Uganda’s horrific anti-homosexuality law

Christians must stand against the Church of Uganda over its support for a horrific law

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This article is taken from the July 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“Discussing Ugandan affairs” has long been Private Eye’s euphemism for sexual relations. Whatever its origins in the sixties, it has now taken on a far more sinister dimension since the signing into law of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 by the President of Uganda last month.

It isn’t funny at all. It’s deadly serious. I don’t quite know how to convey how bad it is apart from by quoting from sections of the text, so that is what I shall do.

2. The offence of homosexuality

(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if the person performs a sexual act or allows a person of the same sex to perform a sexual act on him or her.

(2) A person who commits the offence of homosexuality is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life. 

Imprisonment for life, for the avoidance of any doubt, is defined elsewhere in the bill as being “imprisonment for the natural life of a person without the possibility of being released”.

Let’s be clear about this. Should you ever — even once — have sexual relations with somebody of the same sex and be caught, you will never see the light of day again. You will see out your days in prison. For falling in love and acting on it. 

This would be bad enough, but you might have missed the significance of the word “once” in the last paragraph.

3. Aggravated homosexuality

(1) A person who commits the offence of homosexuality in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (2), commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction, to suffer death.

(2) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1) are where …

(d) the offender is a serial offender … 

Should you be gay and fall in love and have sexual relations with someone twice, just twice, that’s it. Death. Executed. Hanged by the neck until dead.

Can we pause the culture war for a moment and recognise how horrific this is? Pretty much every single person on the right or left of politics should be able to rally around the idea that dragging a person to have their life choked out of them for sleeping with a consenting adult is immoral. 

… the Anglican Church of Uganda has disgraced itself over this Act

This is important because the Anglican Church of Uganda has disgraced itself over this Act. Before the bill was signed into law (and while the President’s legal counsel was advising him not to sign) the Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, used his Easter message to “urge the President to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill … Please, Your Excellency, protect us.” No mention in this was made of any hesitation regarding the death penalty clauses.

Once the Act was signed into law he was jubilant and fired off a press release declaring “The Church of Uganda welcomes the diligent work of Parliament and His Excellency, the President, in crafting the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.” While he also said the Church does not support the death penalty, this did not present a substantial enough objection for him to want the bill delayed or blocked. 

His unambiguous position has brought strong condemnation from Justin Welby, as primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion, which, in turn, has triggered not repentance but a doubling down from Uganda’s Archbishop.

This is a problem for the wider Anglican Church because the Church of Uganda is one of the big players in gafcon. This is a group of Anglican churches and dioceses which first met in 2008 to protest about the churches in Canada and the USA taking a liberal stance on sexuality and have gone on to create a sort-of shadow Anglican Communion. Most recently it declared that the Archbishop of Canterbury had forfeited his right to lead the Communion because of the Church of England’s actions. 

gafcon has set up rebel bishops to work in England, and is offering various forms of oversight and disengagement from the C of E for traditionalists, which some are already taking up. When GAFCON finally commented on it, far from condemning the Church of Uganda, they tore into Archbishop Welby.

This is a problem for my traditionalist brothers and sisters here in England. To put it bluntly, if you declare that you cannot walk alongside fellow Christians who will bless gay marriages but that you can walk alongside those who will cheer the imprisonment and murder of gay people, your position will become, justifiably, toxic. 

As the church’s civil war regarding sexual ethics heads towards its conclusion, how traditionalists deal with this crisis in their movement will define whether they have a credible moral future in this country.

This isn’t making a partisan point. This is deadly serious. There are many reasons why wonderful and excellent and clever people may oppose the Church blessing gay marriages in England, but all of those reasons turn to dust the minute they are associated with the execution and imprisonment (for life) of gays and lesbians in Uganda. I am sure that most traditionalists in this country are as horrified as I am by this law. Now is the time for them to be heard. 

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