Palacious: Referendum hard to call

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April 19, 2016

Archdeacon James Palacious said yesterday that with the religious community "very divided" on the gender equality referendum, it is difficult to predict whether the June 7 vote will be successful despite the government's bipartisan approach.

Palacious, who was contacted for comment, expressed support for all four bills and said he has no concerns that bill number four would open the doors to same-sex marriage.

He is among several pastors who have already expressed similar support.

"You have a religious group or some religious leaders and they are men of influence of their congregations and even beyond," Palacious said.

"It is hard to say what kind of influence and whether their influence would trump the influence of say other prominent religious leaders, who have bigger followings, quite frankly.

"We'll have to see. It is hard to say."

Several pastors who led the "Vote No" campaign ahead of the 2013 gambling referendum announced the formation of a similar group called "Save Our Bahamas" over the weekend.

They are urging Bahamians to reject the fourth question, a constitutional amendment which would prohibit discrimination based on sex -- defined as "male or female".

The group is being led by Pastor Mario Moxey of Bahamas Harvest Church, Pastor Lyall Bethel of Grace Community Church, Rev. Alfred Stewart of New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church and popular talk show host Kevin "Minister K" Harris.

The pastors are lobbying for a fifth bill, which would provide for a constitutional provision defining marriage as being between a man (who was born male) and a woman (who was born female).

Seeking to address concerns some people have with question four, Prime Minister Perry Christie said during the launch of the "YES Bahamas" campaign last week that the purpose of this amendment is only to ensure that Bahamian men and women are equal under the law.

Palacious said another challenge to the success of the referendum is the "betrayal" of the gambling referendum.

He said many people who voted "no" have lost trust in the government despite the June 7 referendum being binding.

"The religious community almost spoke with one accord last time in voting no against the gaming referendum," Palacious said. "This time we are obviously very divided as will be seen tomorrow (Tuesday) in the press conference."

Several prominent religious leaders, including Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder and Bishop Neil Ellis of Mount Tabor Full Gospel, are expected to attend.

In 2013, the majority of people who voted in the gambling referendum voted no to the regulation of web shops and the establishment of a national lottery.

The government ignored the will of the people in that referendum and regulated web shops anyway.

Palacious said Bahamians understand the difference between the upcoming binding referendum and the gambling referendum, but they remain bitter.

"That's having tremendous impact," he said. "His repudiation of the will of the people, they just don't trust you.

"Additionally, the people who say these are the same fellows who could not answer those same questions in 2002, all of a sudden 14 years later they can answer it.

"Then of course, the voices of the church."

Palacious also said Bahamians dissatisfied with the government have a tendency to vote "no" to anything it proposes.

He encouraged people not to take that approach.

Save Our Bahamas will urge people to vote their conscience on the other three questions, according to the pastors.

Royston Jones Jr.

Guardian Staff Reporter

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News date : 04/19/2016    Category : Nassau Guardian Stories

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