calls for the death penalty.

But whatever the committee’s recommendations may be, under Uganda’s Parliamentary procedures committees do not have the authority to make any changes to the bill. They can only recommend changes to the full House. It is up to the House to accept the committees recommendations — or reject them, if they so desire — before any changes can be made to the bill. And since that hasn’t happened yet, the bill still remains exactly as it was on the day it was first introduced, death penalty and all.

Padgett also copied virtually line-by-line the bills’ supporters propaganda that the death peanlty only applied cases where “HIV is spread” or where sex with minors is involved. That has been M.P. David Bahati’s favorite line from the very moment he first introduced the bill in 2009. But a plain reading of the bill’s straightforward language, which is written in very simple English, renders that interpretation woefully inadequate:

3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Journalists have had a very sad history of getting this bill so very wrong so many times in its three year history. Padgett is identified as TIME’s Miami and Latin America bureau chief, which, the last time I looked at an atlas, doesn’t include Africa. So I guess he can be excused for getting these facts wrong. He gets an A for effort, if not for the final result. TIME’s fact-checkers, though, get a big fat red F. Which is a shame, because if they had just fixed those few sentences, Padgett’s column would have been stellar.

Comments

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Lord_Byron
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

I am just stunned that people think life imprisonment is any better than the death penalty. To me it is like the difference between being beaten repeatedly with a bat until you die and being hit once a daily or every few hours a day for the next 20 years.

Ben in Oakland
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

One need only google “Christian polygamy in Africa” to see how, shall we say, DISINGENUOUS the whole damned argument is on just about every level.

Regan DuCasse
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

Here in the US, there are about twelve states that still allow the possibility of a grown man to marry an underage girl. I read several articles in major papers like the Boston Globe and NYTimes that reported on how this is a haven for sex offenders.
They profiled a 22 year old man, who had impregnated a 13 year old girl. He had a conviction for sex with a ten year old when he was 18.
The parents of the girl, instead of pressing charges, gave consent they marry. They didn’t want the baby to start out with a father in jail. He circumvented consent laws, by marrying in KS. A state with laws over a century old, that allow it.
It’s typically pregnancy that’s the decider on whether or not to have the man convicted of statutory rape.
Imagine the risks of complicating a GIRL’s life by making her pregnant before she’s even got a training bra.
The reason I brought this up, is there is a serious problem with child brides in Africa, the Near and Middle East.
We obviously are hard pressed as Americans to do anything directly political on these issues in foreign lands.
But the abuses of females, especially young girls is also extremely acute here in America.
The victims of sex trafficking are now a far more openly discussed issue. They are 75% female (average age is 9 years old), and there are sex tourism cities in the US that have been cited by the CMEC (Center for Missing and Exploited Children).
Whole countries like Uganda and other countries on (darker continents), so to speak, are highly energized in maintaining the criminalization of homosexuality, but not so much in the exploitation of females.
Even where HIV/AIDS has killed millions of heterosexual men, women and their children in Africa, political action against the spread of the disease, focuses on gay people and not the majority demographic also at risk.
Child brides are at risk of less education, domestic violence, sexual violence and premature death or permanent damage from birth complications.
For all the romanticized talk and idealization of the man/woman model of sexual compatibility and societal stability, the violence and human rights violations towards the female half of the world’s populations and in America, belies all that.
Go to any so called ‘family and marriage) site, and they’ll say NOTHING about it.
Nothing about high profile domestic violence cases such as the recent Jovan Belcher murder/suicide.
They focus ONLY on anything that has to do with homosexuality, and any progress in gay equality, as you know, is reported as some kind of conspiracy to damage the meaning of family and marriage.
If they put just HALF of the energy in strengthening laws that protected females, even in America. Especially domestic violence issues, this country would be an even better place for actual children.
Twelve states and child brides still in effect in America.
While NOM crows how many states don’t allow gay adults to marry.
And how good gay Americans have it here compared to Uganda.
That’s when I seriously could kick Brian Brown and Tony Perkins right in their tiny little gumpys.
Hard.

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