Thursday, March 09, 2006

Akinola has unambiguously, publicly endorsed Nigerian anti-gay-marriage legislation

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for pointing out this link, which I saw yesterday on the Church of Nigeria website but didn't bother to explore. It looks like the Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, in his official capacity, has, indeed, made a public and unambiguous endorsement of the Nigerian anti-gay-marriage legislation.

The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), presided over by Akinola, just released their February 25 "Letter to the Nation", signed by Akinola, which contained the following message regarding the legislation:
The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.
Of course, the legislation does much more than ban gay marriage. While "homosexual practices" are already illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in prison (according to the US State Department's 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices section on Nigeria), which makes the issue of gay marriage moot, the new legislation goes much further by banning any speech, assembly or press supporting or defending gay marriage, or "homosexual practices" of any kind.

On March 7, an AAC (Washington DC) letter claimed that the AAC could find no public statement by Akinola endorsing the legislation. On February 27, Rev Akintunde Popoola, Akinola's Director of Communications in Nigeria, speaking to The Living Church, claimed that Akinola made no statement regarding the legislation: "Archbishop Peter to my knowledge is yet to comment [publicly] on the bill."

They are now referred to the recently released "Letter to the Nation", signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola on the Church of Nigeria website.

A minimal compromise could be struck that would diffuse this crisis, a compromise that Akinola could probably endorse.

(If he can't, and if the AAC and other conservative Anglican groups retain their support for Akinola's endorsement of this far-overreaching legislation, then these American groups will have seriously compromised their principles as conservatives, Americans, and good citizens.)

Here's my suggestion for compromise, based on the original Nigerian legislation, and expanded from my post below:
  • Limit the legislation to a ban on gay marriage. I hate to admit it, but there is probably overwhelming public support for such a ban, even if it's ridiculous, and like it or not we have to respect their democratic process (such as it is), especially in light of Articles 18-22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UN-CCPR).
  • While Section 6 of the legislation would represent a clear infringement upon the right to religious expression as protected in the Nigerian Federal Constitution of 1999 (and a flagrant violation of Article 18 of the UN-CCPR), I would say that, in the interest of compromise, this should remain untouched, so that ...
  • Section 7 can (and should) be entirely removed. Any limitation of the speech of an aggrieved minority is completely unacceptable, as it damages the legitimacy of not only the majority but of the government itself.
Finally, speaking to those Anglicans in the US (and I've heard from some of you already) who think that banning speech is within the rights of the Nigerian government because homosexuality is a sin against God, please keep in mind that protection of speech exists not only to promote stability, but also so to guarantee that the potentially correct views of a minority are not utterly quashed.

Examples of commonly accepted American values that are universally accepted today but which were once represented by only a minority of voters:
  • A woman's right to vote
  • Equal protection for all citizens
  • Recognition of the weekend as days off
  • That slavery is an evil institution
Now, I'm not in a position to argue to conservative Anglicans about whether there is moral equivalence between repression of homosexuality and the institution of slavery -- but I can say unambiguously, as a concerned American interested in the health of our civil society, that the repression of minority views by means of law, no matter how repulsive the repressed views might be, is a sign of illegitimacy.

A ban on gay marriage, if perceived to be necessary by the Nigerian public, must be accompanied by the retention of the legal means for others to openly oppose it, even leaving open the possibility of its reversal.

See my post below for more.

4 comments:

John said...

Section 7 can (and should) be entirely removed. Any limitation of the speech of an aggrieved minority is completely unacceptable, as it damages the legitimacy of not only the majority but of the government itself.

The more I look at Section 7, the more I am convinced this applies to organizations rather than individuals. I would agree that individuals should be allowed to write to newspapers although I don't think this is part of the ban. My opposition to organizations has been stated earlier - they are funded by the affluent Western churches and tend to push an "agenda", in the name of individual "rights" on societies that have traditionally placed more emphasis on the collective group rather than the individual. To me, it is a thinly veiled neo-colonialism and the people of Nigeria should be allowed to decide what organizations should be allowed to function in their country.

The entire situation is overblown because of Abp Akinola's stand against ECUSA. This has nothing to do with "human rights" as is very evident from Bishop Chane's remarks.

A woman's right to vote was not necessarily "American" - the US recognized women could stand for election before allowing them to vote. New Zealand was one of the first countries that allowed women to vote. "Slavery" was a uniquely American problem - there were many countries that did not have slavery or far more limited than the American slavery.

A ban on gay marriage, if perceived to be necessary by the Nigerian public, must be accompanied by the retention of the legal means for others to openly oppose it, even leaving open the possibility of its reversal.

There is nothing in the current law that will preclude the Nigerian public to "reverse" the law if they so desire.

Matt said...

As I've said in an earlier comment, a limitation on assembly would have the same effect as limitation on individual speech. Advocacy for a cause is silent unless a chorus of voices can sing together. This would not ban just the right to draft a letter to the editor, but the right to hold a meeting -- in colleges and universities, in public spaces of any kind -- to decide how advocate, for example, on behalf of repealing this act. The Nigerian people might still disagree with the political sentiment expressed by the people in that meeting, and they may disagree with those people when they march in the streets, but they shouldn't ban them from meeting, marching, speaking, or organizing. The legislation (which has not yet passed) might be theoretically reversible, but in practice not if its opponents are barred from organizing against it.

I can't believe I'm having this argument with another American! What have we come to?

You clearly have a beef with ECUSA, which I respect, but I'm astonished that you are fine with Akinola endorsing a ban on certain organizations from participating in the Nigerian political landscape, which, for all you know, plan only to engage in peaceful dialogue with their countrymen, simply because you think they are part of movement with which you do not agree.

It is on this point that I, and other like me, find the AAC's and the ACN's blind association with Akinola in everything he says so surprising. Is there anything he could say or do that would lead you to disagree with him, perhaps even openly?

BTW, I'm not a member of ECUSA. I don't necessarily take their side on anything.

John said...

...I'm astonished that you are fine with Akinola endorsing a ban on certain organizations from participating in the Nigerian political landscape, which, for all you know, plan only to engage in peaceful dialogue with their countrymen, simply because you think they are part of movement with which you do not agree

Since you are not from ECUSA, let me explain the background: In August 2003, an openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson was "elected" to become the Bishop of New Hampshire by ECUSA. This caused a worldwide crisis within the Anglican Communion of which ECUSA is but one church. Many ECUSA-n churches that did not agree with the decision, split from ECUSA and were given "temporary oversight" by African Bishops. To avert a split in the Anglican Communion, a committee proposed that ECUSA explain why they felt it was OK to take this step. The same committee also proposed that other "conservative" bishops should not take any disgruntled ECUSA-n churches under its wing (typically termed "boundary crossing"). The Anglican Church of Uganda and the Anglican Church of Nigeria were some of the few that had initially given "temporary oversight" to dissenting churches in ECUSA. Over the course of the next few months and years, ECUSA poured its financial muscle to set up and fund organizations that supported gay marriage in Uganda and Nigeria. What is interesting about Nigeria is that the only arrests for sodomy in the last decade happened in the Muslim North. However ECUSA did not establish or create any gay organizations in the North, only in the Christian South - Abp Akinola's stronghold. The establishment of such organizations serves two purposes for ECUSA - (1) any Anglican Committee resolution that prohibits ECUSA from supporting gay organizations in Nigeria (like the "boundary crossing" resolution), can be easily side-stepped in the guise of a "front" organization, (2) and a church established, that will challenge the orthodoxy of the Anglican Church in Nigeria of which Abp Akinola is the head i.e. create a split among the Nigerian Christians.

My beef with ECUSA and Bishop Chane is that they are allegedly using their financial clout to influence the outcome they so desire while hiding behind the cloak of "free speech". This is a travesty of the democratic process.

I do not have a problem with gay and lesbians in Nigeria creating organizations or assembling as long as such organizations are not funded by other external agencies, organizations or churches, or in the guise of a "human rights/relief" program.

Matt said...

John, thanks for the new-to-me term "ECUSA-n". I hadn't heard that before.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church, have been a Christian, and am no longer. That may seem like a strange and horrific statement to a Christian (am I still "saved"?, for instance), but it is true. I have no specific ties to the Episcopal Church, and I have no stake in the future of the Anglican Communion. But I know my Bible, and I understand the Gospel.

I'm more familiar with ECUSA than you might think. It is because of my past in the Episcopal Church, in an orthodox setting, that I find the softened, un-radical "Gospel of Inclusion" that thrives within ECUSA to be, let's say, unmotivating. At the same time, as a biologist, who believes all evidence points to our evolution by natural selection, statements by Anglicans that homosexuality is somehow unnatural or otherwise seem to me to be utterly foolish.

Be that as it may, I did not know some of the things you wrote in this post -- I will study them and perhaps write about them in the future when I finish my round of topics.

Again, thanks for your contributions.

--Matt