For some time now, Uganda’s so-called “anti-homosexuality bill” has been on a slow roll, still pending in parliament but with no visible sign of movement. Last weekend, U.S. evangelist Lou Engle stepped into that calm, roiling the waters with a personal crusade to encourage the bill’s passage.
Mr. Engle has said he does not endorse the harshest penalties in the bill’s current version. That’s no consolation for Uganda’s gay citizenry, however, as they still would be singled out for discriminatory treatment and incarceration on the basis of who they are. Nor should it be acceptable to others who would risk penalty should they fail to report homosexuals to the police.
These provisions of the bill are un-American, to say the least. But that hasn’t deterred Mr. Engle, who reportedly sees Uganda as “ground zero” in what we see as an effort to demonize gaysand who praised Ugandan clergy and politicians for the “courage” and “righteousness” in supporting the bill last Sunday at a rally in Uganda. We would not presume to deny Mr. Engle’s right to travel abroad, and he of course should be entitled to his own personal religious views, even if those views suggest that he has inherited the role of the Pharisees, who substituted man’s judgment for that of God.
But Uganda does not claim to be a theocracy, nor should our country abide attempts by Mr. Engle and others to make it one. We hope the State Department will be quick to underscore to Ugandan authorities that Mr. Engle’s views are counter to the standard of respect for civil rights that any aspiring democracy must hold, and that this bill, in any form, is nothing short of an affront to basic standards of fairness and decency.