(CNSNews.com) - Of all the problems in Nigeria, including the ongoing persecution of Christians by Islamic terrorists, the U.S. State Department on Monday condemned the African nation's new law banning same-sex marriage.
"The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement issued Monday. "Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians," the statement said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly signed the bill into law on Monday.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), those convicted of entering into a same-sex marriage or civil union contract face up to 14 years in prison. The bill also prohibits anyone from performing or witnessing same-sex uinons; and it bans gay clubs, gay meetings, etc.
Kerry's statement said the law is "inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.
"People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality," Kerry continued. "No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love. We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights."
Last month, the president of Nigeria's senate, David Mark, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the bill quickly: "The earlier we sign it into law, the better. We (Nigeria) have many shortcomings, NAN quoted Mark as saying. "We don't want to add this one (same-sex marriage) to them."
Concern for gays, not Christians?
According to the State Department's 2013 report on International Religious Freedom, Nigerian terrorists known collectively as Boko Haram "violently murdered hundreds of Christians and Muslims during the year" and "claimed responsibility for many of the 15 church attacks that killed more than 150 people, including scores of Christians, during worship services."
Last May, Secretary of State Kerry issued a news release condemning Boko Haram’s "campaign of terror in the strongest terms," but -- unlike his condemnation of Nigeria's anti-homosexual law -- he has never issued a statement specifically condemning the violence directed at Nigeria's Christians.
As CNSNews.com has reported, Boko Haram (the name roughly translates “Western education is prohibited”) has developed since 2009 from an obscure sect to a group responsible for the deaths of thousands of Christians and others, as it seeks to turn Nigeria -- Africa's biggest oil producer -- into an Islamic State.
According to the State Department, Nigeria's population of 170 million is around 50 percent Muslim (mainly in the north), 40 percent Christian, and 10 percent adherents of indigenous religious beliefs.
Last August, the leader of Boko Haram boasted that his group was now strong enough to “comfortably confront” the United States. Boko Haram is not only fighting for Islamic rule in Nigeria, Abubakar Shekau said in a video message, but also against the leaders of the U.S., France and all other countries that do not rule according to the teachings of the Qur’an, the Lagos Guardian daily reported.
Three months later, in November, the U.S. State Department finally designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
But in the press release announcing the designation, the State Department said only that Boko Haram "has been conducting an ongoing and brutal campaign against Nigerian military, government, and civilian targets." The word "Christian" was not mentioned in the news release.
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