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The Downside of Rick Warren's Important Speech

From Bloomberg:

Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said.

Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati presented a private member’s bill on Oct. 14 which sought the death penalty and life imprisonment for gay people in the country. The Ugandan government supports the bill because homosexuality and lesbianism are “repugnant to the Ugandan culture,” Buturo said. Still, it favors a more refined set of punishments, he said. In addition to formulating punishments for the gay people, the bill will also promote counseling to help “attract errant people to acceptable sexual orientation,” said Buturo.

This good twist in a sick story will--one hopes--lead to a further toning down of the bill. Meanwhile, I see via Andrew Sullivan that Rick Warren has come out strongly against the bill, and he should be applauded for doing so. Andrew adds:

What I think is most significant is that Warren called this bill "extreme, unjust and unchristian towards homosexuals". It is absolutely and unequivocally unchristian to demonize a whole group of people and to threaten them with execution simply because of their sexual orientation and their need for love and sex and intimacy and companionship like every other human being. And for Warren to deploy Christian arguments in defense of the dignity of homosexual persons is a big step forward in this debate. I am grateful to him for staying true to the Gospels.

It is easy to see the practical benefits of Warren addressing the bill in Christian terms, because presumably many of the people he is speaking to are Christian. And yet, there is something disturbing about Warren's decision to do so. Do arguments like these really have to be made on religious grounds? And how depressing is it that people will turn away from bigotry (and worse) only because they think it might not correspond with the Gospels? If this is the standard for morality, Sullivan can hardly fault people who "stay true" to the most violent passages in the Bible or the Koran. This is a fight worth having, but it is unfortunate that is has to be fought on the turf of people who believe morality comes from a holy book.