Uganda govt says Anti-Homosexuality Bill not necessary; fate in Parliament unclear – Updated

UPDATE (3/25):
NTV Uganda has the report described below in my original post last night. The Parliament has not spoken on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but yesterday the Museveni administration did, saying that the bill’s provisions will be covered in other legislation. Roll the tape:

While this is a positive development, it remains to be seen whether or not Bahati will be able to motivate his fellow MPs to pass the bill over the objections of the Museveni administration.
UPDATE: I just now received an email from a listener to Ugandan radio that David Bahati has been assured by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chair Stephen Tashobya that the AHB will be debated.
Original post 3/24/11, 8:16pm:
This afternoon I have heard from two sources in Uganda that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been shelved. Frank Mugisha, leader in the GLB community in Uganda posted this on his Facebook status:

Anti homosexuality bill should not be discussed, not needed redundant and unnecessary says Ugandan Government.

He followed that up with a message saying that “the bill is shelved…the govt has stopped it.”
I heard from another source that the UG Minister of Information was on NTV Uganda earlier today (evening there) saying that the bill was “unnecessary,” should not be considered and will not be supported by government.
There have been conflicting reports all along and so I hope to get additional information when the light of day visits Uganda. Government pulling out support is a critical issue, but Parliamentary leaders have said in the past that the bill is Parliament’s and will be decided by Parliament. One of the sources I am citing also said Bahati did not sound finished.
Watch this space, I will add news as I get it.
Update (3/25): While the reversal of course of the Museveni administration is a critical blow to the AHB, it seems clear that Bahati disputed the assessment of the government spokeswoman. What is not clear is how willing Bahati and his fellow MPs will be to cross the Museveni administration.
It is also important to add that the govt spokeswoman said that the govt disapproves of homosexuality and did not object to specific aspects of the bill. Rather, she claimed that current law and other proposed bills would handle the same issues.

Bryan Fischer: Freedom of religion only for Christians

In the wow, just wow category, Bryan Fischer continued his supremacist ways by stating that constitutional guarantees of freedom of  religion applies only to Christians. To wit:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment. 

To bolster his claim, Fischer quotes Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story out of context:

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation…
“The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
Story, writing as a constitutional historian, is quite clear. The purpose of the First Amendment was not “to advance Mohametanism” but to “exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.”

However, a elsewhere in the same book, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), Story wrote:

It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject. The situation, too, of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in other presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in other, quakers; in others again, there was close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it has not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship. (596-597)

Justice Story said correctly that most people in the early nation were Christian of one stripe or another. The common understanding was the state would advance Christianity, but Story’s argument, if read in context, was that the United States would be different. In matters of national business, there was not to be a religious test, no inquiry about allegiances to a particular religious view.
Elsewhere in his book, Story writes about the religious tests in England for those pursuing public office. Candidates had to demonstrate allegiance to the Church of England via statements from clergy and involvement in religious ceremony. Such tests according to Story, were designed to keep out “non-conformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries…” However, the First Amendment stood against the formation of such tests in the new nation.
Story’s real argument is for a government which respected the individual conscience, saying that the “rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power.” (p. 727). Reading the relevant sections, it becomes clear that Fischer has pulled out a section out of the context of Story’s eloquent tribute to freedom of conscience that is the First Amendment.
As an addition to this post, I want to include a lengthy section of Joseph Story’s writing (free on Google books) on religious tests for involvement in public life. Story is commenting specifically on Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Although primarily influenced by Christianity, the founders did not want state limitations on conscience and made that explicit. Story’s commentary blasts religious bigotry and supremacy and should be heeded by those on the Christian right who want to limit the religious freedom of others.

1841. The remaining part of the clause declares, that “no religious test shall ever be required, as a “qualification to any office or public trust, under the “United States.” This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries ,- and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew, that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems, to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those, who doubted its dogmas, or resisted its infallibility.
The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other; and Protestantism itself, at the very moment, that it was proclaiming the right of private judgment, prescribed boundaries to that right, beyond which if any one dared to pass, he must seal his rashness with the blood of martyrdom. The history of the parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses, and the abuses of religious tests. They there found the pains and penalties of non-conformity written in no equivocal language, and enforced with a stern and vindictive jealousy.
One hardly knows, how to repress the sentiments of strong indignation, in reading the cool vindication of the laws of England on this subject, (now, happily, for the most part abolished by recent enactments,) by Mr. Justice Blackstone, a man, in many respects distinguished for habitual moderation, and a deep sense of justice. “The second species,” says he “of non-conformists, are those, who offend through a mistaken or perverse zeal. Such were esteemed by our laws, enacted since the time of the reformation, to be papists, and protestant dissenters; both of which were supposed to be equally schismatics in not communicating with the national church; with this difference, that the papists divided from it upon material, though erroneous, reasons; but many of the dissenters, upon matters of indifference, or, in other words, upon no reason at all. Yet certainly our ancestors were mistaken in their plans of compulsion and intolerance. The sin of schism, as such, is by no means the object of temporal coercion and punishment. If, through weakness of intellect, through misdirected piety, through perverseness and acerbity of temper, or, (which is often the case,) through a prospect of secular advantage in herding with a party, men quarrel with the ecclesiastical establishment, the civil magistrate has nothing to do with it; unless their tenets and practice are such, as threaten ruin or disturbance to the state. He is bound, indeed, to protect the established church; and, if this can be better effected, by admitting none but its genuine members to offices of trust and emolument, he is certainly at liberty so to do; the disposal of offices being matter of favour and discretion. But, this point being once secured, all persecution for diversity of opinions, however ridiculous or. absurd they may be, is contrary to every principle of sound policy and civil freedom. The names and subordination of the clergy, the posture of devotion, the materials and colour of the minister’s garment, the joining in a known, or an unknown form of prayer, and other matters of the same kind, must be left to the option of every man’s private judgment.”

The American Family Association should apologize to Native Americans

Crosswalk and the Christian Post published this article last week but I want to put it up here too. The American Family Association refuses to comment officially on the supremacist views of Bryan Fischer but I believe they should. In this article, I quote some evangelical leaders who comment on Fischer’s views. Here is a powerful one:

Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”

Read on…
Should evangelicals apologize to Native Americans?

Yes, we should.
It is past time for evangelicals to express remorse and regret to Native Americans for the mistreatment they experienced at the hands of Christians throughout the history of the nation. Although President Obama signed a resolution of apology in 2009 on behalf of the nation, evangelical groups should also follow suit.
It is a sad fact of American history that Christianity, at times, conspired with the government to colonize and nearly eradicate a proud and free people. Sadly, in the present, those wounds have been reopened by a representative of that same belief system, in effect, blaming the native people for their demise. In February, Bryan Fischer, Issues Analyst for the American Family Association wrote on the AFA website that Native Americans were “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil” because of “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality.”
Fischer followed up by suggesting that Americans should be proud of the “displacement of native American tribes.” Finally, he wrote that if the native people had converted to Christianity, like Pocahontas did, then “their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless.”
Such assertions are offensive to Native American Christians. One such leader, Rev. Emerson Falls, counters Fischer, telling me that some Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee, assimilated into white Christian ways only to be displaced by federal policy at gunpoint and marched from the deep South to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears (1838-1839). Falls added, “It was only after their forced removal on the Trail of Tears that they began to question the validity of Christianity.” 
Ironically, Fischer’s assertions about Native Americans come at a time when some Christian groups are attempting to address wounds, never fully healed, among Native Americans.  
The first weekend of March, Southern Baptists hosted a conference in Oklahoma called “The Gathering” where Native American Christians reflected on reasons why their peers are not more receptive to Christianity. Randy Adams, Church Outreach Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, described barriers past generations of Christians created for native people. “At times, mission agencies were complicit with the government mistreatment of native Americans,” referring to government removal of native people from their home lands.
Furthermore, Christians conspired with the government to Americanize native people in the name of religion. Rev. Falls, first Native American president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, explains: “The church partnered with the government to run boarding schools that took Native children out of their homes, cut their hair, changed their clothes, and denied them the right to speak in the own language. This led to an attitude that equates Christianity with cultural genocide, an attitude still prevalent today.”
Both Adams and Falls said that recent months have brought a resurgence of interest in Christianity among native people. Fischer’s views, they said, coming as a representative of the religious right, could be a significant barrier to this movement.
“Fischer has a simplistic and convoluted view of history. Native Americans were deceived and lied to. To suggest that such treatment was noble or praiseworthy is just wrong and destructive,” Adams said.
Adams said that the pain of this history is never far from the native Christians he knows, saying, “What they suffered and what they lost, it is still a part of who they are.”
There are numerous instances of deceit and trickery being used to take native lands, but perhaps the prime illustration is the policy of forced removal begun under Andrew Jackson and continued during the term of Martin Van Buren. White settlers wanted the tribal lands and pushed the Jackson administration to remove native people. Beginning with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the United States engaged in a systematic displacement of the inhabitants from their lands.
The effort culminated in the brutal Trail of Tears which led to the deaths of approximately 4000 Cherokee as they were marched from several Southern states to what is now Oklahoma. Families were uprooted with little more than the clothes they were wearing and forced to travel through harsh conditions to a place they had never seen.
Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”
Rev. Falls is right. Stereotyping is often used to justify differential treatment. Christians should have no part in the illusion that Native Americans deserved their fate. It is time for Christians to reject historical revisionism, remove barriers and build bridges. Furthermore, I call on the AFA to correct the false information they have promoted and express regret for the pain they have caused.
If you want to express your agreement with the US apology to Native Americans, go to this Facebook page and hit the Like button.

Skip Narth, read Collins – UPDATED with NARTH statement

NARTH really wants to be on the same page with Francis Collins, the current Director of the National Institute of Health. Or at least they really want you to think they are. NARTH is now accusing Exgaywatch editor of somehow duping Francis Collins into criticizing a NARTH article by Dean Byrd which cited Collins. Yes, that is right, NARTH believes David (Skywalker) Roberts and the Jedi Knights at XGW used their mind tricks on the current director of the National Institute of Health, causing him to misrepresent a NARTH article.
You need to go read Roberts post at XGW to get the story.
About the current NARTH apologetic, there are a couple of observations I would like to offer.
Throughout the current article, NARTH confuses genetic with biological. Perhaps, “simple biological theory” means genetic to NARTH. But such a description obscures more than it clarifies. Note this passage:

In April, 2007, NARTH posted a peer-reviewed article which considered what science could and could not say about the genesis of homosexuality. The article basically focused on whether not homosexuality could be explained by a simple biological theory. The article cited a number of studies and scientists, including Dr. Francis S. Collins, and basically, concluded that evidence for a simple biological theory of homosexuality was lacking. The article made no mention of alterability of homosexuality.

The first problem here is that the NARTH article does not consider what “science could and could not say about the genesis of homosexuality.” It did not focus on “whether not homosexuality could be explained by a simple biological theory.” Nor did it conclude that “evidence for a simple biological theory of homosexuality was lacking.” What it did do was briefly discuss estimates of heritability based on several twin studies.
The problem with NARTH’s description is that biology is more than heritability. There are genetic factors which show up larger than expected by chance which is all Collins had to say about the matter. He did not opine on prenatal hormonal influences, such as prenatal testosterone. Collins did not opine on the reasons for maternal chromosomal skewing which occurs far more often in moms of gay men than in moms of straight men. Collins did not discuss brain scans demonstrating differential responses based on sexual orientation to male and female sweat. Nor did Collins say anything in his book about differences in brain symmetry between gays and straights. Thus, Collins did not review all of the biological evidence, nor did NARTH in its “peer-reviewed” article consider “what science could and could not say about the genesis of homosexuality” or demonstrate that a “simple biological theory was lacking.”
In the current article, NARTH labors to demonstrate that Collins agrees with them but doesn’t deal with the fact that he did not agree with them when he commented on the matter. If NARTH contacted Collins directly, it is not disclosed. Their problem is not with XGW but with Collins who said that the original article used his quotes which were “juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.” (quote from Collins to Roberts).
That is good advice. Skip NARTH and go read the Language of God by Francis Collins.
UPDATE: In preparation for this post, I wrote David Pruden and asked if NARTH had made an attempt to contact Dr. Collins with their concerns. First of all, Mr. Pruden clarified that he did not write the article, but rather NARTH’s executive committee did.  Here is the response of NARTH’s executive committee to my inquiries:

If Dr. Collins had problems with a NARTH article, it was his responsibility to contact us.

So the problem here is Dr. Collins?
I also asked about NARTH’s peer review process. They wrote:

NARTH’s articles go through the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Scientists, both affiliated and unaffiliated with NARTH, are peer-reviewers. As you are aware, peer reviews are blinded reviews and the identity of peer-reviewers remain anonymous; otherwise the peer review process would not work. The peer review process is similar to the peer review process at other places. Steve Simon’s involvement was noted at the end of the article which was posted in 2007.

So the reviewers are their advisors and some unnamed people who are not on their board. Most journals publish an editorial board member list so one can see the qualifications of those who vouch for the integrity of the content. The SAC is published but the outside reviewers are not.
I also asked if NARTH was going to publish the results of their Freedom of Information Request. They replied:

The FOI request resulted in a significant amount of information, only some of which was related to this article. Perhaps you might be willing to publish your communication with Dr. Collins to see how that compares to the information we have obtained.

Click the link in order to see what Dr. Collins wrote to David Roberts and me. I posted about the matter here in 2008 when PFOX’s Greg Quinlan misrepresented Collins’ views.

Timothy Shah’s Ugandan conspiracy

I am posting on Timothy Shah’s Christianity Today article about Uganda as I have time. Rather than posting one long response, my schedule has been friendly to shorter efforts.

In this one, I want to point out that Mr. Shah makes some assessments of David Bahati that are not based on contact or interview with Mr. Bahati. Shah writes:

Some American groups have thus made a crusade of opposing the anti-gay bill in Uganda largely because of the mistaken belief that American evangelical groups have made a crusade of advancing it. In fact, its origins have far more to do with the idiosyncratic insecurities of David Bahati. Mr. Bahati and some of his fellow Anglicans feel themselves under enormous pressure to demonstrate their moral and spiritual traditionalism. Increasing competition from Islam and conservative Pentecostals throughout sub-Saharan Africa makes Anglicans’ associations with liberals in the West suspect. Still, the theory of the bill’s American inspiration is a useful device that enables advocates of gay rights to attack homophobia in Uganda without appearing insensitive to Ugandans or Africans.

Mr. Shah seems intent on dismissing any American evangelical influence on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and David Bahati. Instead, Shah has his own theory – “idiosyncratic insecurities of David Bahati.” Such an assessment would normally require reporting, interviewing and evidence. Not so, here. For instance, David Bahati told me late yesterday that he has not spoken to Shah. Without interviewing Bahati or citing evidence for his claims of “idiosyncratic insecurities,” we are left with Mr. Shah’s theory about religious competition among Anglicans, Pentecostals and Islam.

In fact, Bahati denies direct American influece while at the same time, disclosing secret American support for his effort. I don’t believe Americans wrote the bill, but it is surely true that there are prominent American evagelicals (e.g., Lou Engle, Molotov Mitchell, Cliff Kincaid) who have supported the effort.

Shah’s unfamiliarity with Bahati and the facts surrounding the bill lead him to a faulty narrative – one which has opposition coming only from the left and gay activists because of the black eye it gives to evangelicals. However, in fact, the real story here is the civil war among evangelicals over the bill’s intent and provisions. American Christians and gay rights advocates have found common ground in support for personal freedom of conscience, and opposition to state sanctioned imposition of religious dogma on citizens. One does not need to religiously affirm homosexual behavior to vigorously oppose this bill.

Shah’s lack of knowledge of the situation in Uganda is also revealed in the events of this week. Shah said that Ugandan religious and political leaders were repelled by the bill and that the bill had been stopped in its tracks. However, just in the past couple of days, we now hear from Parliament leaders that the AHB could be debated as early as next week. While op-eds are not hard news, they should be based in fact. Shah’s op-ed fails both as a faithful witness and informed opinion. CT should pull it yesterday.

UPDATE: Here is another Ugandan article reporting that the AHB will be debated during the short session beginning Tuesday.

Other posts on this topic:

Christianity Today author misleads on Uganda – March 15, 2011

Has Uganda’s antigay bill been stopped by Ugandan opposition? – March 16, 2011

Christianity Today’s website contradicts Timothy Shah’s CT conspiracy article – March 17, 2011