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LETTER OF THE DAY - Religious overreach more taxing than Gov't

Published:Tuesday | April 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The overreach of the Church into state affairs is becoming intolerable in our country.

On April 5, I went to the tax collectorate at Constant Spring on business, only to find a full-fledged church service in progress, complete with hymn singing and hand clapping and sermon and readings and performances of religious songs.

All the chairs normally reserved for senior citizens and waiting clients were taken up by the more than 100 participants. Staff on the upper levels had left their posts to participate, at long distance, by standing along the rails.

Six or so staff members continued to serve clients at the cashier and other posts. It was difficult to communicate with them or hear their replies because of the noise. The service had apparently been organised by the staff. This went on for more than an hour: It was in progress when I arrived at 2:30 p.m. and ended just before 4:15 p.m. when I left after completing my business.

All of us have the right to our religious preferences and practices, but all of us have the right to respect the rights of other citizens. It is not appropriate that the spaces provided for services to citizens, regardless of their religious outlook, be captured by ceremonies that properly belong in a church or other spaces specifically designed for that purpose.

Policy needed

Moreover, those of us who are church people have the same obligation to respect the rights of others. So why did these church people think they had the right to take over the tax office? Is it that the staff of the institution, servants of the public, have now become the owners and directors of the institution and can do anything they wish within that space?

A policy is needed, if it does not exist, and should be enforced if it does exist, to ensure that neither the Church nor any other group is allowed to disrupt and take over the space of the services provided for the public. This policy should prohibit the use of such spaces for religious or other ceremonies or events extraneous to the purposes for which the services were established.

JOAN FRENCH

Kingston 10