Fri | Jun 9, 2023

Secular democracy vs Christian theocracy

Published:Friday | January 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Correspondent Shane Munroe's reply to my suggestion that churches work with a flexi Sabbath reveals one of the main problems we have discussing such issues in Jamaica. People do not seem to understand the concept of freedom as it applies in a liberal democracy.

He writes, inter alia: "Religious freedom, whether one is a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc., is a basic right in any society." What he does not seem to realise is that it is only in a secular society that religious freedom can be guaranteed. This is not to suggest that secularism necessarily guarantees religious or any other freedom, but once the state is based on religious law, which must be of one particular religion, it, by definition, excludes all other religious laws and practices.

Religious but aware

The Founding Fathers of the United States recognised this and enshrined in its Constitution the 'Separation of Church and State'. Most of them had come over from European countries where they had suffered under state religions. They were very zealous in guarding their freedom to worship, or not worship, as they chose. The Pilgrim Fathers were, for the most part, very religious people but were very much aware, from experience, of the dangers of a state religion to civil liberties.

Thus, in that country, organised prayer of any kind is not allowed in public schools, or in public places which are supported by the taxpayer. Religious belief is regarded as a private matter that is left to the individual's conscience.

When a government bans any activity that is normally done during the week because it is done on somebody's day of worship, it is imposing a religious law of one part of the population on the rest. As long as one does not disturb the peace of others, one ought to have the right to go to a party on Friday night, eat pork for breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and go to the races on Sunday.

It is the Church in Jamaica that is guilty of trying to impose their laws, supposedly the laws of God, on the rest of us. They are completely free to attend church any day of the week and twice on Sundays. But should they be free to herd young people together in schools, at taxpayers' expense, to have devotions, and bully people to 'join in prayer' at every kind of function? Is this country, as defined by the nature of our Constitution, a secular democracy, or is it a Christian Theocracy?

I am, etc.,