The Ugandan bill criminalizing homosexual activity is getting world-wide attention. It has been condemned by certain evangelical Christians such as Rev. Rick Warren, Professor Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College, and a host of ‘ex-gays’ — even a few folk who might be expected to to be supportive, since they claim to be traditionalists. Little wonder that Hillary Clinton has added the State Department’s voice to the chorus, along with various European leaders.
All the homosexual activists, Western political leaders, and critical evangelicals seem to be up in arms over the fact that the Ugandan bill would imprison (perhaps for life) anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexuality and would potentially execute someone found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality,” the latter of which would include performing homosexual acts upon a minor or when the offender was in a position of authority (e.g., parent, teacher, etc.) or if one knew they were HIV-positive at the time. The bill also explicitly prohibits promotion of homosexuality by any individual or organization and further equates same-sex marriage with the offense of homosexuality.
Generally, according to FRI’s analysis, this is a good bill for those of a traditionalist bent. While no law can end a particular kind of crime, the proposed law makes clear what is not acceptable and should discourage some from acting on their same-sex desires. Interestingly, only acts (not ‘desires’ or ‘orientation’) are condemned, and only rape, especially of children, or recidivism can lead to a death sentence. And those carrying HIV/AIDS have no business engaging in and no right to engage in activities that could infect others.
The Church has a long history of supporting serious penalties, including capital punishment, against homosexual acts. In Rome’s Christian era (ca. 342 AD), homosexuality was made a capital crime, supported by Church bishops and explicit decrees of Roman emperors over the next 250-300 years. Justinian’s collection of Roman laws — including penalties for homosexuality — later became the basis for both canon (Church) law and European and English civil law. Historian Vern Bullough noted that “The earliest English secular legislation on the subject dates from 1533, when Parliament under Henry VIII classified buggery (by now a euphemism for same-sex activity, bestiality, and anal intercourse) as a felony. Penalties included death, losses of goods, and loss of lands.”
‘Liberal’ Thomas Jefferson regarded homosexuality as a serious crime (subject to castration for men, disfigurement for women), and he lived at a time when individuals could be executed for homosexual acts. Indeed, during his time New Hampshire passed an anti-adultery law under which convicted adulterers faced possibilities of standing on the gallows with a rope around their neck for an hour, up to 39 lashes, a year in jail, or a fine of 100 pounds.
Has our modern, ‘enlightened’ stance on adultery (that is, fully decriminalized) resulted in fewer broken homes or wrecked families, fewer divorces, and a more edifying social milieu for our kids? Do media reports of our sports heroes, entertainment stars, and politicians getting off essentially ‘scot-free’ despite serial adulteries provide a better example to our children than the social climate of early America? Are we morally superior for treating adulterers today so much more gently by eliminating the ‘barbaric’ penalties of the past?
The same analysis applies to homosexuality. If homosexual activity is accepted as no worse than a ‘victimless’ crime, with no overt ramifications for society or our children, then why indeed penalize it? Yet, just as with adultery or fornication, what might seem harmless on the surface is not so. Organized homosexuality is a serious assault upon our culture. Both child molestation and homosexuality (and they strongly overlap) cause significant problems for not only the victims, but also society.
Honorable people can differ on how severe should be the penalties for the various offenses catalogued in the Ugandan bill. But we find no warrant for considering this bill at odds with the historic values of either Christianity or democracy. From a democratic standpoint, those who live in a country ought to make the laws for that country. They, after all, know the situation on the ground far better than outsiders. They also know how much sacrifice of law-abiding citizens’ interests will be entailed if social resources are diverted from caring for and educating children etc. to imprison rather than execute a serious malefactor. It follows that Ugandans should make the laws for Uganda (and note how quickly liberal belief in ‘cultural diversity’ is ignored when it comes to homosexuality).
Uganda is poor, the West is rich. The West offers ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘penance’ in the penitentiary — both of which are very costly and only infrequently effective. After 10 years, most rates of recidivism and lapses from ‘counseling’ or ‘therapy’ are north of 80%. A poor society may have better things to do with its limited resources than provide housing, food, medical care, etc. to those criminally attacking it.
The other issue causing waves of protest in the West is that the Ugandan bill mandates that persons in positions of authority report to the police or relevant officials any persons they know to be engaged in a homosexual offense. Here, “authority” means “having power and control over other people because of your knowledge and official position; and shall include a person who exercises religious, political, economic or social authority…” Thus, pastors/priests, bosses, and teachers would apparently be required to report known homosexuals, or else:
“14. Failure to disclose the offence. A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offence under this Act, omits to report the offence to the relevant authorities within twenty-four hours of having first had that knowledge, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years.”
Again, while this provision may seem offensive at first blush, remember that most states have similar laws regarding someone in authority not reporting the sexual molestation of a child or the possibility that a client may injure or kill someone. The issue again gets down to how seriously ‘evil’ we regard homosexual acts, and whether they should be treated in a serious, criminal manner.
Certainly, the proposed Ugandan bill offends those who believe that ‘democracy = sexual license,’ or who believe that ‘freedom of speech = sexual license.’ It also makes counseling a person tempted by homosexuality somewhat more difficult in that a counselor has to avoid knowing whether the client has engaged in homosexual acts. If this bill becomes law in Uganda, a counselor will first have to warn the client that they can only talk about desires and then deal with how to contain or redirect those desires. There would be no room for advising ‘how to get on with your homosexual lover,’ ‘safer homosexual sex,’ or the like. Just as well, since this kind of advice helps cement the client into a homosexual lifestyle.
In summary, Western politicians — let alone Western Christians — have no business criticizing Ugandans for proposing this bill. Many of its provisions would be welcome restorations to our own penal code.