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Balancing the gay-rights debate

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Byron Buckley, Contributor

THE LOCAL faith-based community is pushing back against the advance of the gay agenda, with the recent staging of a forum by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, which was formed in January.

The coalition's mission of ministry, advocacy and education is strategic in the cosmic struggle between religious and secular forces for predominance - a struggle that has been given added impetus with the recent endorsement of same-sex marriage by United States President Barack Obama.

The theme of the forum, 'Confronting the Secular Agenda and the Church's Balanced Response to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic', reflects the concern of the local faith-based community that gay-rights advocates in Europe and North America have overreached. Indeed, this has been underscored by the experience of Eunice Johns - a Jamaican who was prohibited from operating a foster home in Britain because of her religious views against homosexuality.

Having taken a 12-year break from foster parenting, Mrs Johns and her husband were alarmed at changes in UK laws that now required foster parents to avow homosexuality.

"It's as if these things were coming through the side door. So the Church needs to get organised and the people of Jamaica need to get ... active," warns Mrs Johns, who attended the forum in Kingston last Tuesday.

Mrs Johns' experience, as well as other cases of persecution by pro-gay laws, cited by Shirley Richards of Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, underscores the issue of overreach of the gay agenda. Laws are being passed that infringe other people's rights such as freedom of conscience and religious beliefs. In some jurisdictions, free speech has been made subject to the tyrannical acceptance of homosexuality.

Indeed, the criminalisation of biblical teaching on sexuality is one of several 'logical consequences' that have occurred in countries after the repeal of their buggery laws, according to Mrs Richards. Other likely consequences, she contends, include:

Incorporation of alternative sexual lifestyles into the educational curriculum.

Human-rights legislation (Equality Act) which establishes monitoring committees and punishes dissent.

Legal sanctions for public criticism of homosexuality.

Progressive endorsement of same-sex marriage with attendant pressures on religious institutions.

Legal adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Establishment of homosexual clubs in schools via the avenue of protection from bullying.

the new norm

This relentless push by the gay lobby to make homosexuality the new norm is what bothers many heterosexuals within and without the faith community.

The overreaching of the gay community seems also to be the concern of Dr Wayne West, another speaker at the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society's forum.

Dr West dismisses the claims by HIV advocates that the availability of antiretroviral therapy, as well as the relaxation of sodomy laws, will guarantee reduction in the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He argues that the number of new HIV cases is rising fastest among gay men, compared to other groups, in France where there have been no buggery laws for centuries.

Dr West also points to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (US) indicating that, despite the availability of antiretroviral therapy, HIV incidence remained high among gay men in that country.

But neither Dr West nor the Rev Peter Garth, vice-president of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals, has signalled that the Church is prepared to take unconventional approaches such as promoting safe-sex (use-a-condom) messages to congregants to fight the AIDS epidemic.

"Monogamous heterosexual marriage is the ONLY form of partnership approved by God for full sexual relations in our and every generation," declares Rev Garth, despite the instances of polygamy practised by several biblical icons. The Church, he says, will insist on abstinence, as well as faithfulness in marital relationships. However, that unbalanced approach will leave faithful spouses exposed to contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from spouses guilty of infidelity - highlighting the victimisation of many women whose partners are undeclared bisexual men.

The Church is also guilty of overreacting to homosexuality. The Church's apparent fixation on this issue has been at the expense of being silent on perhaps more egregious sexual atrocities, such as rape and the sexual abuse of children.

In this regard, Archbishop Donald Reece, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, must be commended for his enlightened comments made at the forum. He suggests that, perhaps, the Church in general has not done enough to promote the sacredness of life.

"Programmes that would have informed our men and women - our boys and girls - of their Imago Dei (image of God) status and, consequently, the sanctity of life and the sacredness of sex are, by and large, lacking or too scant," the archbishop laments.

Correctly so, he condemns the Jamaican society for its selective morality in condoning some acts of violence - such as abortion - while disapproving of others.

It is this sacredness for life why Christians, individually and collectively, should not condone violence against homosexuals.

Clearly, there is need for consensus between pro- and anti-gay advocates.

Byron Buckley is associate editor of The Gleaner. Send comments to