In a story unlikely to grab the headlines, we learn of the death of David Kato, Uganda’s leading advocate for gay rights.
The other night I caught Piers Morgan’s interview of current high profile preacher, Joel Osteen, whose broadcast services now reach 100 countries. Author of 20 books, his estimated net worth is 40 million dollars. In the interview, Piers asked his views on homosexuality. Osteen replied that he isn’t a judge, God does that, but that homosexuality is a sin. (Did I miss something here?) His gospel is one of love. Hey, I think I’ve heard this line before: love the sinner; hate the sin. Pope Benedict VI informs us that protecting humanity is just as important as saving the world from climate change.
I suppose we should welcome, even with its latent irony, this upgrade in Christian tolerance reflected in Osteen’s remarks, given the historical record. Christianity, however, isn’t alone in its hostility towards homosexuality. In seven countries, mostly Muslim, the death penalty applies. Iran has executed 4,000 gays since 1979. In the world at large, seventy-six countries criminalize homosexual acts. While cultural and political contexts may apply, I would argue that the seminal factor, in most instances, is religion.
In Uganda, homophobia has swept the nation. Its parliament is presently considering a bill calling for the execution of homosexuals, despite the threat of several European nations to cut off aid. According to Val Kalende, chair of one of Uganda’s beleaguered gay rights groups, “The Ugandan government must take responsibility for David’s blood” (reported by Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT, Jan. 27, 2011).
She was referring to American evangelicals, who held rallies and workshops throughout Uganda in 2009. Although these Americans have denied promoting violence, it was shortly thereafter that the antigay bill was drafted, with some of its sponsors acknowledging their attendance at the rallies and subsequent discussion of the legislation with the Americans. Recently, Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, a devout Christian, declared, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights” (qtd.in Gettleman).
Wednesday afternoon, David Kato’s body was discovered. He had been bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Police have suggested robbery as a motive.