April 22, 2016
A prominent religious leader yesterday criticized the move by a group of pastors to launch a campaign against the fourth question in the June 7 gender equality referendum.
"I cry shame on pastors and leaders who politicize everything and take away from the effectiveness of what we ought to be doing as a nation," Rev. Dr. Philip McPhee told The Nassau Guardian when contacted for comment.
He also said, "These men are supposed to be religious leaders who have a connection with God through the Holy Spirit and it's puzzling to me how these same men could get on their pulpit and say [certain things] and it is not endorsed by the government nor by the majority of the church leaders in this country."
The pastors who formed the Save Our Bahamas vote no committee said they are against bill four -- which would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against someone based on sex -- because they believe it would pave the way for same-sex marriage.
The bill defines "sex" as being male or female, but the pastors say that does not go far enough.
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).
Save Our Bahamas is 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 believe that question four as is has the potential to sink the entire referendum effort.
McPhee said he fully supports all of the bills and has encouraged his congregation at Mount Calvary Baptist Cathedral to do the same.
"I believe that it's important that this country recognizes the importance of [bill number four] in terms of giving equal opportunities and rights to both [females and males] in our country," he said.
"I think we are way overdue... as a nation who speaks about equality and fairness and openness to be a part of bringing about equality for both sexes, so I support it and I have asked my church to support it, and I've asked those around me to give their support..."
McPhee also stressed the importance of the other three bills, which he claims aren't getting the support and attention that they should because they are being overshadowed by the controversy surrounding bill number four.
Bill one seeks to enable a child born outside The Bahamas to become a citizen at birth if either his or her mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.
Bill two seeks to enable a foreign man married to a Bahamian woman to secure the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a foreign woman married to a Bahamian man enjoys.
Bill three would allow an unmarried Bahamian man to pass on his citizenship to his child born to a foreign mother in The Bahamas subject to legal proof that he is the father.
McPhee applauded Prime Minister Perry Christie and Leader of the Official Opposition Dr. Hubert Minnis for "coming together at a crucial time to show the world that equality must be given to both sexes".
Seeking to address concerns some people have with question four, 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.
"I am going to emphasize that in The Bahamas, by law -- under the Matrimonial Causes Act -- marriage must be between a man and a woman, and this amendment will not change that," he said. "In fact, the lawyers who drafted the language of the amendment went out of their way to protect traditional marriage, by defining 'sex' as meaning 'male or female'.
"The language is clear, and the intent of Parliament -- which any future court is likewise obliged to consider -- is also crystal clear.
"And I am advised that there have been no cases in Commonwealth countries like ours, with a Westminster-style constitution, in which the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex led to a judicially created right to same-sex marriage."
McPhee said yesterday he does not understand the logic of those opposing the fourth question.
"Women who are in these churches where the pastors are saying no should really re-evaluate their commitment to those churches," he added.
"Jesus himself gives liberty... to women."
Guardian Staff Reporter
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