Urgent Need – Faith Leaders’ Support Today… Sign on!

The letter to the Ugandan government has been mailed as of April 29, 2009. We are no longer accepting endorsers. We share our gratitude with those who joined with us in this international effort. Look for reports on the situation in Uganda for LGBT people in our upcoming email alerts. Thank you.

Hon. Dr. James Nsaba Buturo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity
Office of the President, Parliamentary Building
P. O. Box 7168
Kampala, Uganda

Honorable Minister Buturo:

As leaders and members of faith-based communities we are gravely concerned about recent events which endanger the lives and human rights of many Ugandans. Faith-based groups from Uganda and the United States called for the formation of an official anti-homosexuality task force after a three day seminar organized by Family Life Network (FLN), a Ugandan organization with U.S. support that since 2002 represents itself as working for "the restoration of Ugandan family and values."

According to news reports, this task force would lobby to create a special division in the police force to persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. It would also seek to lobby for harsher penalties for homosexual conduct and "out" people in different spheres. These actions would create an atmosphere of fear, driving essential family and community members underground, and would tear apart families and communities on the basis of gender identities and sexual orientations.

As people of faith, we believe that perfect love casts out all fear {I John 4}. We believe that all people are created in the image of God, and that honesty before God and our fellow human beings is essential to a just and equitable society. We cannot condone any position or practice, which in the name of faith, seeks to do less than extend this perfect love and work for this just society.

Prior to the seminar, Stephen Langa, Executive Director of FLN, and Dr. Scott Lively, a US spokesperson at the seminar, met with members of parliament and the Ugandan Christian Lawyers Association. According to Dr. Lively, he also met with you and other influential leaders.

We are concerned that the allegations raised by Dr. Lively and Mr. Langa, wrongly associating sexual minorities and human rights defenders with sexual abuse of people, will lead to violence against people on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This in turn will work against building communities of openness and trust and families where all members are valued and cherished.

With many people of faith throughout the world, we hold that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created in the image of God and are loved by God. We further believe that the scriptural responsibility incumbent upon people of faith and good will across the globe is to respond to hate with compassion, charity and love. We strive to do that with this letter and our appeal to you as a person of good will and a public servant.

Uganda stands out as a nation which fosters spiritual diversity among its diverse population. As people of faith, we believe, as we trust you do, that state impartiality on spiritual matters is critical for the maintenance of peace and the enjoyment of religious freedom for all Ugandans.

The FLN brings into Uganda, with the support of a few US faith-based organizations, attitudes of hatred and intolerance that digress from the attitudes of compassion and tolerance advocated by most religious organizations globally. What we share in common as members of diverse traditions and co-signers of this letter is our firm conviction that we are called to love all people completely and equally, and to accept the place of every person in God’s creation.

As Minister for Ethics and Integrity, you represent the government of Uganda and as such you have an obligation to resist calls to limit the human rights of any group of people based on the beliefs of another group of people. We write to you seeking your pledge to honor the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which affirms the equality of all people. We pledge our continued witness to the truth of God’s unconditional and universal love for all humanity, and to a more accurate and just representation of the faith we serve.

As people of faith, we believe it is the responsibility of the government to set the standard in matters of civil and human equality by investing time and resources into education about the diversity of human sexuality and gender identity. It is the responsibility of the government to facilitate a productive and respectful dialogue between people of differing religious and civic views. A peaceful and nonviolent society in which the rights of all are equally recognized and protected is achieved when the government takes a strong stand to defend religious liberty and diversity of belief.

We call on you today, as we did in a previous letter [14/2/2008 http://uu-uno.org/faith-leaders-call-for-sogi-human-rights/index.php?Itemid=144] to publicly lead Uganda in becoming a model nation, working towards ending all discrimination against its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and replacing judgmentalism and oppression with acceptance of diversity; hatred and violence with love and compassion for all.

An Urgent and Personal Message from Mel and Gary Concerning the Tsunami Disaster

Image of tsunami affected areaDecember 30, 2004

Friends of Soulforce,

This is a personal and urgent message from Gary and me to the people of Soulforce. This message was to send you our best wishes for a Happy New Year and our sincere thanks for your support of Soulforce in 2004.

However, on December 26 we knew the content of this message had to change.

We cannot continue the struggle for the liberation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people without pausing long enough to respond in practical, prayerful ways to the victims of this tragic Sumatran earthquake and the tsunamis that brought death and destruction across the Bay of Bengal.

Today, Gary and I are withdrawing $5,000 from our limited retirement savings to support Doctors without Borders, the first medical team into Banda Aceh at the epicenter of the quake. (http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/).

Will you join us in assisting our Asian, Indian, and African neighbors who have suffered such loss with your own sacrificial gift? You can use the link below to find a wide assortment of charitable institutions that are providing relief to the victims of the quake and tsunamis.

We cannot do business as usual (even the business of committed activism) when more than 100,000 people have died and millions have lost everything in this terrible tragedy. We must put our own dreams on hold at least long enough to help those whose dreams have been swept away. This is our time to help others whose needs are so very great at this time.

Together we will continue to work to see justice done in 2005 but first, we must do mercy as well.

Love to you and peace in the New Year and always,

Mel White and Gary Nixon
Co-Founders, Soulforce, Inc.

Click here to go to a list of charitable organizations we support.

Report on the Trial of United Methodist Minister, Rev. Beth Stroud

Approximately 30 Soulforce volunteers and allies in the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Reconciling Ministries Network, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and Affirmation gathered outside in the pouring down rain at Camp Innabah in Eastern Pennsylvania for day one of the trial of United Methodist minister Rev. Beth Stroud. Rev. Stroud, a minister at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, is being tried because she is a "self-avowed practicing homosexual".

Jury selection and morning worship took place inside the camp gymnasium, while we stood in the pouring rain and high winds singing songs of hope and prayer. The wind and rain seemed to symbolize the gloomy situation in the United Methodist church, which seeks to punish gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who tell the truth about who they are.

Prior to jury selection, any juror who said theyfelt that they could not "uphold the order and discipline of the Church" was dismissed from the pool. Therefore, the only people who were even in the jury pool were those who agreed to uphold the Church’s unjust law.

Beth’s supporters in Soulforce and the other organizations went into the gymnasium for the trial to support her. The trial was scheduled to begin at 1:30pm, however, due to the high winds, several trees brought down power lines and cut off electricity to the camp. As several people jokingly commented that "this could be God’s sign that the trial shouldn’t go on," generators were brought in to run the microphones.

Charges were read that Beth is being charged with "violating 2702 1b of the Book of Discipline by engaging in a practice declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teaching." She entered a plea of "not guilty."

Bishop Peter Weaver took the stand for the prosecution, and although he affirmed the "call" of Beth to the Church, he stated several times that there were three other options which he discussed with Beth, which were: 1) celibacy, 2) work in ministry as a lay person, or 3) transfer to another denomination.

Beth also took the stand, and described her passionate call to ministry. When one of the jurors asked why she pleaded not guilty, she stated that she had not violated the Sacred Trust of her call to ministry and was afaithful minister of the United Methodist Church.

The prosecution rested its case at 4:30pm. The trial will begin again on Thursday, December 2 at 8:30am. The trial is expected to be over some time early Thursday. A verdict of "guilty" is expected.

Laura Montgomery Rutt, Dir. of Communications, Soulforce, Inc.