Mon | Jun 25, 2018

JFJ's 'bad card' changes game

Published:Sunday | June 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ian Boyne
Carolyn Gomes, executive director of CVC, in a pensive mood at she listens to questions from journalists at a press briefing last Thursday.-Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer
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Ian Boyne

Carolyn Gomes was once the most feared and formidable social activist in Jamaica, with her Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) lobby sending chills up the spine of many a politician and public official. But today, Gomes is perhaps the most unpopular woman in Jamaica, facing the wrath of many over her role in the sneaked-in and sensational sex-education material in certain children's homes.

That as head of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition she was a main force pushing for Professor Brendan Bain's firing has not helped to mitigate the fierce anger of the people for one who has been a stalwart in championing human rights. Today, she is estranged from, and publicly chastising, her own former organisation, accusing its board of not following due process, dispensing justice or showing respect - a charge JFJ would throw around liberally in its heyday. She has resigned from JFJ, not, as many would expect, over her role in introducing the offending material, but because the JFJ board dared to apologise over it. There are many who are ecstatic to witness Carolyn Gomes' fall from grace.

People's National Party politicians were early in issuing press releases condemning the JFJ action and further calling for the resignation of the entire board. It must have felt good for the PNP to make that call, after having heard it hurled at their leaders on several occasions. Working-class Christians would say 'eye water deh pon Carolyn Gomes' for her role in the Bain firing, and Christians have been celebrating that "God really nah sleep". The courts have ordered the UWI to take back Bain in the meantime, and this JFJ fallout has come at the 'right time' in the culture war between Christians and the gay lobby and its sympathisers. (So the Christian soldiers would say.) It's all-out war, make no mistake about it, and the Christians have gathered their own coalition and are planning even bigger demonstrations month end. Last week, another Christian group was formed, outlining plans to continue pressing against what they see as an aggressive and sinister plot by gay lobbyists.

INVOKING FIERY FURY

The JFJ sex material gives credence to what many say is a conspiracy to corrupt our children. The Family Planning Association has distanced itself from that section of the curriculum which teaches that "vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex are forms of sexual penetration", as well as the part that says, "Anal and oral sex have traditionally been frowned upon but with time these practices are becoming more accepted." So the course advises the "use of a condom and lubricant during anal sex" to protect against HIV. This is what was meant to be taught to 12-year-olds! You can imagine the fire and brimstone fury of Jamaicans!

Psychologist Leahcim Semaj has called for JFJ to pay for therapy for these children so taught, and Youth Minister Lisa Hanna is seeking legal advice from the attorney general to see what can be done to JFJ and the children's homes administrators. First, I don't see legally what can be done to JFJ. The lobby did not insert itself there and drug those administrators to follow its programme. There was an agreement. The Child Development Agency (CDA) must take responsibility for the people under its supervision. Government doesn't have any legal leg to stand on against JFJ, as far as I can imagine. And it is moot as to whether it is JFJ that should have contacted CDA.

SET BACK THE CAUSE

Those administrators must take full responsibility for accepting what many regard as that indecent proposal from JFJ. In terms of public opinion, of course, JFJ has far more to lose than these unknown administrators. JFJ's bad card has changed the whole game of dominoes between Christians who want to keep the buggery law and those human- and gay-rights lobbyists campaigning against it. JFJ has set back the cause considerably, and Gomes, with her role in both CVC and the Bain firing and now this obnoxious material, is the central figure scoring against her own side.

I am not for the demonising of Gomes. She has a right to her own views and even a right to lobby for Bain's firing if she feels it was justified. I admire her for her courage in not cowardly backing down on the children's homes issue if she genuinely feels she did nothing wrong.

But the issue goes beyond whether the material is age-appropriate. There are some who believe it is entirely proper - indeed, required - that we teach our children and young people that homosexuality is normal and healthy and that traditional notions of gender differentiation are outdated and prejudicial. Those who see gay rights as human rights believe it is only just that our children not be 'brainwashed' into this 'narrow religious view' that same-sex attraction is dirty.

We must let children accept their sexuality, whether it is straight, gay, bisexual or transgender. That is the emerging view. And it was just that this thing was caught the second time (the first in a Ministry of Education textbook).

When Shirley Richards and Wayne West had been warning about a gay agenda, many were sceptical, but a lot of people are certainly listening now. Professor Bain's firing was the best thing that could have happened for the Christian soldiers. His crucifixion galvanised not just Christians but the wider society whose sense of natural justice and fairness was assaulted by UWI's action. The lobby groups miscalculated terribly and there is now a terrible backlash.

The JFJ material is not shocking to those following this culture war globally. A few years ago, the British House of Lords and the House of Commons released a human-rights report which stated bluntly that religious institutions should not have the right even in their private schools to teach that homosexuality is unnatural and sinful.

Those offending parts of the smuggled-in JFJ material on anal sex and gender redefinition did not shock me, as it is a part of the thrust towards the normalisation of homosexuality.

Gay lobbyists and their sympathisers want children to accept - it is no accident - that homosexuality is normal and healthy and they should not feel guilty about what they are feeling. Just as religious people try to indoctrinate their children, so gays say you have to start with the youth. It is a battle for their minds and it's a matter of which group can influence them earlier.

When The Gleaner recently put its weight on the side of gay marriage, for example, and asserted this would not affect the rights of those who disagree, the writer was being very naïve in law. If homosexuality is normalised in law (not the same as decriminalisation), it means you could be sued for discrimination if you refuse to rent your homes to homosexual couples or as an adoption agency discriminate against same-sex couples who want to adopt. You could not refuse civil marriages to gay couples as a Christian either.

You are not free as a Christian to insist that you are not providing services to gay couples and public schools could not teach that homosexuality is abnormal and immoral if your law says otherwise. Hear the House of Lords carefully: "Regulations prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination should clearly apply to the curriculum, so that homosexual pupils are not subjected to teaching that their sexual orientation is sinful or morally wrong."

Christians' 'right' to continue to teach that homosexuality is an abomination would be similar to the 'right' to teach racism or sexism in school. That is why gay rights are being framed as human rights. Those opposing gay rights will be seen as anti-human rights and stigmatised and marginalised. Starting with the very young is part of that plan. It is no accident.

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who works with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ianboyne1@yahoo.com.