The controversial American evangelist Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book Purpose Driven Life remains in the headlines for his waffling support and now last minute denouncement of the proposed Ugandan legislation aimed to provide incarceration and the death penalty for homosexuality.
The "kill gays bill" as it has become to be known aims to prosecute any known or suspected homosexual and those who fail to report gays or lesbians to the authorities with the penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" leading to death.
Warren originally told the media he "refused to take sides" in the debate but has since released a video statement denouncing the bill as pressure from American gay and human rights activists mounted in opposition to the bill.
"As an American pastor," Warren said in his statement, "it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues." He told the Ugandan pastors that the bill was "unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals." The bill's requirement that Ugandans report any meeting with homosexuals to authorities, he said, would hinder the ministry of the church and force homosexuals who are HIV positive underground.
He also defended the timing of his denunciation. "Because I didn't rush to make a public statement," he said, "some erroneously concluded that I supported this terrible bill, and some even claimed I was a sponsor of the bill. You in Uganda know that this is untrue." He added, "I oppose the criminalization of homosexuality."
Well in a country that vehemently opposes it's gay citizens Warren's ability to talk out both sides of his neck hasn't gone over well.
Pastor Martin Seempa, a leading proponent of the bill who shared a close relationship with Warren until last October has released a video statement expressing his outrage over Warren's support of homosexuality.
"As pastors in Uganda I want to let you know that we're very distressed, disappointed, as well as upset that your letter is being used as a conduit to support homosexuality and to support this perversion in our continent and our country", says Seempa.
Unfortunately, it appears you've bowed to the pressure of bloggers and these homosexual champions on the e-mail who you have responded to and have coerced you to give a letter that really at best shows a "flip-floppant" way and does not give confidence in the word of God", he added.
This isn't Warren's first time being caught up in an anti-gay scandal. You may recall the uproar his invitation to deliver the invocation at President Obama's Inauguration caused last January and the Atlanta protests that were staged during his delivery of the King Day Address at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Warren also persuaded his congregation to vote yes on Proposition 8, the law that effectively banned same-sex marriage in California.
The New York Times has more background on the American influence on the kill gays bill in a new editorial as well as interviews with gay Ugandans affected by this legislation.