Kenya Churches Oppose Western Pressure on Gay Rights; Some Call Homosexuality 'Equivalent to Colonialism and Slavery'

Kenya churches are speaking out against western criticism of anti-gay laws and attitudes in African countries, with some comparing homosexuality to colonialism and slavery.

A news conference last week led by Bishop Arthur Gitonga of the Redeemed Church in Kenya apparently included comments such as "homosexuality is equivalent to colonialism and slavery," "we feel it's like a weapon of mass destruction" and "it is not biblical and cannot bring blessing to Christians," Religion News Service reported on Thursday.

According toVoice of America, Kenya could become "the next battleground" for gay rights, as lawmakers set forward plans urging stricter enforcement of anti-gay laws.

"The whole idea is, Kenya we do have anti-gay laws, they are there in our books, in our statutes. The issue is about enforcement," explained member of parliament Irungu Kang'ata, who formed a caucus to combat homosexuality in Kenya.

In Kenya, where 82.5 percent of the population is said to be Christian, consensual homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison, though no one yet has been convicted of such a crime.

Kang'ata's initiative would seek to impose harsher penalties for gay acts, if the parliament finds the current laws to be insufficient.

LGBT groups in Kenya, however, have called the crackdown a violation of privacy.

"If we are going to look into the bedrooms of people and supervise what they are doing, what is going to stop the government from looking at our emails, hacking into them, from listening to our phone conversations, from looking at our bank accounts and checking our transactions," said National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya Director Eric Gitari. "Where is it going to stop?"

In February, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial bill expanding legal punishment for homosexuality in the East African nation, which would include life in prison for certain offenders.

The bill has been harshly criticized by world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, though Museveni has warned western powers to stop trying to influence how the African country is run.

"This is our country," the Uganda president said. "I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose."

Western church leaders such as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church have also spoken out against the bill, denying accusations by gay rights activists that he supports such criminalization of gay people.

"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," the Saddleback pastor stated in a re-released 2009 video about the bill.

The anti-gay bill has threatened to break apart some church bodies, with the Anglican Church of Uganda warning that it may break from the Church of England if it faces pressures to resist the government's new anti-gay laws.

"The issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us, we shall consider being on our own," top Uganda Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said earlier this week.

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