Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The question that ends the debate?

For some time now, the Church of Nigeria's (Anglican Communion) Communications Director, Canon AkinTunde Popoola, has participated in discussions in the comment sections of posts to Thinking Anglicans on the relationship between the Church and Changing Attitude Nigeria's Director, Davis Mac-Iyalla (see here, here, and most importantly here, for examples -- the Canon goes by Tunde). Answers to Canon Popoola's disclaimers regarding Mr. Mac-Iyalla, namely that he is a thief, not gay, not Anglican, and that his recent travel to Europe was to trick the UK members of Changing Attitude into helping him seek asylum in the EU, are answered on Changing Attitude's news page.

Davis is the gay Anglican Nigerian, and leader of the Nigerian branch of Changing Attitude, who in the last year bravely (some would say naively) challenged the Anglican Church in Nigeria to accept its homosexual congregants. For more on Davis, see one of my previous posts.

In the latest exchange on Thinking Anglicans, Canon Popoola inadvertently revealed that he did not know the content of the legislation (pdf) that his boss, Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), had publicly endorsed in early March. The Nigerian bill, as many have pointed out, forbids not only public and private ceremonies of same-sex marriage in Nigeria, but also bans the participation of any party in those ceremonies -- the language fails to define "participation." Violators would be subject to five years' imprisonment. We in the US are having an ongoing debate about gay marriage that prevents us from making an unequivocal admonition of the exercise of this ban in Nigeria, but there are other provisions in the bill that are far more worrisome. Also subject to five years' imprisonment are speech, assembly, and the press in advocacy of gay marriage and homosexual relationships, as well as public show or procession of homosexual relationships.

In the comment's section of the April 19 post on Thinking Anglicans, entitled "Nigeria: latest developments," Canon Popoola made the following statement addressed to me:
In 46 years of independence, there had been laws in Nigeria that will punish a confirmed homosexual with either death or 14 years in jail. I am yet to be aware of anyone being so punished and wonder at Davis’ fear. A new law is being proposed to (as I personally see it) reduce the term to 5 years and also avoid imposition of a practice the Church terms to be sinful upon the unsuspecting populace. I am still amazed to read that the same church should kick against such a law.
In other words, a relatively mild jail sentence of 5 years in a prison such as this is necessary to prevent the spread of homosexuality. Yet, in an earlier comment, he said:
The Church of Nigeria is a God fearing body of believers. I repeat we disturb no intending worshipper, turn away no one, persecute no one, and unashamedly maintain the sanctity of the Holy Scriptures.
The contradiction between these statements is plain. On the one hand, he and the Church in Nigeria persecute no one; on the other, they advocate prison sentences for those to whom they wish to minister. Furthermore, the legislation does not reduce the sentence from 14 years' to 5 years', but rather adds 5 years' for show of homosexuality to any 14 year sentence for private homosexual acts.

The Canon does not appear to understand what implications such legislation would have, or what the legislation calls for. Several people, including myself, challenged the Canon to state plainly some variant on the following statement: that the Church in Nigeria does not support the imprisonment of gay men and women for their speech or for the organizations they establish. Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude UK, posted a press release challenging Canon Popoola to find his way back to the facts. A response is not yet forthcoming.

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