Oh no, Mr Smith! – more letters to editor

Dear Editor,

Usually crassness and bigotry are qualities to be shunned, or at least hidden. Not so with Ernest Smith who appears to make even more of a virtue of these qualities than already prevails in Jamaica. Ernest Smith, an attorney and member of parliament, has taken these qualities to stratospheric levels with his hysterical rants about outlawing J-Flag, depriving gays of gun licences, and claims about homosexuality run amok in the Jamaican police force.

Not too long ago, Mr Smith enthusiastically promoted virginity tests for high school girls as a condition for readmission at the start of a school year.

In democracies that are governed by reason, one could comfortably dismiss Mr Smith’s ravings as simply nothing more than harmless fantasies. Not so in Jamaica, given Mr Smith’s prominence in a country that is, for the most part, virulently and proudly homophobic. In this respect, Prime Minister Golding himself proclaimed gays to be unfit for inclusion in his Cabinet, and his government has seen fit to ban school books that make references to gay family units. At the behest of Jamaica’s religious right, both political parties have allowed themselves to be corralled into abandoning a proposed gender-neutral definition of rape for fear that this would facilitate decriminalisation of buggery. It is instructive that neither political party has denounced Mr Smith in unambiguous terms. The same appears to be true of the legal profession of which Mr Smith is a member.

The democracy called Jamaica remains wedded to a culture that is largely bereft of critical thinking, much less justice for all its citizens. In this context, Mr Smith has not only a public platform but a cultural licence to exhibit and indeed to infect further the body politic with his particular strain of ignorance, stupidity and bigotry. For most of Jamaica’s citizens this might warrant little more than a verandah chat; for others, unfortunately, it might mean the difference between life and death.

O Hilaire Sobers
ohilaire@yahoo.com

JFLAG refers to constitution, Writer encourages legal action

The Editor, Sir:

In responding to Member of Parliament Ernest Smith, J-FLAG noted that Section 23 (1) of the Jamaican Constitution states: “No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of peaceful assembly and association, that is to say, his right peacefully to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests.”

My comments from the above: Mr Smith, in the public interest, should seek a declaration from the courts on the legality of J-Flag and its activities. Just raising it is not good enough – he should take action!

I am, etc.,
Norman Lee

Interesting Letter to the Gleaner’s Editor – Gays in the Church

The Editor, Sir:

It is ridiculous how much time the Jamaican society spends debating the gay issue when there are so many others in the society and the Church, as a whole, to be addressed.

Why are the churches shunning them? Are they not entitled to hear the word of God? If so, why aren’t the adulterers, liars and thieves thrown out? We know there are many of these types of people in the Church who go every week and pretend to be Christians only to go home and continue their sinful behaviour.

The church has no right to try and force change on anyone. It won’t work. If a person desires change and looks to God for it and believes God is powerful enough to grant his or her desire, it will happen. No pastor can counsel it to happen; the individual must come to that decision himself or herself.

Reconditioning not simple

I do not feel you can ‘recondition’ gay people. I’d like to ask these so-called Christians if they would be able to just switch their heterosexual desires to homosexual ones if counselled enough to do so? To believe that homosexuality is a choice is ludicrous. Why would someone choose to be a target for violence in such a homophobic society, to be shunned from churches, disowned by family, lose jobs and lose friends?

God preached compassion towards all sinners. All the people trying to keep gays out of the Church because they believe it is sinful should be pushed out the Church themselves. Since everyone is a sinner, the churches should be empty.

People do not have to accept homosexuality but everyone has the right to live and choose to live how he or she wants, especially if they are not bringing harm to others.

I am, etc.,

STEPHANIE
stephynegril@yahoo.com
Altamonte Springs
Florida

Gleaner Commentry, No gun licences for gays?

Smith was right
I echo the sentiments made in the House by South West St Ann Member of Parliament Ernest Smith, on February 10, that there should be a tightening of the anti-buggery laws in Jamaica. I have always argued that gays in Jamaica, whether female or male, are the driving force behind most of the domestic violence taking place in Jamaica.

We, in Jamaica, have been too tolerant of a behaviour that is, unequivocally, a sinful act which is not the norm in any decent God-fearing society.

The anti-buggery laws in Jamaica have been under assault by these different gay-rights groups, both locally and internationally, which are trying to force their lifestyle on the Jamaican society.

The schools and churches should step up and educate the young people that homosexuality is a loathsome and unacceptable lifestyle that is destructive to any family and society at large. Jamaica needs to go back to the basics, when the words gay or homosexual were looked upon with scorn and disdain.

– STEWART YOUNGstewartyoung11@hotmail.comFlorida, United States

MP was out of order

I am not gay but I find Ernest Smith’s statement to be out of order. Everybody has the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in whatever way he or she see fit. Smith should just look at a piece of legislation that he just helped passed, which is in fact helping to kill marriage. It is the law that a woman can call the police on her husband, claiming that her husband has raped her. I guess Smith might want to revisit that law. Why should your sex life be dictated by the Government?

– ROBERT CLARKEhotshot_target_5@hotmail.com,Quebec, Canada

Another Letter to consider (The Gleaner)

Issue: Upper House targets gay marriage

I watched news reports of a Senate hearing debating Senator Warren Newby’s motion on family issues. Senator Basil Waite in his contribution was suggesting that we define and legislate the nation’s “preferred family options” to prevent homosexual unions from being so defined.
What Senator Waite seems to be doing is taking the ‘boom bye bye’ culture of the dancehall and ‘senatising’ it.

Choice
Families are created due to the choice of individuals, and no amount of legislation can change that.
People cohabiting and dedicated to the (emotional, financial, etc) happiness of each other are a family, whether you choose to call them so or not. To suggest that the time of the legislature should be spent cherry-picking preferred families is ridiculous.
Ironically, the motion was to address the breakdown of the Jamaican family structure. If someone was mischievous, they could argue that the traditional family type can’t be all that great if it is prone to such failure.

Matchmaking
But, seriously, government ought not to get into the matchmaking business. There are too many real issues to be tackled for us to be wasting time on fluff.
And Senator Waite, if you are against gay marriage, here is a simple solution: The next time you are proposed to by a gay man, just say no.

– Oliver Hunter, oliverhuntersurveys@yahoo.com

Gays not the real problem (Public Opinion Heightens)

Just a word: the court of public opinion is once again active with pro and cons of homosexuality here the debates are welcome.

See these two letters below and draw your own conclusions.

Gays not the real problem

The Editor, Sir:
In response to Kay Wilson’s letter, ‘No re:Gays’ (see below) I would like to say – please, grow up, get educated and enlightened. The world is moving forward, not backward. I believe there was a time when certain people thought that being black was something you could wash off with soap and water. Thankfully, we know better now. I recently qualified as a nurse, and it was through my studies that I became aware of the scientific evidence that this
genetic malfunction is expressed on the chromosome, and is the determinant factor of sexuality.

Consenting adults
But anyway, that aside, we live in a so-called civilised world, don’t we? What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their business, as long as they do not involve children or animals. The real problem in our society is not gay men, it is the misogynistic heterosexual men that we allow to use women as a public convenience, lying and cheating on us as we turn a blind eye (“It is what men do”, I hear you say); siring children hither and thither, with rampant disregard for their responsibilities and no regard for their welfare.

Think of all the gay men driven underground, hiding behind women as husbands, babyfathers, lovers, and you will realise it is people like you who are causing the time bomb called AIDS that is about to engulf Jamaica anytime soon.

I am, etc.,
J. BERNARD
jamal@hotmail.com
Via Go-Jamaica


(original letter)
No re gays
Time for change re gays?

Absolutely NOT. Being of colour is not a choice, Being gay IS. The Bible says it is an abomination to God, and NO homosexual will be in heaven. That IS biblical. Lev. 2: 20 & Lev. 20:13, and there are many more texts. We should love them, yes, they are God’s children. However, we should not encourage them by accepting their behaviour. Their lifestyle is repulsive. We are in the last days and Jesus will be returning soon. Let’s encourage them to prepare for this great day. God bless you and my country that I love so very much.

Kay Wilson
kaylove072000@yahoo.com
Via Go-Jamaica

Confusing justice with righteousness (Gleaner Letter 29.10.08)

 

wait a minute who does Rev Al Miller thinks he is? In the same breath read this letter to the editor in the Gleaner.

Confusing justice with righteousness
published: Wednesday October 29, 2008

The Editor, Sir:
I write this letter in reaction to the letter submitted by Lucius C. White on Saturday, 25th of October. Mr White asserted that Christianity and the Jamaican legal system should be considered as one. This argument is laughable and needs to be addressed.
The notion of a legal system so heavily based on a religion is ill-thoughtout. Such a system is constantly at risk of confusing justice with religious righteousness. Thus, the legal system suggested by Mr White is radically dangerous to a democratic state such as Jamaica. This is evident as Mr White states: “Christians are instructed to obey the laws of the land; however, if those laws conflict with Christian teachings, they should obey the teachings of Christ.” Mr White’s tone is authoritative and ignorant as well as inducing anarchy. Mr White suggests his obviously devout interpretation of Christianity as a greater law than the one proposed by a democratically elected government. Such ‘interpretation’ of religion is clearly dangerous to the general population of a country. This was shown recently in the Indian state of Orissa where Hindu radicals, who held their interpretation of religion over the state’s law, slaughtered Christian citizens. This crime was committed in a state where the constitution also ‘makes provisions for the accommodation of all other religions’. In this instance, utter devotion to religion has confused justice: the same devotion suggested by Mr White.

Radical devotion
The audacity and radical devotion to his religion is apparent within the wording of his letter. He states: “The Christian teachings encompass several very important doctrines”. The sentence holds within it an intolerance which is exhibited as Mr White attaches the word ‘the’ to Christian teachings. Surely, he has no grounds to state that his interpretation of Christianity is ultimate and absolute, as implied by the ‘the’ he attaches to it.
The perilous attitude apparent in the wording of his letter is once more present in his final paragraph: “We must stand firm in our opposition to the legislation of abortion and homosexuality in our society because both practices are contrary to our Christian teachings and culture.” Not only does this comment seem to legitimise murders carried out by the public due to personal decisions of victims, but it conflicts with the Jamaican Constitution: “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence and other means of commu-nication.” Ironically, Mr White refers to the Jamaican Constitution himself; surely, a contradictory act.

Secular judiciary system
Thus, I call for a secular judiciary system: one devoid of a religious leaning. Otherwise, we risk living within a radical state run by religious extremism. Such a state as this was recently defunct: the Taliban-headed Afghanistan. Should Jamaicans wish to avoid the fate suffered by Afghanistan, then a secular law is necessary.

I am, etc.,
FREDDIE PRAGNELL
Kingston 8

Interesting Letter to the Gleaner’s Editor – Misreading Human Behaviour

A letter published in your Saturday Gleaner, on October 18, edition signed by S. Richards, took issue with the suggestion by a United Kingdom government minister that discrimination against gays should be halted as part of the efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The writer, I believe, is correct to suggest that a false “health link” argument is being used as the plank to end “discrimi-nation”. The writer went off the rails, however, with two other subsequent points.

Higher health risks

First, the health authorities do suggest and have emphasised that anal sexual activity carries higher health risks and so should be avoided or mitigated by the use of condoms.

I don’t know if reader S. Richards is so naive as to believe, however, that this kind of activity is exclusively male/male. The influence of pornography has presented this as an acceptable activity for men and women to engage in and anecdotal stories suggest that it does take place among heterosexual couples and may even be increasing as a practice.

Usefulness of the buggery law

Therefore, the second point made in the writer’s letter about the usefulness of the buggery law is irrelevant. Does the buggery law apply to a man engaging in anal sex with his female partner? If so, when has this ever been enforced? And if not, then there is discrimination against men and is, therefore, gender-biased. Also, the existence of the law, by itself, has not stopped people from engaging in their ‘kinky’ activities, whatever the law says.

People often know or suspect their behaviour and, apart from snide comments or the some-times derogatory remarks, for the most part, let them be. And that is how it should be. People should not be excluded from jobs or denied access to health care (if that is happening) because of what they do in the privacy of their homes as consenting adults. Where they are violating moral laws, God will deal with them in His own way, as He does with others who violate His many other strictures.

I am, etc.,

CHAD BARNSWELL

barnswellc@yahoo.co.uk

Kingston

SEE THE ORIGINAL LETTER HERE by Shirley Richards of The Anti Gay Group Lawyers’ Christian Fellowhsip or

Another view of reaction to gays
published: Saturday | October 18, 2008

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I write regarding the news item in Tuesdays Gleaner, under the heading, ‘Stop discriminating against gays’.

As you reported the story, this was a call made by a United Kingdom minister of trade and development and was made as a part of discussions regarding the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Caribbean.

If the eating of oranges was thought to be the most dangerous activity where malaria or any other infectious disease was concerned, would there be any outcry about the banning of oranges?

Three local health consultants have confirmed, in response to questions posed by the writer hereof, that anal sexual activity is the most dangerous type of sexual activity where sexually transmitted infections are concerned.

In view of the problems with HIV/AIDS, why have our local health officials not warned the population about the dangers of engaging in anal sexual activity?

Standards

Where allegations of discrimination are concerned, the fact is that the law judges behaviour, which is either detrimental to individuals or to the society as a whole. Thus, standards are set, based not on the thoughts or desires of the individual but on the behaviour of the particular individual.

Maybe then, standards and criteria, generally, could be said to be discriminatory in nature. Amazingly, one would have thought that the HIV/AIDS epidemic would have made us glad that we have the buggery law in place! Instead, we are being hoodwinked into thinking to the contrary! Don’t be fooled, Jamaica, it’s the same argument under a different disguise!

I am, etc.,

S. RICHARDS

Also SEE ‘Stop discriminating against gays’

 

 

‘Stop discriminating against gays’
published: Tuesday | October 14, 2008


Gareth Thomas, minister of state for trade and development, United Kingdom. – Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer

A BRITISH government minister wants Jamaica and other Caribbean countries to stop discriminating against homosexuals.

Gareth Thomas, United Kingdom’s minister of state for trade and development, made the call yesterday while discussing the impact of HIV/AIDS on Caribbean economies.

“That discrimination is undermining the fight against HIV,” he charged at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, noting that about 250,000 people across the region have been infected with the virus.

Thomas was speaking at the launch of the Department for International Development Caribbean Regional Development Strategy.

He called for regional govern-ments to challenge discrimination against gays.

Thomas said the Caribbean with the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS infections has been dealt an economic burden because of the prevalence of the virus.

In May, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, responding to questions on BBC’s talk show ‘HARDtalk’, said he would not be pressured by outsiders to recognise homosexual rights.

Attitude changing

Pressed by the host of the show, Stephen Sackur, to declare whether gays would be included in his Cabinet, Golding said: “Sure they can be in the Cabinet – but not mine!”

Despite a strong resentment to homosexual lifestyle in Jamaica and the Caribbean, Grenadian sociologist Claude Douglas, in a recent interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation, argued that the region’s attitude to homosexuality was changing

Peace.

Don’t dis’ human rights

Garth Rattray
Ever since the Govern-ment was pressured into ramping up the fight on crime, several human rights organisations and interests have become hyper-vigilant. And, almost stride for stride, people critical of these groups have kept pace by openly ‘dissing’ (disrespecting) their efforts.
Anyone sensitive to human- rights issues and to the dangers of instituting draconian legislation will understand how they can impact negatively on all our lives – especially on the lives of our many innocent, poor and disenfranchised Jamaicans.
People who are quick to agree with rounding up and detaining any and all suspects within certain areas have no concept of what it’s like to live in fear of starvation, fear of the criminals and fear of the police.
Those that profess to be ready and willing to give up their civil rights, albeit in this time of rampant criminality, are probably severely myopic.
Loved ones could be victims

I sometimes wonder if they don’t realise that they or their loved ones could be caught up in some operation and thrown in a congested, dungeon-like cell for a long period of time.
Some of the proposed ‘cures’ (severe legal measures) may turn out to be worse than the ‘disease’ (crime status). And, some of the ‘cures’ may actually cause more ‘disease’.
Incarcerating innocent suspects in literal hell holes (our horrendously overcrowded, dark, hot, stink and unhygienic lock-ups) with hardened criminals may cause so much distress and frustration in at-risk youth that it can induce them to hate and distrust the police and society.
Some will end up thinking that they might as well take the path of least resistance and engage in criminal activities (since they are already being perceived and treated as such).
Human-rights groups have been vilified by some for attempting to remind this administration that, in spite of our many murders and threat of anarchy, we are still a functioning democracy with entrenched citizens’ rights.
For their (limited) success in modifying the proposed anti-crime measures, they have been chided, called ‘soft on criminals’, ‘silly’, ‘out of touch’ and accused of wanting to use powder puffs to engage the criminals.

Shotgun anti-crime methods
Governments have been known to use ‘shotgun’ (blunderbuss) anti-crime methods in the past. Such strong anti-crime measures (including mandatory sentencing, indefinite detentions, various special ‘jump-out’ squads and a prolonged state of emergency) failed to curb criminality. Instead, they produced a hardier breed of criminals and a police force that depended heavily on intimidation and brute force. The present proposed measures are more oppressive than they are suppressive.
These measures open the door for anyone to be denied their civil rights. For certain offences, our judges will effectively be no more than figureheads, puppets, automatons and referees.
By their very nature, human rights groups have no political agenda – they are the only real protection that we have against a desperate and sometimes misdirected administration.
We badly need our human-rights groups because there must be balance in society. Our oldest and premier human-rights organisation, the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, not only defends the rights of suspected, accused and convicted individuals to fair and humane treatment, it also defends the rights of victims.
It not only has programmes in our (so-called) correctional institutions, it also has school programmes and teaches courses at the Police Training School.
Everyone is at risk for arbitrary arrest, prolonged incarceration and inhumane treatment. If any one person is denied his or her human rights, then we are all denied ours. No well-thinking individual should dis’ human-rights organisations.
Dr Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice;

email: garthrattray@gmail.com;
for feedback: columns@gleanerjm.com