Church angry, gays happy
THE perennially controversial issue of homosexuality appears to have set the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) on collision course with some sections of the Christian Church.
PNP Leader Portia Simpson Miller shocked the television audience watching her debate with Prime Minister Andrew Holness Tuesday night, with her suggestion that the buggery law should be reviewed and that she was not opposed to having gays in a Cabinet led by her.
“That is very concerning for me [reviewing the buggery law] and I am disappointed that we are still insisting to go back in that direction, because the matter was dealt with in the amended Bill of Rights earlier this year,” said Rev Al Miller, pastor of the Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston.
Miller said he was equally disappointed with the Opposition Leader’s stance that she had no problem admitting anyone to her Cabinet once they were qualified to carry out their duties.
“I am seriously concerned about that, because it is saying that moral values becomes secondary to ability to perform,” the pastor said, adding: “That kind of approach would be difficult for Christians to support because character and integrity takes precedence over ability.”
Associate pastor of the Tower Hill Missionary Church, Rev Mark Dawes also took offence at Simpson Miller’s stance: “If we remove the buggery law, then we might be opening the floodgate for sexual anarchy,” he cautioned.
He said, however, that he understood her belief that no one should be prevented from being apart of a Cabinet once they were qualified to do so, even if they subscribed to the gay lifestyle.
“If the person is not promoting that lifestyle, then I could grow to be comfortable with them in the Cabinet, but if it is somebody who is championing the lifestyle and advocating for it, then I’ll have a problem,” Dawes said.
In the debate, Simpson Miller said: “We should have a look at the buggery law,” distancing herself from Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who told a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interviewer he would not allow a homosexual in his Cabinet.
The Seventh-day Adventists also rejected the call to revisit the buggery law, while saying they had no problem with gays in a Cabinet.
“The issue is with reviewing the law, that’s where the church has an issue. Like any other faith-based organisation, we are concerned because it goes against the biblical side of things,” said SDA director of communication, public affairs and religious liberty, Nigel Coke.
But general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Rev Karl Johnson commended Simpson Miller for tackling the issue head on when asked by a journalist in the debate. Reviewing the law did not necessarily mean that a change would occur, Johnson argued.
“I think it is a commendable thing to always review our laws to see whether they speak to current realities, whether they are still informed by values and norms that we can sustain both as a country and I would say as a religious community,” he said.
President of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, Bishop Rohan Edwards said he believed that a review of the buggery act would not affect the way the church viewed the homosexual lifestyle.
“We don’t have a problem with the revisiting buggery law, but we know the law that we have to answer to which is the word of God. So they have the right to revisit anything they want to,” he said.
For its part, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG) welcomed Simpson Miller’s position. Executive director of the lobby group, Dane Lewis, said: “We are very encouraged by the statement, it was a very bold statement by a political leader knowing the history of statements which our leaders have made and so we look forward to seeing what is to come if they certainly do form the next government.
“It really speaks loudly to a respect for the human rights of all Jamaicans, including those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender,” he noted.
He said he was disappointed with the response given by Holness who was very cautious in his response when he stated that his “sentiment must be the sentiment of the country”.
“We are disappointed that the prime minister, even though he had another opportunity to make certainly a bold statement, he didn’t,” he said. “It is very clear that he is going to pander to the religious community and vaguely step around the issue,” Lewis asserted.