Religion and the constitution
Recently I attended a meeting in which representatives from the Constitutional Reform Committee met with a mixed group of lawyers and church leaders.
A “constitutional expert” was giving his opinion that the present Jamaican Constitution of 1962 and the amendment of chapter 3 of the Jamaican Constitution, namely, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of 2011, separates religion from the State, meaning that the Government of Jamaica is not constitutionally obligated to make laws that agree with what God has commanded in the holy scriptures. He gave as proof that the Jamaican Constitution protects “freedom of religion”, “freedom of conscience”, “freedom to express one’s own beliefs”, and the “freedom to disseminate those beliefs”.
However, I disagree that these freedoms mean that religion is to be separated from the State and that the State has no obligation to make laws that agree with the commandments of God. For example, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, section 18, subsection 2, it teaches that the only kind of marriage that is recognised in Jamaica is the “voluntary union between a man and a woman”. This was written at a time when the UK, the European Union, and other countries were legalising same-sex marriage.
Why did the architects of our constitution differ from other countries in what they recognised as a legal marriage? The architects of our constitution used the holy scriptures as their guide. Jesus Christ teaches that God instituted marriage in the beginning of creation and that it was made only for a man and a woman so that they could procreate new human life so that the population would not die out.
In 1962 Jamaica had a culture that was based on faith in the God of the holy scriptures and on the teachings of God in the holy scriptures. This is seen in our national anthem. It is a prayer to the “Eternal Father” to give to our political leaders “wisdom from above” and “keep us free from evil powers” that would try to draw us away from the Eternal Father’s wisdom.
It is a prayer that the “Great Defender” would protect us from these evil powers, and “be our light through countless hours”, that is, to show us, as an independent nation, how we ought to live. This is also seen in our national pledge in which we promise “before God” to serve each other and the whole human race out of love, brotherhood, and peace. These are concepts from the holy scriptures in which God commands us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves; accept people from all nations as being our brothers and sisters, created by the one God in His own image and likeness; and to be peacemakers.
In such a culture of faith, based on the God of the holy scriptures and on the teachings of God in the holy scriptures, the Jamaican Constitution was put together. When the constitution guarantees our freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom to express one’s own beliefs, and the freedom to disseminate these beliefs, religion, conscience, dissemination of these beliefs are contextually all tied to what God has taught us in the scriptures. None of these freedoms were intended to be against God and what He wants us to do.
Therefore, I advise the Constitutional Reform Committee not to change any part of the constitution that is based on faith in God and in what God commands in the holy scriptures. Do not introduce beliefs and practices which are offensive to God and lead people away from doing what is right in the sight of God.
Leslie Joseph Buckland Jr