Orange County megachurch pastor Rick Warren issued an open letter to Ugandan church leaders denying allegations that he is in support of Uganda's proposed bill to criminalize homosexuality. The proposed bill includes a potential death sentence.
Updated 11:25 a.m.
Warren had drawn criticism for not issuing a public statement opposing the law earlier and for perceived ties to supporters of the bill.
One of Warren's chief critics has been MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who's featured regular segments on the Ugandan legislation. On Tuesday's Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, Maddow said that Warren was "pointedly not denouncing the 'kill the gays' legislation."
Maddow said that Warren "repeatedly invited a Uganda minister who`s a key proponent of the 'kill the gays' bill to visit at his California church," referring to Uganda pastor Martin Ssempa, who strongly endorsed the bill. Maddow added, "In fact, that pro-'kill the gays' bill minister is so close to Warren and his family that Warren's wife publicly called him 'brother.'"
Warren distanced himself from Ssempa, noting that Ssempa was just one of hundreds of speakers with diverse views invited to Saddleback's Global Summit on AIDS in 2005 and 2006, and that Ssempa was not an associate who represents Warren. Warren added, "In 2007, when we learned that Ssempa's beliefs and actions were vastly different than ours, we disassociated ourselves from him."
Warren also said that he did not know Scott Lively, a Temecula anti-gay activist who helped develop the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Warren added, "I would certainly not associate with anyone who denies the Holocaust."
Warren said that, as a pastor, "it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues." He added "it is my role to correct lies, errors and false reports when others associate my name with a law that I had nothing to do with, completely oppose and vigorously condemn."
Warren laid out five reasons for writing to the Ugandan church leaders, including making a point that it would hurt their ministry to those infected with HIV/AIDS. Warren has been active in working to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Warren encouraged Ugandan church leaders to oppose the proposed law.
Warren said that, when he heard about the proposed Ugandan law, he wrote to the Anglican archbishop of Uganda and shared his opposition. The archbishop wrote back saying that he also opposed the proposed death penalty for homosexuals.
The Ugandan ethics minister tells Bloomberg News that an amended version of the bill will not include the death penalty or life imprisonment, and will be presented to the Ugandan parliament in two weeks.
Saddleback Church, where Rick Warren is a pastor, has done ministry work in Uganda.