David Silvester wrote publicly to Prime Minister David Cameron about his decision to legalise same-sex marriage, saying: ‘it is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.’
His comments were quickly picked up by internet comedians, resulting in the creation of a ‘UKIP Weather’ Twitter account (forecasting ‘raining men’) and a parody of Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast which included the prediction ‘gay showers’. The@UKIPWeather account gained more than 68,000 followers in less than one day and the incident spawned a campaign to get ‘It’s Raining Men’ to number one in the UK singles chart.
Some Christians will see Silvester’s views on homosexuality as perfectly reasonable, whatever they feel about his theology regarding God’s punishment of nations with severe weather, while others see it as an example of homophobia that is tarnishing the Church’s reputation with seekers and helping to oppress gay Britons. Similar differences of theology and opinion have been expressed about events in Russia, where Vladimir Putin recently made headlines by equating homosexuality with paedophilia as he attempted to ‘soften’ his stance on illegal ‘gay propaganda’ ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
But Russian laws and British faux pas seem civil and tolerant when compared to some of what has been happening in Africa.
In January, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law. The name, while it may sound appealing to many British Christians, has been used largely to criminalise homosexuality itself. Membership of a ‘gay club or organisation’ is now punishable by ten years in prison. It was already illegal to have gay sex in Nigeria, but the new Act provides the same penalty even for inadvertent public displays of same-sex affection.
Associated Press reported shortly after the law came into effect that several gay men in Nigeria’s Bauchi state had been arrested and tortured until they named dozens of others, who were subsequently hunted down and arrested.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, on the other hand, refused in January to sign into law a Bill that would punish homosexual acts with life imprisonment and make it a crime not to report on gay people. While human rights activists have welcomed Musevani’s decision, the President’s own view of gay people as ‘abnormal’ is well known and popular in the overwhelmingly Christian country.
American conservative Christian columnist Rod Dreher, himself an opponent of gay marriage, wrote passionately on The American Conservative website about what he called ‘The Evil in Nigeria’ in January: ‘I hope there are Christians in Nigeria who have the courage to hide gay men and women when the police come for them.’ Addressing ‘fellow Christians in Nigeria’, he wrote: ‘Is this really how you witness to orthodox Christian truth? Really?’
Britain’s The Catholic Herald ran a similar opinion piece by its deputy editor, Ed West, who said that Catholics should protest loudly against anti-gay persecution.