Gay Bill OK but remove death penalty - clergy

Thursday December 24 2009

By John Tugume

The proposed law against homosexuality is long overdue, Christian leaders have said even as reports indicated that President Museveni was planning to suffocate it.

While delivering their Christmas message in Kampala yesterday, the heads of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches under their ecumenical body, Uganda Joint Christian Council, referring to the Bible, said homosexuality is sinful.

Media reports indicated yesterday that President Museveni had allegedly assured American authorities he would block the Anti-homosexuality Bill introduced by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. The proposed legislation has drawn worldwide opposition.

Kampala Metropolitan Archbishop Jonah Lwanga said: “We support the need for a law that prohibits homosexual practices including same-sex marriage which, we are aware, is prohibited under our Constitution.”

Spare lives

However, the cleric was quick to add: “We do not, as a matter of principle, support the death penalty or other forms of extreme punishment such as life imprisonment as proposed by the Bill.”

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Asked to comment on Mr Museveni’s alleged plan to block the law, Archbishop Lwanga said the President “might be having his own reasons”, but added that he still treated the media reports as rumours.

The President has in the past been quoted advising the youth to desist from such practices as homosexuality and yesterday’s reports would make him contradict himself.

“You should discourage your colleagues [involved in homosexuality] because God was not foolish to do the way he arranged...Mr and Mrs, but now you have to say Mr and Mr. What is that now?” the President advised earlier.
Archbishop Lwanga said even “those who find themselves trapped in questionable lifestyles such as gays and lesbians” can be helped through mentoring, counselling and rehabilitation.

Mr Bahati’s Bill proposes, among other punishments, a death sentence for those involved in “aggravated homosexuality” or imprisonment up to seven years.

Several countries including the US, Britain, Canada and several international organisations have expressed dissatisfaction over the Bill, while Sweden has threatened to withdraw aid. At the same conference, Ugandans were advised against leading reckless lives during the festive season.

Check recklessness
“Many people often indulge in reckless lifestyles including drunkenness, fornication and adultery in the name of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day! Such forms of celebration constitute a negation of what Christianity is about,” the cleric added.

And as many people continued travelling upcountry, the Archbishop warned: “We deplore the habit of speeding and overtaking vehicles in circumstances that are manifestly dangerous.”

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