Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Anti-Gay Uganda Law

Several Anglican church leaders have spoken out against the extreme anti-gay legislation in Uganda, which would sentence gays to death or life imprisonment for committing "aggravated homosexuality.

Archbishop of York John Sentamu - who along with the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is one of the global fellowship's most senior priests - condemned the anti-gay law now being considered by the East African nation's parliament.

"I'm opposed to the death sentence. I'm also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this ... bill," he told BBC radio.

Although Sentamu seemed to suggest he was the first to attack the proposed law, Williams has also spoken out against it, telling The Daily Telegraph earlier this month that it was "shocking in its severity."

"Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible - it seeks to turn pastors into informers," he told the paper in an interview published Dec. 12.

Homosexuality has been an explosive and divisive topic for the church, leading to splits in the United States Episcopal Church over the issue. African churches have been leading the charge in a backlash against blessings of gay unions and the ordination of gay clergy, such as the 2003 ordination of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni will not try to block the bill, his spokesman Tamale Mirundi said Thursday, although he did say the president would attempt to convince his National Resistance Movement Party, which has a majority in parliament, to not support it.

"President Museveni cannot block the anti-gays bill," Mirundi said, saying that if he did so "he will have become a dictator."

Mirundi added that Museveni does not support homosexuality but thinks the bill goes too far.

"He believes that we should not have an extreme position," he said. "We have to consider the position of our foreign partners. For them they don't mind about homosexuality in their countries but here many people don't accept it."