Sun | Jul 21, 2019

Lipton Matthews | Africa is no role model for Jamaica

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:18 AM

In 1980, America passed the Bayh-Dole Act. This law permits institutions receiving federal funding for research to have ownership over their inventions. The law is advantageous in reducing hurdles for commercially minded researchers to market their ideas, without input from the government.

In the context of the Jamaican State planning to fund research, the applicability of the Bayh-Dole Act must be discussed by our parliamentarians. Yet such is not the case, because our leaders are distracted by the debate to repeal the 1898 obeah Act.

The existence or non-existence of said law is irrelevant, since it is highly unlikely that anyone will be convicted for engaging in Obeah. However, deciding to repeal the Act indicates the government’s willingness to normalise obeah, under the guise of religious expression.

In their delusion, supporters of legalisation are contending that the illegality of obeah is indicative of State preference for Christianity. One can hardly find a better example of a false comparison.

Obeah, unlike Christianity, has largely nefarious intentions and is not a religion. Those arguing that the State is privileging Christianity over African religions do not possess sufficient information.

Religions incorporating practices from Africa, such as Zionism and Pocomania are not outlawed, because religious freedom is a right under law. Obeah, on the other hand, in the Jamaican scenario, refers to a variety of usually devious supernatural pursuits. Moreover, it may also involve illegal actions like human sacrifices to gain wealth. In a country where the sentiment of envy is strong, legalising obeah legitimises devious objectives.

Misguided individuals parroting the view that Christianity is backward or has done more harm than good, only popularise their ignorance. In the high middle ages, the growth of universities in Europe was due directly to the activism of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Christian Church throughout the world has built schools, universities, voluntary organisations and businesses. People noting the equality of Christianity and obeah should tell us which organisations were established by obeah men and their followers. Further analysis will illustrate that the legalisation of obeah poses a challenge to the dispensation of justice.

Fraudulent cases

A serious impact of this legislation is that fraudulent cases arising from obeah transactions would bog down the administrative capacity of an already-understaffed judicial system. Additionally, lawmakers must strike a balance between public safety and protecting client confidentiality.

Therefore, legislators have to choose whether to place an obligation on obeah men to report the criminal intentions of their clients or protect client privileges. Legalisation shall also force sponsors of this bill to decide the practicality of allowing victims of obeah to seek redress.

On pragmatic grounds, legalising obeah puts a strain on an inadequate judicial system. Support for the legality of obeah is being bolstered by a growing anti-Christian viewpoint enabled by intellectual elites. But this hatred of Christianity is attributed to ignorance aided by illogical reasoning.

Most Jamaicans are unaware of the doctrines of medieval scholasticism and the early Church fathers. To castigate Christianity, critics often opine that the bible endorses slavery. Positing this erroneous argument implies insufficient comprehension of Christian theology and history.

The Bible is a philosophical and ethical tome, providing guidelines as to how one should live. Biblical interpretations have to be based on the historical context. Slavery existed in biblical times; hence the Bible had to outline laws governing the institution. Slaves are instructed to obey their masters and masters are rightly implored to treat slaves fairly. Instructing slaves to rebel or disobey their masters, would not solve slavery or the problem of evil in the world.

Some rebellious slaves, for example, would emerge to become enslavers. Critics denigrating Christianity lack an adept understanding of its impact on Western progress.

Furthermore, cultural entrepreneurs are making an attempt to glorify African elements of Jamaican culture. Such a policy must be rejected. Africa is a continent mired in poverty and mysticism and can be no role model for Jamaica.

Email feedback to lo_matthews@yahoo.com and columns@gleanerjm.com.