Retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has joined hands with 13 other eminent persons across the world to condemn Dartmouth College for rescinding the appointment of Bishop James Tengatenga over his anti-gay remarks.
In July this year, Tengatenga was appointed dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at the college and was expected to take up the position in America early 2014 but the college rescinded the decision following protests over the remarks.
One of the signatories of the petition sent to the college, the Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, said the group sympathises with Tengatenga over the manner the college has treated him.
“We are friends of Tengatenga and we felt that people that condemned him did that because they do not know the person they were condemning. They do not know the environment that Tengatenga was in when he was making the statement.
“The environment of promoting human rights in Africa is different to that of America. Americans need to understand this,” he said.
Sembereka said the college acknowledged receiving the letter, but it has not responded to the petition.
In the petition, the group says the decision to rescind Tengatenga’s appointment is gross injustice to an individual who would have been an ideal person to provide moral and ethical leadership at the college.
“It casts serious doubts on what is being learned in American universities when members of those communities fail to distinguish between public positions of institutions and the views of individuals who participate in those institutions.
“It reflects badly on western human rights advocates who consciously or unconsciously engage in forms of cultural imperialism that undermine their own success and credibility by demanding proofs identical to their own kind and, in this instance, by also ignoring the voices of Africans and church leaders who have known and worked with Tengatenga in some cases for decades,” reads the petition.
The group, which includes university lecturers, civil society activists and members of the clergy, says for a long time Tengatenga has worked behind the scenes to advance the rights of all people, including sexual minorities.