Pronouncements from Nigeria

Thanks to Mark Harris for staying on top of the latest pronouncements from Nigeria. There is much there to digest, including this nugget from the Standing Committee:

“The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values.”

The bill, as Matt Thompson has pointed out, is “designed to strip basic speech, press, and assembly rights, not to mention freedom of religion, from gay and lesbian citizens of Nigeria.” The Anglican Right, which reveres Archbishop Peter Akinola, originally attempted to dispense with the public relations problem this bill presents, by saying that the Archbishop didn’t really support it. That argument can no longer be made.

Then there were efforts, facilitated by the Living Church, to argue that it wasn’t as repressive a bill as people like our bishop, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, among others, were saying. Those foundered when the bill came under fire from numerous human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Dismiss these organizations as leftwingers if you like, but that case is harder to make against George Bush’s State Department, which has also expressed misgivings about the bill.

Several commenters have attempted to argue that Muslim politicians would have made the bill even more repressive, and that the Church helped produce a more moderate bill. But there is no evidence to suggest that Muslim legislators are the driving force behind this bill. Neither the Nigerian press, nor human rights activists in that country report meetings in which backers of differing versions of the legislation pounded out a compromise. And, the language quoted above hardly suggests that the Church is holding its nose, and urging legislators to make the best of a bad situation.

At some point, I hope Archbishop Akinola’s allies in this country, particularly the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, whom Akinola recently ordained to establish a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, will offer us a moral justification for this legislation. The archbishop clearly thinks it is morally desirable to limit gays ‘ and lesbians’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly. He clearly thinks it is desirable for the state to dictate terms to churches by defining who can receive their sacraments. It would be interesting to know whether his allies hold similar beliefs.

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