‘Part of a wider plan by militant homosexuals to desensitise Jamaicans’
by Nadine Wilson
A new public service announcement (PSA) encouraging families to embrace their homosexual members and which is expected to hit local airwaves sometime this month, is causing some church leaders great discomfort.
The made-for-television PSA was launched more than a week ago and features former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe Christine Straw and her gay brother Matthew Straw encouraging Jamaicans to show love to their family members and friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
Straw is also seen declaring her unending love for her brother.
Among the agencies and individuals endorsing the advertisement are Women’s Media Watch’s Hilary Nicholson; first counsselor at the European Union, Helin Jenkinson; UNAIDS representative in Jamaica, Dr Pierre Somse; UNICEF representative, Rob Fuderich; convenor of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST), Yvonne McCalla-Sobers and several other human rights and anti-HIV activists.
The PSA has also received the considerable support of the United States Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater, who, during the launch, declared that “homophobia must be eliminated (in Jamaica) immediately”.
The backing of these powerful and varied individuals and groups notwithstanding, the PSA’s message has not found favour with several church leaders who continue to maintain that anything outside of the heterosexual lifestyle is not in keeping with biblical principles and will, therefore, never be endorsed by the religious community.
“Inasmuch as you want to be accommodating, homosexuality is not biblical and from it is not biblical, then I have a problem,” said executive secretary of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Milton Gregory.
Asked by the Sunday Observer for his view on the perennially controversial issue, Gregory added: “The ad itself can become repulsive for many people in society, and from a biblical perspective, where homosexuality is concerned, the Bible says that God is against it.”
The pastor said that while the church abhorred the lifestyle and practices of homosexuals, it did not advocate the abuse of gays and lesbians.
“It is not just homosexuality that the church condemns; the church condemns sex outside of marriage. Immorality is immorality, whether it is between man and man or a woman and a man outside of the sacredness of a marital relationship,” he said.
Commenting on the PSA launch, associate pastor of the Tower Hill Missionary Church in Kingston, Mark Dawes, suggested that the church needed to be more vocal in denouncing the homosexual lifestyle.
“I am prepared to be loving and compassionate to all persons, irrespective of their class or creed or persuasion, but that love and compassion to all and sundry will not stop me from speaking the truth in love as I see the truth,” said Dawes, a former journalist.
“As innocuous and as innocent as that public service announcement might appear, it is part of a wider plan by militant homosexuals to gradually desensitise Jamaicans to homosexuality, so that homosexual behaviour and practice can become mainstream in Jamaica,” asserted the pastor.
Rev Monsignor Kenneth Richards, rector at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston, was just as sceptical of the message of the PSA, pointing out that the Catholic church did not embrace homosexual unions since they were not in keeping with religious principles.
“I don’t think we should tolerate it, we should object to it. I don’t think it should be broadcast,” said the priest when asked his views on the PSA.
But in defence of the PSA, Dane Lewis, executive director of gay rights lobby group, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), said the ad was designed to encourage Jamaicans to love their family members and friends who were leading a homosexual lifestyle.
“It is our hope that this inspiring public declaration of love will motivate other families and friends of LGBT to share their stories of acceptance, and that those who are on a journey to acceptance will be moved to love LGBT persons in their lives unconditionally,” he said during the launch of the PSA.
A news release issued by JFLAG also went on to state that the PSA was “aimed at promoting the human rights of persons who are members of the LGBT community by encouraging Jamaicans to be unreserved about whom they love”.
Speaking with the Sunday Observer last week, Lewis said the PSA was already on popular video-sharing website YouTube, and this group was in the middle of negotiations with two local television stations to have it aired.
He said that members of the LGBT community were being severely discriminated against, especially by family members, further strengthening their belief that the country is very homophobic.
“The homophobia as we have seen, it is in the form of discrimination towards the gay and lesbian community,” he said, before accusing the church of being among those institutions encouraging homophobia in Jamaica.
“The church raises issues of morality in dialogues as it relates to gays and lesbians, but we feel it is immoral to hate, and so, on that basis, the church is homophobic,” he said.
Still, Lewis was quick to add: “I don’t want to bash all churches because there have been denominations that have been supportive in certain areas and have recognised the need for spiritual support for gays, lesbians and transgenders.”
He pointed to a national survey conducted by Professor Ian Boxill earlier this year that found that the strongest objections to homosexuality in Jamaica are based on religious perspectives. The survey showed that 81.8 per cent of those interviewed attended church and 82 per cent felt that homosexuality was morally wrong.
But pastor of the Hope Gospel Assembly in Kingston, Peter Garth, was keen to point out that issues of morality were not the only reasons for objection to the homosexual lifestyle.
“I don’t normally approach it by dealing with the Bible first; I look at it from a medical perspective, we look at it psychologically, we look at it socially; we see the tremendous problems associated with that lifestyle.”
Garth, saying that he had always been open to holding discussions with members of the LGBT community, added:
“Based on our principles, we wouldn’t marry them. We don’t believe in same-sex marriage, but we talk with them, we counsel them, we help them, we spend time with them and for years I have been doing that.”
For his part, president of the Deliverance Evangelistic Association, Bishop Herro Blair, said the church would continue to speak out against the homosexual lifestyle while at the same time encouraging society to refrain from harming members of the LGBT community.
“I understand their fear, because society is not yet educated with regards to the fact that this lifestyle is here and it is probably going to be here for a long time. And, as I have strongly said before, people should not go out and physically abuse these people,” said Blair who is also the political ombudsman.
Still, he said the church could not change its message: “There are things that we classify as sins that we can’t change and homosexuality is one.”
my two cents in spoken word on the PSA from JFLAG and more
UPDATE August 18, 2011