(Photo: The Nines Conference screen grab)
Pastor Rick Warren on Sunday strongly condemned rumors that he supported a controversial law passed in Uganda last week that allows those convicted of homosexuality to be imprisoned for life. The pastor of California's Saddleback Church underscored that he is against the law today just as he was in 2009 when it was first proposed.
"Only fools believe everything they hear!" Warren wrote, quoting Proverbs 14:15.
The rumor started four years ago when Rachel Maddow of MSNBC "falsely accused me of supporting the law – without ever bothering to check with me if it was true," he explained on his Facebook page.
Last week, when the "bad law" passed, the rumors popped up again, he noted. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill into law, stating, "No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That's why I have agreed to sign the bill."
While homosexuality was already illegal in the country, the newly passed law expands the criminalization of same-sex relations – "aggravated homosexuality" is punishable by life imprisonment and the "promotion" of homosexuality is also criminalized. It also requires citizens to report to the police anyone suspected of being gay.
"Outsiders cannot dictate to us. This is our country. I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose," Museveni added.
Pastor Warren re-released a video he had sent to Uganda's pastors when the law was proposed in 2009.
In it, he states, "While we can never deny or water down what God's Word clearly teaches about sexuality, at the same time the church must stand to protect the dignity of all individuals – as Jesus did and commanded all of us to do."
"Jesus reaffirmed what Moses wrote that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman committed to each other for life," the megachurch pastor says, and then adds, "Jesus also taught us that the greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves."
Warren says there are five reasons why he is speaking about the law in Uganda.
"First, the potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring the death penalty (the provision that was in the original draft of the bill) in some cases … Second, the law would force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities … Third, it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting … Fourth, all life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God … Finally, the freedom to make moral choices and our right to free expression are gifts endowed by God."
Warren stresses that his role is always pastoral, not political. His ministry's PEACE Plan is an effort "to mobilize Christians around the world to address … the "five global giants" of spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy by promoting reconciliation, equipping servant leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation."
Responding to rumors that he was behind the law in Uganda, Warren says he's never met or spoken to the president of Uganda.
Warren adds that when he heard about the proposed law, he wrote to the most influential leader in that country, the Anglican archbishop of Uganda, and shared his opposition and concern. "He wrote me back, saying that he, too, was opposed to the death penalty for homosexuals."
The Saddleback pastor also says he opposes the criminalization of homosexuality. "The freedom to make moral choices is endowed by God. Since God gives us that freedom, we must protect it for all, even when we disagree with their choices. All life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God."