Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
SENIOR SUPERINTENDENT of Police Radcliffe Lewis has warned lay preachers who use the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses for their ministry that they will be prosecuted for breaching the law.
Lewis yesterday said preaching on public-passenger vehicles is an offence and persons in breach can be charged with disorderly conduct on a public-passenger vehicle (PPV).
"It doesn't matter who it is, even if you were the pope. With the amount of complaints coming in, Mr (Hardley) Lewin had no other choice but to take the action him take. He has done the best thing," Lewis told The Gleaner.
The island's top traffic cop's comments come amid a directive from the managing director of the JUTC that preaching would not be allowed on the buses.
"There need not be any debate on the issue," Lewis told The Gleaner yesterday.
"The law is the law, and you can be charged. I am totally for the ban. You cannot go about disturbing people and annoying them and forcing people to listen to you," he added.
"Any noise, singing or preaching or playing of any instrument, once you start to disturb the passengers, you can be charged for disorderly conduct on a PPV. I expect that persons who preach should respect the law and respect the rights of other citizens," Lewis continued.
The senior cop said in the past they had turned a blind eye to the practice, but based on the number of complaints, they would now have to take action against anyone breaching the law.
However, one bus preacher believes that unrighteousness will overtake Jamaica if bus preaching is banned.
"They are trying to shut up the gospel and if they do, the devil will take over Jamaica. What kind of message are we sending to young people?" declared 48-year-old Atchrine Taffe.
A clarion call
Taffe, who says she has been preaching on the buses and the sidewalks for close to 20 years, said she was deeply disturbed by the edict.
"The Bible tells us to go out into the highways and byways and preach the word; spread the good news because man need to be saved," she said.
Carrying a bullhorn and placard with the word R-E-P-E-N-T, Taffe says her sole mission is to save souls for the Kingdom of God. She conceded that there were some bad apples in the ministry who used the gospel to exploit others.
"I have never asked for money, never. It is wrong. The Bible said we should not sell the gospel," said Taffe, adding that she makes a living from higglering, which she uses to support herself and her ministry.
Taffe said a driver of the JUTC bus told her he was upset about the ban. She said that for the past two days she was allowed to continue spreading the gospel on the bus through singing and playing music on her phone.
"No one has asked me to stop or come off the bus," she said.
It can be awful
Meanwhile, a number of JUTC bus drivers had mixed views on the ban. One driver noted that the preaching sometimes posed a problem because not all bus preachers were genuine. He said since the ban, his colleagues have been discussing the issue and they were in agreement that the good would suffer for the bad.
"From a Christian standpoint, I'm not in support of the ban because the Bible say you must go in the highways and byways and spread the gospel, but from a driver standpoint, I understand because sometimes it can be awful," he stated.
"Just the other day, the passengers had to ask one of them to sit down because it was like he was forcing the gospel on them and his preaching just never right.
"Some of them are just all about the money. Before the journey reach halfway, they start to collect and if you don't give them, they tell you, 'God say you must give and if you don't give, you won't get any blessing'."
The driver said there were also genuine preachers who "as them start to minister, the bus catch fire and they never ask for money".
Another driver, however, wasn't so accommodating of the bus ministers. "They should have banned it long time. Them too annoying," he said of the ministers.
A female driver supported him saying, "I'm not against the preaching, I'm against the thieves.
"Our experience with most of them is that they are ginnals. Them only come fi mek money affa people," she said.