Controversial US pastor Rick Warren has finally released a statement criticising Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.

Warren had been slow to condemn the drastic law and some critics had suggested he supported and even sponsored it.

He is seen as one of the most powerful religious figures in the States and said he had not made a statement sooner because he believed in “quiet diplomacy”.

Uganda’s ministry for ethics and integrity said this weekend that some of the most controversial aspects of the bill, such as execution and life imprisonment for gays, would be watered down.

Warren released a statement to “correct untruths”. While he reiterated his stance against gay marriage, he called the bill “terrible” and said it would hurt progress in tackling HIV. He denied supporting or sponsoring it.

He said: “While we can never deny or water down what God’s Word clearly teaches about sexuality, at the same time the church must stand to protect the dignity of all individuals – as Jesus did and commanded all of us to do.

“The potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals. . . all life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God.”

He also urged Ugandan pastors to publicly condemn the bill.

Warren refuted claims that he was associated with Uganda Pastor Martin Ssempa and Holocaust denier Scott Lively.

Warren’s statement on the bill means he has publicly responded faster than the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Williams has made no comment on the bill other than a statement from Lambeth Palace which said he was in “intensive and private” discussions with the Ugandan Anglican Church.