By Hilaire Sobers , Guest Columnist
The latest victim of Jamaica's theocratic contagion is Jamaica College, or, more specifically, the student body of Jamaica College.
Between February 19 and 21, Jamaica College conducted a three-day gospel crusade. The theme of this year's crusade is 'The War Is On: Which Side Are You On'? This crusade has been an annual exercise since 2008, having been introduced by Ruel Reid, the school's principal.
In organising these crusades, it seems that Mr Reid doesn't grasp that he's a principal, not a pastor, and that Jamaica College is a school, not a revival tent.
According to Mr Reid:
"One reason why we have this crusade every year is to give you the antidote that is Jesus. He gives us the power, He gives us the strength to overcome evil."
Mr Reid is a high-ranking member of the Christian Brethren Assemblies of Jamaica (CBAJ), who, I understand, is in charge of the CBAJ's education portfolio. It is no secret that the CBAJ is a fundamentalist Christian sect that, in recent times, has endorsed bus preachers and denounced homosexuality on primarily biblical grounds.
It is quite clear to me that Mr Reid is using his secular authority to impose his own religious agenda on a captive audience. There is clearly no accommodation in Mr Reid's agenda for persons who subscribe to a faith other than Christianity, or to persons who subscribe to no faith at all.
Mr Reid is allowed to get away with his theocratic excesses because he operates in a cultural and legal framework that, for the most part, is deferential to Christianity, to the point of obsequiousness.
ARE RULES DISPLAYED?
The Education Act, though deferential to Christianity, does require public schools like Jamaica College to print and post Section 18 of the Education Act. This section contains provisions that allow for students to opt out of religious activities at the request of their parents.
My question to Mr Reid is this: Is this notice posted in a conspicuous place at Jamaica College, and if so, where? I would also like to ask Mr Reid how he handles students who question/reject his particular religious views, given that, as principal, he exercises a great deal of authority over the educational fortunes of the boys in his charge.
Apart from Mr Reid's insufferable sanctimony, I take great exception to his conflation of religion and morality, as if they are one and the same. They are not. Any religion or philosophy that glorifies human sacrifice, genocide, homophobia, misogyny, and other human rights violations is hardly a model of morality that one would wish to impart to impressionable young schoolboys.
Religion, being a mind virus, also has the impact of stunting, if not neutralising, critical thinking, something that I thought would be contrary to any sensible, secular education values.
In any modestly secular country, the theocratic hijacking of a publicly funded educational institution would be not only inconceivable, but outright unlawful. Ultimately, unless we have pretensions to theocratic governance, Jamaica must, and can, do better.
Hilaire Sobers is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.