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.
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
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.