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Gay activists, church reps clash - Christians assert they hold right to speak out against wrongdoing - Homosexuals, atheists call religion obstacle to human-rights development

Published:Monday | July 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

IT WAS a heated discussion last Friday between the gay community and the Church during a debate held at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

Gay activist Javed Jaghai and convenor of the Tivoli Committee, Lloyd D'Aguilar, represented the atheist group and spoke on the topic 'The Church is an obstacle on to fulfilling the human-rights aspirations of Jamaica'. They pointed out that the Church has lost its purpose.

"Why aren't Christians as vocal with the consistent exclusion of large sections of society from the means of economic mobility? Why aren't the Christian groups advocating for higher minimum wage or an education system that facilitates intellectual development of every Jamaican child?" he asked.

"Instead, they are in court aggressively arguing that gay men will destroy the morals of society, even in cases where people are hurt and discriminated against," said Jaghai.

"If the buggery law is repealed, it won't prevent them (Church) from preaching their messages of how immoral homosexual behaviour is. It won't prevent them from speaking about sin, but I don't see the harm in advocating for the respect of all Jamaicans, including gays," he said.

None above the law

However, the Reverend Clinton Chisholm, along with Dr Wayne West, argued that the Church has a right to speak out against wrongdoing.

"No one is above the law, and I think this is something that the Church advocates for. But I can't connect the dots with how, in particular, the Church has been an obstacle in the human-rights aspiration of Jamaicans," he said.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Chisholm pointed out that the Church has to be careful with its assertions.

"I think the Church needs to understand more carefully that there is a plurality of world views. We can recommend strongly and passionately, but we have to allow persons the luxury of embracing their own world view," he said.

Exercising caution

In responding to the ongoing battle with Jaghai and several church groups, he pointed that caution must be exercised.

"I would not go about it (court case) as how some churches are going about it. It is valuable in some sense, because if you remove the buggery law, it could open up the door for predatory homosexual beings on our boys and girls," he said.

"However, not all homosexuals are predators, so we have to be careful and try to keep a positive outlook on the proceedings," he charged.

There have been several marches, staged by various denominations recently, to protest a court challenge by gay-rights activists, including Jaghai as a claimant, questioning the constitutionality of the buggery law.