Faith leaders speak out against abhorrent Ugandan 'Anti-Homosexuality Bill' during American Prayer Hour
DALLAS, Feb. 4 — Faith leaders from around the country led an American Prayer Hour event at today's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, where they prayed together for peace and served as witness to the inhumanity of Uganda's proposed "Anti-Homosexuality Bill."
The gathering was one of several similar events nationwide where faith leaders highlighted the connection between this morning's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and the Uganda bill that seeks to make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death. The measure is being pushed by Ugandan MP David Bahati, who is connected to the National Prayer Breakfast via its sponsor, The Family, a secretive Christian-based organization that supports placement of leaders in government and economic positions of power. Bahati is The Family's primary organizer in Uganda.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and many other groups have advocated against the measure and called upon U.S. leaders to forcefully denounce the bill. President Obama addressed the issue today at the National Prayer Breakfast: "We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree to the need to lift our children out of ignorance, to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it's here in the United States or ... more extreme and odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."
Speakers at the Dallas American Prayer Hour, meanwhile, continued calling for an end to laws throughout the world that target people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and urged U.S. religious and political leaders to speak out against the Uganda bill, as well as against all criminalization of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Bishop Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, said, "We must lift up our voices when brothers and sisters in Uganda are beaten down because of fear of same-gender loving people. This world needs more love, not more violence. The destruction of human rights anywhere is a threat to human rights everywhere."
The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Institute for Welcoming Resources, said, "We are here with hundreds of people who work for a more open and just society. Today we realize that we cannot just work for our own well-being, we must reach out and care what happens to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in Uganda and throughout the world. Today, we came together to pray — not just for ourselves — but for the world — that all may feel the warmth of a safe family, a safe community and a safe world. It is our calling."
The Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, pastor and rector of the Dallas church, Cathedral of Hope, the largest predominantly LGBT church in the world, said, "As our sisters and brothers are persecuted in Uganda, it is time to speak out. Lives are at stake. It is wrong to imprison or execute people because of who they love or who they are."
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York City said, "The human capacity for evil is vast, but I stand before you to witness to the human capacity for good. It will be average human beings with heart who speak out against the egregious human rights violations against gay people in Uganda. It will be good people here, in Uganda and throughout the world who finally realize that throwing us in prison or executing us is simply wrong. I call on all good-hearted people to break the silence that kills. Speak out! For goodness sake, speak out!"
Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, "Recently I comforted a family in Puerto Rico, my home country, whose son was murdered because he was gay. Who will comfort the families of those killed by the state of Uganda if this law passes? Even a person who is supportive of LGBT rights can be thrown into prison."
Harry Knox, director of the religion and faith program of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "We support Secretary of State Clinton's work against the horrific law in Uganda. These and other efforts have led Ugandan President Musevini and MP David Bahati to signal that they are considering changes to the legislation. But, now is not the time to ease up the pressure but to continue to push for full decriminalization of our people. We urge President Obama to take the lead on human rights for everyone, everywhere, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Moses, a gay Ugandan man seeking asylum in the U.S. was not able to attend, but said in a statement: "It breaks my heart that I have to leave my family and loved ones to seek asylum in this country simply because I am gay. Even as I speak, gay people are being persecuted as a result of this proposed law. I can only imagine how bad it will be if the bill actually passes."
The Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, the first openly gay scholar at Brite Divinity School, Texas, Christian University, said, "As a Baptist minister here in Texas, I want to point out that Christians everywhere are coming to the realization that God loves LGBT people just like everyone else. Faith leaders know that, but they need to say it out loud. In Uganda, time is short and the stakes are high. Almost 75 percent of Ugandans are either Catholic or Anglican and neither the archbishop of Canterbury nor the Vatican has spoken out to condemn this proposed law. There is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. This, my friends, is the time to speak."
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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