By Rev. Stephen Parelli
July 12, 2012
A local pastor who attended the recent two-day Kampala conference on "Religious Freedom in the Context of Theological Diversity and Human Sexuality" told the attendees that he was especially impacted by the workshops on 'Liberty of Conscience.' The pastor said that in spite of the contemporary alternative view, as taught by the presenters, that Sodom and Gomorrah is about inhospitality, social oppression and rape, and not, therefore, a condemnation of gay love, he still believes the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a condemnation of all gays. The pastor went on to say, however, that because of 'Liberty of Conscience' he now understands it is not parliament's place to write anyone's religious views or interpretation of 'Sodom and Gomorrah' or any part of the Bible into civil law.
The workshops on 'Liberty of Conscience' covered the origins of religious freedom in the West with an emphasis on 17th century Roger Williams' teaching on 'Liberty of Conscience' and its development and practice in the British colonies in America, and its present day application to Uganda. Rev. Stephen Parelli of Other Sheep, the workshop presenter, said the single greatest contribution of the 17th century to the advancement of human rights was the teaching of 'Liberty of Conscience.' Rev. Parelli said human rights cannot be sustained without 'Liberty of Conscience.'
In reference to Barak Obama's support for gay marriage, Rev. Parelli, citing a quote from Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, said Obama understands and supports the concept of 'Liberty of Conscience.' Obama, said Parelli, wrote: "Our argument [over gay marriage] is less about what is right, [and more] about who makes the final determination - whether we need the coercive arm of the state to enforce our values, or whether the subject is one best left to individual conscience and evolving norms."
Quoting again from Obama's book, Parelli said Obama sees the evangelicals in America today as out of touch with the evangelicals of 18th century America who understood the separation of church and state and wrote it into the Bill of Rights. Parelli said the evangelicals in America and the evangelicals in Uganda have both set aside the principle of 'Liberty ofConscience' and are using the government to make their religious beliefs the laws of parliament. Parelli said the Iowa Supreme Court's 2009 decision in favor of gay marriage discusses at length the unconstitutionality of the use of religious ideologies as the basis or motive for arguing for anti-gay legislation.
Other Sheep Coordinator Mr. Jose Ortiz, speaking on "A Theology and Ethics for Human Sexuality" said discrimination against sexual minorities thrives when all males must prove their manhood, and when all people in general must prove their worth.
Attendees in the workshops on "Talking Points (What you need to know and say when they say: 'But the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality!)," interacted with the presenters and one another in lively discussions around the paper "Talking Points."
Copies of the papers on 'Liberty of Conscience' and "Talking Points" were made available to conference attendees.
A complimentary copy of the book The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships was presented to each attendee.
The conference, held on July 6 and 7 in the greater area of Kampala, was initiated, organized and sponsored by Uganda Victim Support Organization a faith-based NGO of Uganda. 31 people, including clergy, lay leaders, and human rights activists attended the conference.