Ugandan social workers back anti-gay bill; Exodus opposed
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--The National Association of Social Workers of Uganda recently endorsed anti-homosexuality legislation under consideration in that country's parliament, prompting a response from Exodus International.
In a lengthy statement on the matter, the social workers association, which was established in 1973 to promote the social work profession in Uganda, said homosexuality has been discouraged in most societies as abnormal and harmful behavior with potential to spread in the population once tolerated.
"In all societies throughout history, it has been self-evident that the normal pattern for human beings as well as for all living organisms in general is for males to unite sexually with females, whether reproduction was a goal for such union or not," the social workers said.
The statement went on to note that until 1973 the American Psychological Association listed homosexuality among abnormal conditions requiring the clinical intervention of psychologists. The political debate stirred by biologist Alfred Kinsey, who invented the term "sexual orientation," forced the removal of the APA listing, the NASWU said.
"In spite of this stand by the American Psychological Association, scientific studies over millennia have consistently showed that there is no genetic basis for homosexual behavior," the statement said. "... Homosexuality belongs to the category of other disapproved behaviors that humans in most societies recognize as self-evidently abnormal and harmful and require everybody to learn the discipline of avoiding.
"These norms and values are also often codified into laws that all members of society are expected to observe."
When behavior achieves social acceptance and legal approval, the social workers association said, it easily spreads through the process of social learning, experimentation and modeling.
"This most likely explains why homosexual practice is more prevalent in societies where legal approval and social acceptance are higher," the statement said. "This also explains why throughout history, nations have used the law to prevent or curtail the spread of undesirable behavior."
Uganda's proposed legislation, the organization said, is needed because of increasing incidents of homosexual abuse of children and youth, the promotion of homosexuality by some groups including UNICEF, and government-led campaigns at the United Nations to normalize homosexuality on an international level.
"NASWU rejects the view that same-sex attraction is an innate 'orientation,' rather it is part of a range of feelings individuals ought to learn to bring under control as they mature," the social workers said. "There is justification for Uganda to put in place appropriate legislation to comprehensively prohibit homosexuality."
But the group said the bill contains drafting errors that should be corrected before its passage. Specifically, the clause requiring mandatory reporting of all known homosexual offenses should be amended to exempt disclosure made in counseling situations, the social workers advised.
Counselors, though, would have to be licensed to dispense same-sex counseling services and must pledge not to give pro-homosexual advice to their clients, the NASWU said in its recommendations.
In response, Exodus International, a Christian ministry that seeks to assist homosexuals in overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions, released a statement reiterating that the legislation being considered in Uganda is not the best way to address the issue.
"Although the NASWU seems genuinely concerned in helping those struggling with same-sex attraction, the organization fails to see that Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 -- as any legislation that criminalizes homosexuality -- does more to hurt than help homosexuals," Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said.
"Exodus continues to urge Uganda's parliament to reject this hurtful legislation; we also ask the country's evangelical churches to take the lead in offering hope and healing to all people, regardless of their particular struggles."
In addition to prosecuting homosexual behavior, the proposed legislation would require pastors, missionaries, health care providers and counselors to report people suspected of such behavior. Last fall, Exodus wrote a letter to Uganda's president expressing disapproval of the legislation.
In the statement issued March 22, Chambers wrote, "Exodus International believes that every human life, regardless of an individual's sexual behavior, is of inestimable worth to God and that defending this principle is foundational in offering a Christian response to any issue.
"As such, Exodus International has not and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity including, but not limited to, Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009," Chambers wrote. "We stand with all who are defending this basic, biblical tenet and remain committed to sharing the compassion, hope and life-giving truth and grace of Jesus Christ."
The statement, signed by several Exodus International North American leaders, said former homosexuals have found a new identity in Jesus Christ, and "such transformation cannot be achieved in an environment of government coercion where the vital support, care and compassion of the Christian community is discouraged and prosecuted."
In related news, Philadelphia Biblical University is distancing itself from Martin Ssempa, one of the major supporters of Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill. Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor, received a master's degree in counseling and an honorary doctorate from the conservative, evangelistic school in Pennsylvania.
"PBU categorically condemns any position that calls for violence against human beings created in the image and likeness of God, or violent solutions to socially controversial issues," university administrators said in a statement on the school's website.
"While PBU holds to a biblically defined position regarding human sexuality, to call for such action clearly violates the teaching of the Bible, and the principles and practices taught at PBU. Ssempa did earn a graduate degree from PBU in 1994. Ssempa also received an honorary degree from PBU in 2006 for his ministry of compassion to HIV/AIDS victims in his native land.
"The University was not aware at that time of Ssempa's recently expressed views," the administrators said. "His present publicly stated position in no way represents or reflects the views of the University, its administration, or its faculty. It is our sincere hope that Christians would hold their convictions regarding homosexuality with a spirit of grace and compassion toward all human beings."
Erin Roach is a Baptist Press staff writer.