NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Mount Tabor Church Senior Pastor Bishop Neil Ellis yesterday said he was referring to a senior civil servant and not the prime minister when he spoke about the religious belief of an official during a fiery sermon.
On Sunday, Ellis gave a scathing rebuke of the Minnis-led administration as he expressed opposition to the extension of the emergency powers orders for another month.
The sermon was widely circulated on social media, with many people criticizing Ellis’ comments against the prime minister.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Ellis said: “I was very disappointed to learn that my remarks made in that regard were attributed to the prime minister and for that I deeply regret because I know the prime minister personally.
“I know of his commitment to and his love for the Catholic church. I know his involvement with the work, I know his relationship with the bishop and so definitely those remarks were not attributed to him.
“I also know of a senior civil servant who has said to me personally and who has said publicly that he does not believe in God, and that’s where those remarks were attributed.”
Ellis noted that he made the comment while he was talking about The Bahamas’ economy, noting that the country must be very careful, especially when the person sitting in the chair does not believe in God.
Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson has publicly stated that he is an atheist.
Following the sermon, Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer said he was baffled by Ellis’ speech and blasted Ellis for what he said was a ‘nasty political attack’ on the prime minister, adding that Minnis is a Christian and member of the Catholic community.
But Ellis maintained that this was a misinterpretation and apologized to the prime minister for the mixup.
“I deeply regret that those remarks were attributed to him otherwise, but that is not where those remarks were directed and I want to say to him I’m sorry they pulled him into that and I deeply regret that and If I’ve caused any kind of harm or bad feelings on his behalf, that’s our prime minister and I would be the first to apologize for that misinterpretation,” he said.
“These things can always be misinterpreted. If they were interpreted in that manner, I’m bringing you the clarification as to what I meant, who the remarks were attributed to, but the big thing here is they were not attributed to our prime minister who I know to be a devout Catholic here in The Bahamas.”
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell also chimed in on the issue, calling Culmer’s tone and tenor of Culmer’s comments “disrespectful and deplorable”.
“The FNM Chairman should apologize,” Mitchell said.
“Right thinking Bahamians understand that we live in a democracy, one central feature of which is civil discourse.
“The comments of the bishop were directed at the state of our democracy and the fact that a case has not been made for extending the state of public emergency and delegating power to one person alone.
“These are salient points to be raised in a civil discourse in a democracy.”