Protest at Canyon Ridge Christian Church

Sunday morning, a small group of teens stood outside Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and protested that church’s support for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I reported about this event last night on

Chase Cates and Spencer Niemetz are listed as the organizers of the event on this Facebook event page. According to Chase, 17 students came out altogether with about 10 at any one time. The protesters ranged in age from 15-19 and represented a variety of views, backgrounds and orientations. The focus of their concern was that a local church was supporting one of the chief instigators of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. They wanted to raise awareness since there has been very notice of the situation around Las Vegas.

After the second service, some of the church leaders invited the teens in for a meeting. Some of them, including Cates, took them up on their offer. 

According to Cates, the leaders dodged some of their questions, including how much support the church sent to Martin Ssempa and what criteria would be used to determine support. Pastor Mitch Harrison confirmed to me that the meeting occured although he did not say whether or not he acknowledged that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill addressed adult consensual behavior. Cates seemed to think they understood, but Harrison did not confirm this. Here is an excerpt from the Salon piece on that point:

Cates said he wanted to raise awareness about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and said that “if this bill was passed and people were executed or criminalized in any way, Canyon Ridge Christian Church in turn would be held responsible for financing Ssempa who so overtly pushed the bill.”

Cates, a Las Vegas man who will enter college in the fall, said the reaction from the church members was mostly positive. “After the second service, CRCC invited us to join members of the church to have an open discussion of the issue. We took them up on their offer and ended up having a two-hour conversation with Pastor [Mitch] Harrison and others,” he said.

According to Harrison, “nine or so” protesters came into the church for the discussion. Harrison said the teens raised “concerns about the bill criminalizing homosexual behavior.” He added, “Our goal in meeting with them wasn’t so much to express our opinions but to listen to their concerns and gain understanding.” 

I hope understanding was gained because the recent response on the CRCC website demonstrates a lack of it when it comes to the AHB. Cates told me that he was not finished with the issue and there may be more awareness raising to come.

McDonalds: Who’s lovin’ it?

You gotta sympathize a little bit with McDonalds COO, Don Thompson. Comments about a French McDonald’s ad in a June 14, Chicago Tribune interview have earned him a twofer of some distinction. First, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce said they were not lovin’ the fast food chain and announced that they were severing ties. Then today, the American for Truth About Homosexuality, Peter LaBarbera, announced a Big Mac boycott based on the same commercial and comments.

Since I saw the ad a while ago, I have stopped eating at McDonalds — which has had the added bonus of helping to keep my already protruding gut from officially being designated as “super-sized.”

Now LaBarbera and the NGLCC wants everybody else to eat elsewhere.

What has the culture war factions all upset? Here are Thompson’s comments in response to a question about that French ad (see below):

Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy — not there, but here. Can you talk about that?

Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I’ve never shied away from the fact that I’m a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don’t impose those on anybody else. I’ve been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don’t believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it’s not that I’m to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald’s, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We’re going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we’re going to learn from. But, you’re right, that commercial won’t show in the United States.

Here is the commercial:

Having watched the commercial, I can clearly see what has everyone so upset. The father’s blatant encouragement of heterosexual promiscuity in his son is shocking and indeed would be offensive to many Americans.

On the local level, the McDonalds here is pretty community minded, having recently hosted a fundraiser for the public library. They donate lots of food, drinks and other items to local charities, churches and sports teams.  Friends and neighbors work there and I think they would be confused and upset if their livelihood was hurt due to what some French corporate people decided to do.

Having said that, I suppose there are issues which might trouble someone enough that avoiding the business could bring relief from the dissonance. Personal boycotts may give someone a feeling that they are doing something to live a consistent life. This is a matter of personal conscience. In this instance, I suspect McDonalds has little to worry about from either side.

Salon on Canyon Ridge response

Salon published my news article on the Canyon Ridge Christian Church response this morning.

Feel free to carry the discussion over there….

In his sermon, Pastor Odor mentioned his church’s involvement in the April AIDS walk in Las Vegas. If readers were involved in that event or live in Las Vegas, I would be interested in talking to you. Please email [email protected].

Correcting Canyon Ridge: What Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill really says

 On July 11, Pastor Kevin Odor took about 17 minutes to open his sermon with a description of the current controversy over Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s partnership with Martin Ssempa. He described some of the methods Ssempa has used to promote Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “offensive” and said the church leaders met with Ssempa in March to hear his side of the story. While the church leaders advised Ssempa against the unnamed offensive methods, Pastor Odor said the group was heartened by Ssempa’s reasons for supporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Those reasons seemed to center around the perception that the bill was needed to cover certain gaps in the law.

I certainly agree with Pastor Odor that Ssempa’s methods and rhetoric have been offensive to say the least. However, I completely disagree with Odor’s description of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In essence, with the narrative he provided for his church, he suggests that Rick Warren, World Vision, WAIT Training, Philadelphia Biblical University, and numerous others have misunderstood and/or misrepresented the AHB. Although this is familiar territory for frequent readers here, we go over it again.

Here is what Pastor Odor told his congregation about the bill:

Now the problem comes last Fall that there was a member of Parliament who decided to propose a bill to take care of some things that he was concerned weren’t being protected. And it was introduced as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. There had been a number of sodomy laws on the books already in Uganda but there were a couple of things that weren’t protected. One in particular is aggravated pedophilia basically where there was a repeat offender who was violating young men over and over again and there wasn’t a protection for that. And the second was now with HIV/AIDS if someone with HIV/AIDS, knowing that, violated someone and passing that on that was another concern.

And so…the new bill that was written had about 60% of the old bill in it and it added these new provisions to protect young people and this lawmaker’s idea was to make the equal punishment because over there already on the books if a man violates a young woman, the man would be put to death. The death penalty was prescribed for that. Let’s make that equal for young boys, let’s make the death penalty for someone who violates young boys. And so that was his intent and that was what he put in the bill.

A little later in Odor’s speech, he described his interview with Barbera Bradley Hagerty of National Public Radio. He told her his view of why the bill was tabled:

…she didn’t understand the equal thing of boys and girls being protected and so there was a misrepresentation that we were trying to clarify.

Pastor Odor wants us to believe that Ugandan law does not address the same-sex molestation. However, as I pointed out here, it does. On April 18, 2007, the Uganda Parliament passed The Penal Code Amendment Act of 2007 and corrected the imbalance by removing references to gender.

The principal Act is amended by substituting for section 129 the following new sections—

Defilement of persons under eighteen years of age

129. (1) Any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years, commits a felony known as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.

(2) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years commits an offence and is on conviction, liable to imprisonment not exceeding eighteen years.

(3) Any person who attempts to perform a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years in any of the circumstances specified in subsection (4) commits a felony called aggravated defilement and is, on conviction by the High Court, liable to suffer death.

If the boy child is unprotected by this language, then so is the girl child. In fact, all situations involving male and female victims and male and female perpetrators are covered here. Girls and boys are protected equally; Pastor Odor’s narrative falls apart.

The other issue referred to by Pastor Odor is intentional spread of HIV. The Penal Code Amendment Act also references that crime and imposes the death penalty:

(b) where the offender to his or her knowledge, is infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS);

Don’t believe me or the minutes of the Parliament? Then maybe Pastor Odor will believe Martin Ssempa. On Michael Brown’s Line of Fire radio show and then on his blog, Ssempa acknowledged for the first time that “the boy child” was, after all, protected. Speaking to Brown about the need for the AHB, Ssempa wrote:

3. Why does Uganda need bill now.

a. International groups which are coersing homosexuality down our throats ie France and Netherlands at the UN.

b. Lack of protection for the boy child from homosexual rape.

c. Lack of protection for the girls and women in the current law. Only focus on male homosexuality.

d. Lack of legislation against promotion and conspiracies to promote homosexuality.

Note: We have learnt that now the Penal Code was amended to cater for the gender imbalance in b above. (my emphasis)

Even Martin Ssempa acknowledges that there is no gender imbalance in the current Uganda Penal Code. That imbalance had been addressed in 2007. I informed Rev. Ssempa of that fact in November, 2009 via a link to a legal analysis of the bill. Ssempa was also aware that the AHB targeted consensual behavior via emails from a friend of his in the Ugandan Parliamentary research service, Charles Tuhaise.

When I first contacted Ssempa in October, 2009, he referred me to Tuhaise, believing he could help address my questions about the bill. Mr. Tuhaise made the purpose of the bill clear in a November 5 email to both Martin Ssempa and me. Addressing my concerns about the bill, Mr. Tuhaise wrote:

Pr. Ssempa and Mr Throckmorton, 

I appreciate Pr. Ssempa copying me in on this conversation and hope Mr. Throckmorton too appreciates us sharing this conversation as brethren in Christ. I have read to the bottom of your conversation and have understood the key issues of contention, basically, that critics of Hon. Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill see it as disregarding the right of adults to engage in consensual sex. I think this is where Mr. Throckmorton is raising objection when he says that the issue at hand is not “child abuse”, which is justifiable.

I would like to clarify what the Bill says and why, because it seems to me Mr.Throckmorton either has not read the full text of the Bill (with its memorandum) or has not correctly interpreted its import. The Bill states its object as:

 “to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (1) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (2) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any governmental    organisation inside or outside the country”.

The Bill’s specific objectives are to:

 (a) provide for marrige in Uganda as that contracted only between a man and a woman;

(b) prohibit and penalise homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family;

(c) prohibit ratfication of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act; and

(d) prohibit the licensing of organisations which promote homosexuality.

Even if I stop here, Mr.Throckmorton’s querry about “consenting adults” is answered. The Bill asserts that continued practice of homosexuality by anybody, including “consenting adults” constitutes a threat to the traditional family.

I’m a social scientist and know that this assertion is true, because behaviour spreads through social learning. All that behaviour needs to begin spreading like bushfire is any form of social or legal legitimacy. As science has proved, gay behaviour is not in the genes, it spreads through social learning and experimentation. Yet, the other aspect about behaviour is that once it is acquired, it is so difficult to unlearn – especially sexual behaviour that is associated with such powerful a reinforcer as “orgasm”. A young man who under peer influence experiments with homosexuality is risking fine-tuning his entire life in that direction, because the brain records such an experience, which then becomes a triger for sexual thoughts and feelings.

Mr. Tuhaise here confirms that the bill is not simply about child abuse and lays out his justification for keeping homosexuality criminal “for anybody.” Pastor Ssempa was also a recipient of the email and responded to both Mr. Tuhaise and me the next day calling Mr. Tuhaise’s views “a good reply to further your understanding.”

The AHB includes references to aggravated defilement as a duplication of the 2007 law but there is so much more to it. By making his narrative about a non-existent problem, Pastor Odor did not give his congregation the full picture. The problem is not just Martin Ssempa’s “offensive” methods or the way he says things, but it is with the proposals he helped to create and has supported for months. Toning down the rhetoric won’t change that.

To review the AHB, click here. Here is the full text with comments.

For all posts on the AHB, click here.

For my response to Martin Ssempa’s Line of Fire interview, click here. In this interview, he said the AHB was on the Ugandan Parliament website (not true) and that he would post it on his blog (has not done it).

Uganda Joint Christian Council recommendations to Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Recently Canyon Ridge Christian Church launched a defense of their partnership with Uganda’s Martin Ssempa. Despite the fact that Willow Creek Association expressed regret over their 2007 award to Ssempa for his AIDS work and Rick Warren’s condemnation of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Pastor Kevin Odor told his congregation a couple of Sundays ago that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and Rev. Ssempa had been misrepresented by the media. The Canyon Ridge leadership seems to take encouragement that Martin Ssempa leads a coalition of clergy which recommended that the death penalty be dropped from the bill. However, Ssempa expressed no reservations about the death penalty when the bill was first introduced, saying he fully supported it.  He has not explained why he changed his views.

Some of these recommendations were delivered to Rick Warren after he forcefully denounced the bill in December. I first saw this document in March after Martin Ssempa’s appearance on the Line of Fire show. I was told at that time by host Michael Brown that the document was not for public consumption and so I did not publish it. Now, a link to the first page of the recommendations is on the Canyon Ridge website. However, they failed to produce the entire document and so I thought it might be good to see clearly what has satisfied Canyon Ridge. Despite the length, I am publishing the whole thing after the break with commentary to follow.

To the uninitiated, these recommendations might look reasonable. However, without the actual bill, one might overlook that the UJCC did not make any recommendations about the part of the bill calling for life in prison for homosexual touching. Here is the section (S2) without any recommended changes:

2. The offence of homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-

(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;

(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;

(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

Please note that there is nothing in the proposed bill which specifies ages of the people involved or requires coercion to violate this section. Also, recall that the Introduction to the bill says this:

The object of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex;

And then also keep in mind that touching (see subsection 2c) is defined as:

“touching” includes touching—

(a) with any part of the body;

(b) with anything else;

(c) through anything;

and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ, anus or mouth.

The plain language of Section 2 describes consensual relations. This was confirmed to me by Martin Ssempa’s colleague Charles Tuhaise, President of the National Association of Social Work – Uganda and Parliamentary researcher. The Uganda Joint Christian Council did not make any recommendations to change this section (Section 2). The UJCC recommends a change to the definitions section and then begins making recommendation to Section 3 (S.3) Aggravated Homosexuality. Based on what Canyon Ridge provided, a church goer would not get the full picture. See below for the full UJCC document.

Continue reading “Uganda Joint Christian Council recommendations to Parliament for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill”