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President Obama slammed by African religious leaders for LGBT rights speech

Barack Obama in Senegal

Last month was an monumental moment for LGBT rights as the Supreme Court struck down a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, a move which was adamantly supported by President Barack Obama. But after recently delivering a speech about LGBT rights in Africa, religious leaders in the continent are now lashing out at President Obama.

During a recent three-nation tour, President Obama stopped in Senegal for a press conference and said that African nations must follow in the steps of other progressive nations and grant equal protections under the law to the LGBT community.

“My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you … people should be treated equally,” Obama said. “And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”

However, according to the Huffington Post, many African religious leaders of the continent’s rising Christian and Islamic communities were upset by Obama’s words and claimed that the president shouldn’t impose Western beliefs on their society.

“The subject of homosexuality must not be used as a tool to blackmail and coerce society to defy God’s command, which is more important than any world power,” said Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Senegalese Muslim leader who coordinates the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa. “We will oppose any manner of arm-twisting that threatens us to embrace it in our societies.”

“I think we need to act according to our own traditions and even our own faiths,” said Roman Catholic Cardinal John Njue. “This is very important. We have to be proud of who we are.”

In Africa, homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries and though many religious leaders view the LGBT community as opposition to their way of life, some supported Obama’s words, saying that many religious leaders are afraid about how gay rights will affect their congregation.

“They are worried what will become of the past in which the practice has been a taboo,” said The Rev.Victor Ndlovu, a Roman Catholic priest in Johannesburg, South Africa, where same-sex marriage is legal. “In reality, it exists in Africa but the question is what we do when a man has said he wants to marry a man. It is a delicate balance.”

“Obama has raised it now but we should find ways of dealing with it in our own settings,” Ndlovu added. “We cannot close ourselves and ignore it. It will soon explode if we don’t deal with it.”

And if the changing social climate of the rest of the world is any indication, Africa will no longer be able to avoid the issue of LGBT rights. Check out some nations who recently legalized same-sex marriage below. – nicholas robinson

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