Dr. Warren Throckmorton Christian Blog and Commentary

Canyon Ridge Christian Church responds to controversy over Uganda's anti-gay bill

On July 11, Canyon Ridge Christian Church (Las Vegas) pastor Kevin Odor addressed his congregation regarding their support for controversial Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa. The pastor revealed that his leadership team met with the Ssempas in March of this year to address Ssempa's support for Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Although Odor called Ssempa's actions "offensive," he told his church that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and Rev. Ssempa had been misrepresented by the media.

As I noted on my personal blog and in today's Salon, Pastor Odor's descriptions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill are inadequate and inaccurate. About the bill, Odor told his congregation

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.

He also described an interview with National Public Radio's Barbara Bradley Hagerty where he defended the church's position. He said

…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 his congregation to believe that current Ugandan law does not cover abuse of male minors. However, Uganda's Parliament in 2007 corrected this gender imbalance and made their law on defilement cover victims and offenders of both genders. Even Martin Ssempa has acknowledged that current Uganda law covers boys and girls equally. In contrast to what Pastor Odor told his congregation, male children who are abused by males have equal protection under the law in Uganda.

In addition, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is about much more than replicating existing law. The Introduction to the bill makes the intent clear:

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

The Ugandan bill has been condemned by Saddleback pastor, Rick Warren, World Vision, Joyce Meyer, Philadelphia Biblical University and many other Christian leaders. These leaders are not condemning a bill that simply makes Uganda's law on defilement gender balanced. The international media has not sent teams of journalists to Uganda to cover a bill that cracks down on pedophiles. The Christian leaders and organizations are not part of a gay rights movement and themselves to varying degrees have been criticized by gay groups. Instead, they see the looming tragedy of the name of Christ being invoked by civil leaders to stigmatize and persecute a social minority.

When media look at videos like this (click through to YouTube) and see Martin Ssempa's marchers calling for death to gays and this one (click through to YouTube - the second speaker using the Bible) where the Atlanta-based College of Prayer leaders Julius Peter Oyet calls for death to gays, they do not report about a law against pedophilia because that is not what these Ugandan Christian leaders are calling for. One cannot claim the media is misrepresenting you when the media is reporting exactly what you say.

Click here for the the full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with commentary.

Click here for Canyon Ridge's statement regarding Martin Ssempa.

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