Pro-gay activists and church leaders are touting an alternative "inclusive" prayer event to this year's National Prayer Breakfast.
Called "The American Prayer Hour," the event on Feb. 4 is being held in protest of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Organizers claim that the "secretive fundamentalist organization" – The Fellowship Foundation, also known as The Family – behind the annual National Prayer Breakfast is directly tied to the bill.
"The American Prayer Hour events will affirm inclusive values and call on all nations, including Uganda, to decriminalize the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," organizers state.
Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill has drawn widespread criticism from around the world, including Christians in the U.S. The proposed legislation seeks to strengthen the criminalization of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who are considered serial offenders, are suspected of "aggravated homosexuality" and are HIV-positive, or who engage in sexual acts with those under 18 years of age.
The bill also targets those who do not report a homosexual within 24 hours of knowledge, which places parents, teachers, landlords, health care workers, media and religious leaders who counsel or work with HIV/AIDS infected persons at risk of imprisonment.
Organizers of The American Prayer Hour say their aim is to demonstrate "that cruelty and extremism does not represent people of faith." Supporters of the new event include Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop to have been consecrated in The Episcopal Church; Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God; Harry Knox of The Human Rights Campaign; and controversial minister Bishop Carlton Pearson.
Several evangelical leaders have come out in opposition to the anti-homosexuality measure, also speaking against criminalizing gays. But while denouncing the bill, the pastors have affirmed their stance that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in southern California condemned the bill, calling it "unjust, extreme and un-Christian" toward homosexuals. While stressing Jesus' commandment to "love our neighbors as ourselves" he also held firm to his stance that God intended marriage to be only between one man and one woman and that sex should only happen within the context of marriage.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, has been closely monitoring the bill and leading grassroots efforts to speak out against the bill. But his active opposition has provoked at least one group to question his Christian convictions.
To that, Throckmorton responds, "Clearly, I oppose the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. My position is very consistent with that of Rick Warren who condemned the bill while affirming traditional sexual ethics."
Rather than deal with sin with condemnation and death, Throckmorton has called Ugandan Christians and lawmakers to approach such matters with "mercy and freedom."
"We want to reach out to our Ugandan brothers and sisters and ask them to consider putting down the stones, just as Jesus taught in the New Testament," he stated.
The National Prayer Breakfast and The American Prayer Hour are being held on the same day. Though earlier reports said that Member of Parliament David Bahati – who introduced the controversial bill and refused to withdraw it – was attending the National Prayer Breakfast, Bob Hunter and Ambassador Richard Swett of The Fellowship Foundation confirmed that Bahati was essentially disinvited, according to Throckmorton.