Free the Rastafarian religion
THE EDITOR, Sir:
IT IS now full time for our Government to bring in the Rastafarian religion from the cold. The Rastafarian religion, which recognises Emperor Haile Selassie 'JAH' as their God is the only indigenous religion in Jamaica. We should be proud of this religion even if we do not believe that Emperor Haile Selassie is God.
In 1971, in the now-famous case The Queen v Hines and King, the Court of Appeal of Jamaica upheld the rights of the accused man, Hines, who sought to swear using the name of his God, 'King Rastafari'. Hines at the trial of his case in the Supreme Court declined to swear on the Bible and instead sought to swear by "Almighty God, King Rastafari".
The judge at the trial refused to allow Hines to swear by Almighty God, King Rastafari, but the Court of Appeal held that Hines should have been permitted to swear according to his religion.
In so doing, the Court of Appeal of Jamaica recognised that the Rastafarian faith was sufficiently established, structured and existing at a level that it ought to be properly recognised as a religion.
The issue of the use of marijuana (ganja) by Rastas has been used over and over as a reason why the religion should not be given recognition. My understanding is that not all Rastas are ganja smokers. In any event, the Government should be prepared to agree to guidelines with Rastafarians regarding the use of ganja (the herb) since Rastafarians see it as sacred to their religion. The Rastafarian religion, like the five great religions, emerged in response to the need of the downtrodden and underclass. This was the case with black people who were faced with impossible challenges in the 1930s.
Our constitution was amended last year to add a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom. In that charter, it is provided that every person shall have the right to freedom of religion, including the freedom to change his religion and the right, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and private, to propagate his religion and live in accordance with its teachings.
As a nation, we need to be more tolerant of the views and opinions of others, even when we do not share those views and opinions.
Linton P. Gordon