The polls have opened in Uganda

They want to know…

Should religious leaders continue commenting about politics?

Yes 80%

No 19%

Not sure 1%

I’d like to know if Uganda gives privileged status to religious organizations on tax breaks…and if so, then they should definitely be prohibited from mingling gods and government.


  1. Brownian says

    The other poll results were interesting!

    Haven’t read the Lifestyle section of a Ugandan paper in years.

    “Career aside, a woman will always be a man’s helper”

    Oy. Now I remember.

  2. Brownian says

    Oops, missed half my comment. One of the opinion pieces is “Clergy should get off politics”

    That’s what I remember. 1/2 same ol’, 1/2 great, or at least pretty good.

  3. Trebuchet says

    I’d like to know if Uganda gives privileged status to religious organizations on tax breaks…and if so, then they should definitely be prohibited from mingling gods and government.

    You mean like they are here in the USofA? Oh, I know there’s a law, but it’s never enforced.

  4. madtom1999 says

    Not sure many places count as democracies but while I disagree with the religious leaders if they have a right to vote in a country they surely have as much right to talk about politics as every other voter.
    I do not see any organisation having any rights in a democracy so the fact they are the leader of X makes no difference whatsoever. And that includes political parties.

  5. Trebuchet says

    @madtom: US law says that non-profit organisations, including churches, that get a tax exemption may not advocate for political positions. If they do, they are supposed to lose their tax exempt status. Churches have been violating this left and right (mostly right!) and getting away with it.

  6. Brownian says

    if they have a right to vote in a country they surely have as much right to talk about politics as every other voter

    They should and do have that right, but as individuals, not as religious leaders. In practice this separation is not so clear-cut, but at the very least this means not directing the congregation to vote a certain way from the pulpit.

    As Trebuchet says, in the US an organisation can be tax-exempt or advocate for political positions, but not both.

    Of course, like many Canadians, I’m actually less clear on Canadian law and practice than I am on US law (the perils of sleeping next to an elephant, as PET famously put it). For instance, the Canadian Muslim Union, like its predecessor the Muslim Canadian Congress, has not-for-profit status and yet advocates on clearly political issues (in this case, from a progressive standpoint.)

  7. Kaintukee Bob says

    Is it bad that I laughed when I saw Western Union was their biggest advertiser?

  8. woutervan den brand says

    Thanks PZ & Pharyngulanians! There’s no way Freethought Kampala ( could have send this amount of people to that poll :-D Knowing the average internet connections here, New Vision’s servers must be smoking. :-)

    Freethought KLA

  9. Sastra says

    What I’d like to know is what they mean by “should.” Are they asking a question about what I think is right — or what I think ought to be legal?

    So no, I think religious leaders should stop commenting about politics for the same reason I think they should stop commenting about science, ethics, and even religion: religious leaders AS religious leaders have no special insight into any subject, including their own. Once untestable supernatural beliefs enter the conversation in a significant way, all that follows from that will be untestable nonsense. If and when they make sense, they make sense for other reasons.

    But yes, I do think religious leaders should be legally allowed to spew nonsense. I feel I need to emphasize that because Uganda is not known for its reasonable and enlightened approach to civil liberties. They might be considering imprisonment of clerics. And of course I have to point out that nonsense that is credibly dangerous nonsense with specific harms derived might be exempted from this, given that Uganda has not been known for its reasonable and enlightened approach to civil liberties. Some clerics should be imprisoned.

  10. Russell says

    As the last known habitat of cast-iron pot dwelling missionaries and their symbionts, Uganda’s King Freddy of Buganda Cartoon Stereotype Refuge welcomes militant atheists. Visiting hours are 2 to 6, but visitors are urged to flee across the Rwandan border before dusk.

  11. RW Ahrens says

    Oh, and go vote as many times as you wish – they’ve got no cookie set to stop you.

  12. sundoga says

    Much as I hated to do it, had to vote “yes”. Freedom of speech is for everyone. No exceptions for position of leadership or religion.

  13. pipenta says

    Should it be legal for religious leaders to comment about politics?


    Should they do it?

    Nope. And until they start paying taxes, including back taxes for all the years they’ve been tax exempt, they should STFU.

    Most importantly, should anyone treat their input as if was remotely valid? That is, should anyone listen to people who claim to be getting messages from an invisible guy in the sky?

    Oh HELL NO!

  14. Grumps says

    Of course they can comment…. to their friends, family and anyone they meet in the street. Should they be given airtime to do so because of their religious status? No. Should they use their position as a leader of a faith community to influence the voting behaviour of their congregation? No. I think a no vote is the right one. Done.

  15. Erp says


    Actually in the US tax-exempt non-profits can comment on political issues if they directly affects them (for instance a private university can comment if the local county wants to build a public road through the middle of its campus, or a food pantry for the hungry if the town wants to zone it out of existence). The law forbids tax-exempt non-profits (a) from endorsing/opposing candidates for political office or (b) having political commenting a substantial part of what they do. Individuals can endorse, etc. but they can’t use the resources of tax-exempt non-profits to do so (e.g., not from the pulpit).

    If we forbid religious leaders from commenting, then those in power can shut someone up by declaring that person to be a religious leader.

  16. Brownian says

    I *think* the comments mostly were too, though I couldn’t make my way through the English well enough to be convinced.

    The first was mixed, the second disagreed with the article, the third was in agreement, and the fourth was drawing some sports metaphor involving a “kiyambi” (which I think means ‘substitute’ based on a Google search turning up this film, and which would seem to fit the context).

  17. 'Tis Himself says

    The numbers have been reversed:

    Should religious leaders continue commenting about politics?

    Yes 18%
    No 81%
    Not sure 0%

  18. flapjack says

    For those of you still inclined to advocate religion in the public square with special reference to Uganda, you might want to read up on this guy
    US theocrat and president of Abiding Truth ministries who is widely credited for inspiring the current wave of homophobic laws being pushed through in that country, including the death penalty. Naturally he backpeddled so quick he could have won the Tour de France in reverse when the baying mob in favour of capitol punishment started quoting his work.
    He also authored a book called “The Pink Swastika” in which the 3rd Reich was all one big gay conspiracy in spite of the abundant evidence to the contrary [demonstrating a selective memory for photograpic evidence of people with pink triangles on the lapels rounded up in concentration camps].

  19. babanani says

    Living in Kenya, I have to raise a practical point about the context of religious leaders commenting on politics. There is a long and well documented history of corrupt politics, repression of dissent and lack of press freedom in Africa. Unfortunatly from my point of view, one of the few groups who have the power to safely speak out is the church. The same undeserved privileges and respect they are foolishly given in the West gives them the space to speak against corrupt tyrants.

    For some, this vote is a tricky balance of principle against practicality. For me, being in a mixed race marriage, it was easy to support Desmond Tutu speaking out against aparteid. There are times that my support for atheism comes second or third in my moral calculations.