While I understand the sections of the religious movement’s somewhat hypocritical push to block such attempts as they misinterpret the call as a full repeal albeit continued poor communication strategy sending mixed messages to the public and not properly rebutting the error and making their position clear belief or non belief in God is immaterial to this case yet on Friday last June 28 at the University of The West Indies a debate on the church being an obstacle to human rights titled wrong to begin with as the only issue here is homosexuality two atheists went up against two supposed religious voices; Javed Jaghai & Lloyd D’agular versus Dr Wayne West and Reverend Clinton Chisholm.
Social rights activist Lloyd D’agular was apparently leading the charge stopped short of calling the religious push back hypocrites, he said among other things “The argument about homosexuality cannot be debated on religious ground cause it’s a non starter Jamaica is supposedly a secular state, can’t say abortion is murder cause the church tolerates murder on a daily basis, stop whining about fornication and adultery because some of the men most connected to God were fornicators and adulterers and as far as homosexuality is concerned if murderers where accepted by God and if genocide was accepted and practiced by God and other forms of sexual vice were accepted by God then I think what men and women do in the privacy of their bedrooms should be there business and have nothing to do with God.” Since the argument cannot be done on religious ground and given the legal thrusts to determine the real issue is in court why answer or participate in a public debate? I find increasingly Mr D’agular’s defence of homosexuality as it were faulty as he seems not fully apprised of the issues surrounding same gender issues and therefore not a good voice in that department. His appearance for example on CVM TV’s Live @ 7 on June 26th opposite past president of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship Shirley Richards was loaded with loopholes and poor positioning.
Dr Wayne West of the JCHS in the meantime responded by saying the criticisms were baseless, he said that the fact that Dr D’agular’s beliefs are based on atheism makes them all the more invalid “He is criticising the church cause it’s the only thing he can do, he has no choice but to criticise the church because he has no faith, the concept that we should respect each other or that we should give deference to each other is illogical if we believe in atheism because if we are atheist and are the result of random forces directed only by the laws of physics and chemistry I can assure you that none of us even though we are human beings are of any value than a dog or a pig or a goat or a bacteria.” Javed Jaghai in the meantime said the church is no better that atheist as it preaches morality in topic despite ethical demons in private, is Javed here contradicting his own atheist position then to suit the argument here? He said “I refuse to accept that we cannot create the Jamaica where we see each other as persons as humans and sinners and stereotypes they would be no need for a debate about gay rights in Jamaica if we remove the artificial barriers between gay and straight people who are indistinguishable in meaningful respects except for the gender of the partner that they love and that they choose to build a life with.” The audience comprised mostly of Javed/D’agular supporters naturally as they have academia in their corner from a secularist standpoint. Meanwhile Reverend Clinton Chisholm who opposed the moot said that the origin of rights was given by Jesus Christ and there has been no argument that showed that the church has been a hindrance to human rights; the church acknowledges that the law is king and that no one is above the law.
Defunct Interfaith discussions
In November 2007 a series of Interfaith discussions had commenced under the Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica, SCJ, JFLAG, United Theological College, UTC representatives, Universal Centre of Truth representatives while other voices were approached some of whom expressed interest such as Reverend Clinton Chisholm, Reverend Dr Peter Espeut, Dr Marjorie Lewis, Reverend Garth Minott, Ian Boyne and others; those discussions among other things were to bring some sense and sensibility to understanding homosexuality, the ethical, moral, theological and legal issues therein and even the very divide of atheism, secularism and humanism were part of the items rostered for future attention hence my public unease with this series of spats between gay rights atheistic advocates and religious right anti gay voices when the Interfaith talks were to quietly deal with those issues now we find advocates devoting energies that should be directed at the legal challenges aiming at putting out fires started by a far more mobilized religious group. The lumping of all those issues now being ironed out in the public while having a small good is only seeking to enflame the followership of some of these churches who are way out of the loop in understanding certain issues and a JFLAG that had not had a sustained campaign to lift the visibility and understanding of homosexual issues intertwined with the buggery law. It is clear given the recent utterances by parties involved there needs to be either a recommencement of those talks or something close it if there is any chance of fostering understanding, there is no time for public spats on the issues now not when legal challenges are in progress and the public sentiments fed by previously dormant anti gay sentiments buried in the sections of the population’s psyche.
If the media and the church still interpret that the LGBT lobby’s agitation is about a full repeal of buggery despite a late in the day statement of sorts saying they have changed their stance some two years ago on buggery which came as a surprise to even me then it is no wonder the heat that is on their backs when the proper communication is missing the clarify the change in stance. The false dichotomy that the agitation for rights for gay activists is part of a larger picture of moral nihilism and a Godless mantra when there are gay Christians around but whose voices are drowned out by the louder atheists or they remain quiet preferably. Where is the Sunshine Cathedral Jamaica, SCJ or its mother church in Florida The Metropolitan Community of Churches, MCC in all this now and why are they so quiet? When some of their membership and leadership are also involved in the management of JFLAG itself and other NGOs, are those voices no longer batting for that cause anymore? It is not about whether or not God exists or not or even whether there is the missing philosophical base for such calls for rights even that too is also of import as it affects the programs or lack thereof in terms of social justice issues chief among them the homeless MSM issues that have been a major cause for a black eye for JFLAG as they have failed to properly respond to that issue. The correspondent insensitivity has been tacitly pegged to the moral nihilism criticism by the anti gay voices as they claim that how can a call for tolerance be justified when the apparent rejection of their own is real hence having no moral authority to agitated for such virtuous ideals.
The smoke in the room is causing all kinds of confusion especially for those ordinary folks who are just barely following the issues or LGBT people who are ignorant of what has gone on or not allowed to continue in terms of lobby over the years. The divide and rule construct continues otherwise this plays right into my longstanding criticisms of the lack of continuity of programs and activities that worked or that would have future impact in the struggle. Based on the responses in the feedback section of the debate the “abnormality” of homosexuality was a prominent feature of those answers from members of the public while some rebuttals from JFLAG supporters came through they were not strong enough in my view as it was clear that the public campaign strategy will have to be spruced up to not only answer the religious right’s posture (something that should have been done years now) but also the very LGBT community who by virtue of the answers given were ill prepared for such a forum. In a rare point of agreement I am siding with Dr Rohan Lewis point where he lamented that the some of the interventions by the presenters based on moot were very esoteric in that Jamaica is not treated as a pluralistic society and instead a giant island church, separation of church and state in other words.
Prevention is better than cure maybe if those important Interfaith talks were allowed to continue and yet another bizarre decision from the powers that be to scrap them would have greatly reduced the backlash now experienced by the present voices and indeed some of the garbage from all sides from last Friday’s debate. I doubt the Javeds and D’agulars of this world are aware of such talks ever commencing in the first place.
Let us watch as this plays out to what end and what other avenues will be used to try and win the argument.
Peace and tolerance