(LifeSiteNews) — A prominent lawyer in Kenya has said Pope Francis should give a fair hearing to African Catholic bishops who think anti-sodomy laws serve a “useful public purpose,” namely because they discourage a behavior that is “fundamentally harmful” to the individual and to society.
LifeSiteNews editor-in-chief John-Henry Westen recently interviewed Charles Kanjama, an advocate for the High Court of Kenya and chairman of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum, about the pressure campaigns from the West and the Vatican to decriminalize sodomy in nations like Kenya, as well as why anti-sodomy laws are still defensible, even in the 21st century.
In a January interview with the Associated Press, Pope Francis criticized African bishops who defend anti-sodomy laws in their respective countries, saying they needed to “have a process of conversion.” Then in early February, before ending a trip to Africa, he stated that “the criminalization of homosexuality is a problem that cannot be ignored.”
Kanjama, who once successfully argued in court that anti-sodomy laws did not violate the Kenyan Constitution, told Westen that the pontiff would do well to hear the bishops’ arguments about why the anti-sodomy laws are a “prudential decision.” He said specifically that they serve the “useful public purpose” of dissuading a “harmful” behavior that the vast majority of society agrees is harmful.
“Of course, the Catholic Church has always been conscious of the fact that the application of the doctrine to different cultures requires a manifestation of cultural sensitivities,” Kanjama explained. “The only fundamental way you can protect society against the continued encroachment of homosexuality is to say that homosexuality is fundamentally harmful to the good of society. And if society decides to criminalize, they are entitled to do it.”
Kanjama further elaborated that the Western mentality on many social issues is shaped by John Stuart Mill, an influential 19th century philosopher who argued that what people do in the privacy of their own homes is not the business of the state.
But, the Kenyan lawyer explained, every good or bad action a human being commits actually does affect the rest of society in some way.
“For us in Africa, we have a very strong understanding of the interconnection between the person and community,” he said. “In fact, the concept of Ubuntu, which is part of African philosophy and jurisprudence, can be summarized with that phrase that ‘I am because we are. And we are because I am.'”
Kanjama continued: “I think [Ubuntu] is a way of kind of combining the genius of the West, which is the liberal genius about the greatness of the individual, and the genius of the East, which tends to focus on the community. As in Africa, we focus on harmonizing the two. We recognize the power of the individual, which has driven the progress in the West, capitalism, all those things, and also recognize that the individual is powerful because they are part of our community, and the individual cannot be allowed to subvert the common good just because they see that there’s no clear connection. The connection has been established.”
Citing opinion surveys from a few years ago, Kanjama stated that opposition to sodomy among Kenyans is extraordinarily high, possibly 95 to 97%. Most of the pressure from Western nations to scrap anti-sodomy laws comes in the form of financial pressure, but also more “insidiously” in the form of Hollywood entertainment and its influence on the attitudes of younger generations.
“African countries normally receive aid from the West … and so their aid would be attached to a string of conditions, including changing their laws on homosexuality,” he said. “But we have seen that the African countries have on many occasions pushed back and said this is a form of cultural imperialism where you are trying to impose a culture that has settled and taken root in the West, even though our people have different sentiments,” he said.