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'Morality can't be policed'

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Tackle homosexuality through moral suasion, says Rev Oliver Daley

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

At least one prominent member of the clergy has parted ways with what has emerged as the firm anti-gay position of many church leaders in the controversial debate raging on the issue of homosexuality in Jamaica.

Moderator of the United Church in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Oliver Daley, insists that tackling this explosive issue through moral suasion should be the way forward, rather than seeking to legislate morality. "Moral suasion is preferred to a court of law," Daley declared in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

"I believe that we should not deny people the privilege to participate in the life of society based on race, gender or sexuality," Daley said as he weighed in on Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller's pronouncements in last week's National Political Debate that qualified and capable persons with homosexual propensities would not be turned away from a Cabinet that she heads.

Simpson Miller also strongly rejected the "not in my Cabinet" declaration of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding during a BBC interview.

"I believe that not everything in this world that is wrong is necessarily illegal," argued Daley. "Adultery is wrong, but it should not be made illegal as it would be difficult to prosecute ... . It is a matter to persuade people about their conduct. It just can't be policed," Daley contended.

Sunday Gleaner checks revealed that other church leaders agree with Daley, but are hesitant to speak.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been more cautious in response to the question of homosexuality having a place in his Cabinet. He said he would accede to the sentiment of the people.

Jamaica is regarded internationally as a strong homophobic society, but this claim is being challenged by some social workers and sociologists.

No need for different treatment

Daley stressed that he holds a strong moral position on the matter, but contended that homosexuals should not be treated any differently from other persons who breach moral norm.

"I have a strong moral position on the matter as I cannot find anything in scripture that supports the behaviour. We have a moral problem, it is how we manage the problems," Daley stressed.

He suggested that there are differing points of view within the church that are not being thoroughly explored by the media.

"I have found that sometimes in the media, we don't speak across the church, we don't get a wide perspective on the issue," he said. "On this matter, we have the same people expressing their views, but there are others of us with a different perspective."

Daley argued that society needs to come to the place where people are accepted as human beings even if their behaviour is abhorred.

"Although we don't accept their behaviour, I don't believe that decriminalising it is saying that it is good and right," contended Daley. "It is saying that society is managing this issue in a different way."

Daley alluded to Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron's veiled threat that his country would withhold some financial grants to countries that are intolerant of homosexuals.

"It has become a political issue all over the world. As such, reason tends to take the back seat over emotion," he argued. "It (the issue) needs to get to the place where we apply some reason to treat people who are in a minority in a way that is humane and responsible."

The church leader said he was well aware that people who hold similar views to his run the risk of others assuming that they harbour sympathy with wrongdoers. "In the end, it is the need to uphold the dignity of all human beings who are made in the image of God," he declared. "They are to be valued and treated with respect."

Daley said in debating whether the issue should stay on the law books, minors must be treated in the same way as other sex-related offences. "We need to ensure that in decriminalising, we do not expose minors to any form of abuse," he stressed. "The laws that apply to minors being abused by heterosexuals should apply. No exceptions should be made in relation to people abusing children sexually."