Archbishop of Canterbury makes first public statement on Uganda’s anti-gay law

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has made his first public statement on the proposed anti-gay bill passing through Uganda’s parliament.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, presumably taken before reports that Uganda would remove the most drastic elements of the bill, Williams said he did not see how any Anglican could support it.

He said: “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.

“Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

He added that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but added that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

The private members’ bill originally sought to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment on those who have gay sex. After it was condemned by countries such as the UK, US and France, along with human rights groups, the country’s minister for ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, reportedly said a more “refined” set of punishments would be favoured instead of execution.

The bill’s sponsor, MP David Bahati, has denied that his country will bow to international pressure and remove the dealth penalty.

Provisions for punishments of people who have gay sex, ‘promote homosexuality’ or fail to report it to authorities will apparently remain in the bill.

Williams was attacked for criticising the selection of Los Angeles assistant bishop Mary Glasspool because she is a lesbian. Until now, he had not make any public statement on the situation for gays in Uganda, except a statement from Lambeth Palace which said he was in “private” discussions with the Ugandan Anglican Church.

This weekend, John Nagenda, a senior advisor to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, wrote in a state-owned newspaper that the law should not be passed.

Although he made his own opposition to homosexuality clear, he suggested that persecuting gay people would be a “sin against love” and added that times could change to see tolerance for gays.

He wrote: “Gradualism is not a sin. But hunting down people for same-sex love, I believe to be a sin, against love, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (I say all this without being a homosexual.) Parliament should not pass this Bill.”