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LETTER OF THE DAY - Religious Right cannot steamroll others' rights

Published:Wednesday | November 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM


I applaud Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin for issuing a ban on preaching on JUTC buses. Previously, JUTC's message to aggrieved passengers boiled down to (my words) suck it up (see letter by JUTC corporate communications manager in The Gleaner of November 3, 2011).

The response from members of the Christian community has reflected a mix of entitlement, ignorance and, at times, just plain hysteria.

Contrary to the claims of these Christians, freedom of religion does not confer any right to preach sermons on public buses or to encroach on the personal space of passengers. Indeed, no person, whatever their particular beliefs, has the right to be a nuisance to others in a shared, public space like a bus.

It matters not whether that nuisance is in the form of amplified music, loud conversations, or preaching the gospel. This is a simple precept - enshrined not only in law, but also in basic human decency.

Sadly, this has entirely escaped lay preacher Robert Lawson, who now whines that the preaching ban infringes his constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Clinton Chisholm claims that what is needed is some sort of "delicate balance", because "one has to respect both sets of rights". Rev Chisholm appears not to appreciate that there is only one set of rights involved here - the passengers'.

Shirley Richards' position is even more hopelessly wrong-headed. The privileged status she feels should be accorded to bus preachers is confirmed by Mrs Richards' appeal for the situation to be resolved by dialogue instead of a total ban, citing her fear of "a move to secularise the country".


This theocratic paranoia is now supported by Al Miller, who claims that the ban is "part of a bigger agenda to remove the strong Christian belief system inherent in the country".

After 50 years of Independence, it appears that prominent Jamaican Christian voices remain shamelessly untutored in the fundamentals of human rights and democracy.

Despite Christian subversion of the Charter of Rights, Jamaica remains, at least nominally, a democracy, in which all are equal under the law. Religion has no special place of privilege and, therefore, is not permitted to encroach on secular spaces or on the rights of others under the guise of freedom of religion or freedom of expression.