Christian and Homosexual Persecution - A Letter from the Rev. Jan Nunley

P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96802

Dear Editor:

On September 12, Robert Ing wrote: "Are gay people given 15- to 30-year prison sentences for their homosexuality? Are they being beaten and starved? How about being forced to eat food tainted with human waste, or being physically bound for months and even years on end?"

Mr. Ing might be surprised to learn that, in fact, same-sex sexual relations are currently punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years in the state in which I live, Rhode Island, and also in Georgia and Virginia. A homosexual can be imprisoned for life in Idaho for making love with a life partner. Until 1950, all but two states classified same-sex relations as a felony, with only murder, kidnapping and rape commanding heavier sentences. Until 1961, every state in the Union had such a law. Penalties for homosexual acts in other countries range from ten days' imprisonment in Ethiopia, to a fine and beating in India, to life imprisonment in Guyana. Eight Islamic countries prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality. Incidentally, the death penalty for homosexual behavior was not repealed in England until 1861.

In Germany, Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code was used to "relocate" and eventually exterminate up to 220,000 German homosexuals, after submitting them to castration and "hormonal reversal" experiments (presumably to enable them to become "ex-gays"). Unlike other groups imprisoned by the Nazis, when the concentration camps were liberated, homosexuals remained prisoners in the camps--by order of the Allies. Their imprisonment remained part of their police record, and they received no compensation for concentration camp sentences. And, as one historian has written: "Throughout the l950s and l960s, German courts convicted homosexual men at a rate as high as that of the Nazi regime."

As for Christian behavior towards homosexuals, Mr. Ing also might be surprised to learn that, starting in the 12th century, homosexuals were persecuted, tortured, castrated, and burned to death on a regular basis in the Christian Church and Christian-controlled States in Europe. The origins of the derogatory term "faggot" lie in the practices of the Inquisition, which bound those accused of homosexuality and piled them as fuel at the feet of those being burned for heresy or witchcraft, since homosexuals were not considered worthy of the dignity of being burned standing up.

Given these facts, Mr. Ing would have to have a great deal of gall indeed to continue to deny that homosexuals have suffered persecution and torture, in that "Christians" through the ages have persecuted homosexuals with every bit as much of the ferocity that is being shown to Christians in other countries today. That is why my church, the Episcopal Church, this summer showed itself to be truly Christian and issued an official apology for its part in perpetuating anti-gay prejudice and persecution, as well as calling for action to defend persecuted Christians around the world.

Faithfully yours,
The Rev. Jan Nunley
Rector, St. Peter's and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
Providence, RI 02908-5255

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