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Don’t scapegoat Church for not passing laws, say clerics

Published:Friday | March 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Church leaders in Jamaica are standing in the way of politicians making a change to the buggery and abortion laws, according to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.

Chuck, who was speaking at the PANCAP Sensitisation Breakfast Seminar held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday, said parliamentarians are fearful of being booted from office, and so they are unwillingly to vote on certain issues.

“It’s a fact of life, and that is why I can tell you. When I was speaker of the House, the United States ambassador came to see me about changing some of the laws, including the buggery laws, and I said ‘Pam, you know, if you want to change, go and convince the faith leaders’, because the truth of the matter is that the faith leaders in this country persuade 90-odd per cent of our people.”

He was referring to Pamela Bridgewater.

“That is why you talk about the savings law clause. If it should prove that 32 of us say ‘change it’, we are going to be targeted,” the justice minister continued. “I don’t have a problem, I could be one of the 32, but how many of the 31 will come along with me?”

However, general secretary of the United Church in Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, the Reverend Norbert Stephens, said that even though he was expressing his personal views, he was not aware of any active campaigning from the pulpit telling members who they should vote for.

“The parliamentarian represents the constituency, and I would like to think that the parliamentarian votes the mind of the constituency, not necessarily his or her own personal choice, especially on matters of representational politics,” Stephens told The Gleaner yesterday. “I would like to think that what the politicians ought to do is to canvass the minds of those he or she represents to determine what position they should take in Parliament, and I think that is part of our struggle.”

General secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, the Reverend Karl Johnson, pointed to the passage of casino gaming legislation even though the Church, generally, was against it.

“We deal with ideas; we don’t attack people ... . We do not have a culture where church leaders demonstrate a certain kind of influence over their members when it comes to voting,” said Johnson. “In fact, some argue that we should, but we have not gone the route, like in the United States, where you have pastors who will get up and be outright about the party they support and, in turn, the whole church would support that party.”