Religious groups say no to sexual orientation in human rights bill

Stabroek News
July 9, 2003

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An inter-religious body, expressing what it called a united religious position on the fundamental rights bill, says it cannot in faithfulness to the word of God give moral or other support to rights to same-sex marriages or adoptions by same-sex couples. It is also calling for the “sexual orientation” category to be deleted from the grounds in the Constitutional Amend-ment Bill prohibiting discrimination against persons.

However, the body asserted it is firmly opposed to any form of discrimination, abuse or hostility towards persons of homosexual orientation. But it pointed out that “since approval of the Rights Bill in its current wording could be interpreted, as it has elsewhere, as giving these rights to homosexuals, the religious community after long and serious reflection united in concluding that `sexual orientation’ should not be included as a fundamental right in the Constitutional Amendment Bill to be reviewed once more in Parliament,” the body stated yesterday.

According to a release signed by 1st Vice-Chairperson of the Guyana Council of Churches, Rev. Roy Thakurdyal, the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) held a meeting on June 18 at the Baha’i National Centre on Charlotte Street and agreed on a statement regarding the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.5) Bill which it noted is due to be voted on in Parliament shortly.

The bill had been approved in Parliament on January 4, 2001 with the sexual orientation provision but subsequently returned by President Bharrat Jagdeo for further debate after a controversy erupted over its inclusion.

The IRO, comprising representatives of the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities, says it wants to make public its position on the Bill with specific reference to the sexual orientation clause.

The release noted that the bodies represented at the IRO meeting included the Guyana Council of Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Baha’i Community of Guyana, Guyana Islamic Forum for Education, Peace and Religious Solidarity, Adult Islamic Education, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, and Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Also present were representatives from the Maha Sabha, Guyana Maha Kali Organ-ization, Sri Satya Sai Baba Organization, Guyana Islamic Trust, Gandhi Bhavan, Cove and John Ashram, Muslim Youth League, Guyana United Sadr Islamic Anjuman, and Guyana Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishiat Islam.

According to the IRO, there is strong religious support for the passage of a Fundamental Rights Bill in Guyana which will protect the rights of all Guyanese. Its passage will signal the commitment by the country’s political parties to the spirit of the May 5 Communique between President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Robert Corbin and to the priority of the rights and interests of all Guyanese over partisan considerations.

The religious community, the release noted, in keeping with its long standing commitment to respect the rights of all Guyanese, continues to be firmly opposed to any discrimination, hostility, hatred, intolerance or uncharitableness against any person because of their sexual orientation.

“We call on all Guyanese to continue to treat each other with the mutual respect, tolerance and in the non-discriminatory manner at work and in other social spheres of which this country can be justly proud,” the IRO said.

However, the body contended, the Guyanese religious community is equally united and unanimous, based on the teachings and sacred writings of all its traditions, that “it is God’s will in his creation of humanity, that sexual intercourse, an image of God’s own power of creation, should be practiced only within the context of marriage between members of the opposite sex.”

Further, the IRO said, the religious community accepts its responsibility to give special assistance to persons who consider themselves to be irrevocably of homosexual orientation and who accept the challenge of abstinence from sexual intercourse.

Meanwhile, the release said, the IRO is urging religious groups to provide persons of homosexual orientation with an environment of compassion and love in which they can find courage to continue to make their many contributions to nation-building.

Moreover, the IRO is inviting parliamentarians to reflect on the body’s position which is “based on faith, reason and above all charity,” suggesting that that could help them arrive at similar conclusions and the decision to delete the sexual orientation category from the Constitutional Amendment Bill.