This is, of course, really, really good to hear, but I'm not at all surprised. I never for an instant thought that Canon Harmon thought this legislation was a good idea -- I feel I've gotten to know him over the last year or so that I've been lurking on his blog, and I can say with certainty that he is a good and decent man.
That said, now that he has a copy of the most recent version of the legislation (see here), I wonder if he can join me and others in explicitly declaring exactly what it is about the legislation that he doesn't like, and explicitly calling for Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his support for those sections of the bill that offend him (and which should offend the Archbishop).
Canon Harmon took some umbrage at my characterization of his position on the bill, and he has since corrected the record, as have I. But it's important that he understand what it was that I found so troubling about his statement to the Voice of America's Howard Lesser.
Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA, and rector of Truro Church, said in a public statement (March 4, 2006) that "I do NOT believe that criminalization is an appropriate response to those who understand themselves to be homosexuals. Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 is a good summary of my convictions on this contentious issue."
Bishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion Network said (March 15, 2006) that "the proposed law sounds harsh to American ears."
These quotes are from statements in defense of Archbishop Akinola following a Washington Post Op-Ed (February 26, 2006) by Bishop John Bryson Chane (Diocese of Washington, DC), in which Bishop Chane quite accurately said:
... the Nigerian law has crossed the line in several important respects. Its most outrageous provision deals not with marriage but with "same-sex relationships" and prohibits essentially any public or private activity in any way related to homosexuality. It reads in part: "Publicity, procession and public show of same sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria."As far as I can tell, Bishop Chane, Bishop Duncan, Bishop Minns, and Canon Harmon would all agree in principle with these words. If I am mistaken, I would like very much to be corrected. But my point is that there are certain principles at stake here, principles of honesty and decency, that both sides of the broader debate within the Anglican Communion on the subject of homosexuality should be able to agree upon.
Any person involved in the "sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly" is subject to five years' imprisonment.
The archbishop's support for this law violates numerous Anglican Communion documents that call for a "listening process" involving gay Christians and their leaders. But his contempt for international agreements also extends to Articles 18-20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which articulates the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, association and assembly.
If Chane's words from the above quote represent the views of all of these men, then none of them should have any difficulty stating as much in public.
Canon Harmon should have been able to say to the Voice of America's Howard Lesser (perhaps he did) that while he opposes the consecration of gay priests and bishops and the blessing of same-sex marriages, he also opposes any legislation that would put gay and lesbian Nigerians in prison for advocating on their own behalf, and he furthermore believes that Archbishop Akinola made a mistake by endorsing the legislation without qualification.
Instead, what we have heard from Bishop Minns, Bishop Duncan, Archbishop Akinola, and lately Canon Harmon amounts to quiet acquiescence to the "background" noise of Shar'iya in Nigeria. This is not a particularly brave position, and it shows a willingness to rationalize rather than clarify, and a desire to protect an ally rather than correct his error. It is also a specious position, given that there are Nigerian Muslims in both Houses who oppose the legislation. Thus, I was surprised and disturbed enough by Canon Harmon's words to blog on the fact that he appeared to have been the latest to drop the "Shar'iya" bomb.
Canon Harmon now has a copy of the latest version of the legislation. He knows it will soon pass, and he knows enough of its history to know the score. What say he?