Rights Bahamas defends freedom of assembly

Rights Bahamas defends freedom of assembly

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Rights Bahamas yesterday underscored the irony of the Bahamas Christian Council’s announcement that it will mount a campaign against Pride Bahamas 2020.

The group said it welcomed the council’s rights to freedom of assembly, but noted it was sad the demonstration was to demand that the same right was denied to others.

RB further pledged to forcefully oppose any instances of hate speech, intimidation or incitement to violence.

“Bigoted and intolerant though their views may be in the eyes of many, the pastors have a constitutional right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, just like everyone else,” read an RB statement.

“Rights Bahamas celebrates all instances when individuals and groups take advantage of their rights.”

“Sadly, and quite ironically, the very point and purpose of the Christian Council’s demonstration appears to be a demand that the very same rights they seek to make use of are denied to others. In addition, the rather aggressive and extreme rhetoric that has accompanied this announcement, talk of fighting “the forces of evil” and the destruction of “Sodom and Gomorrah” are in our view, a cause for grave concern and could even lead to violence.”

BCC President Bishop Delton Fernander announced the council will mount a series of events opposing the Bahamas Pride celebrations slated for October 2020.

Fernander said yesterday the church must stand up and ring the bell against the celebration of something that contravenes the word of God.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, he said the church will also call upon its global colleagues to “stand against Sodom and Gomorrah”, noting pride organizers are collaborating with international partners.

In response, Bahamas Pride spokesperson Alexus D’Marco accused the council of seeking to misrepresent the LGBT community and its movement.

D’Marco said at the heart of this movement are discussions around how the country can respect, tolerate and include LGBTI Bahamians.

Yesterday, RB stressed any attempt to bully the LGBTQ community into forgoing its rights will be opposed locally, internationally and through the courts if necessary.

“We respectfully remind the pastors that while the universal rights they seek to withhold from others are enshrined in the Constitution, the BCC itself is not,” the statement continued.

“In fact, it has no standing in the eyes of the law whatsoever and no official say in what happens in the Bahamas – welcome though it may be to its opinion.

“We find it further necessary to comment on BCC President Delton Fernander’s suggestion – relying on the wording of the Preamble – that a Pride Bahamas Parade would violate the Constitution. While the reference he alludes to speaks only generally to an “abiding respect for Christian values”, it does not mandate or prohibit any specific actions or behaviour, nor does it even give a definition of this rather amorphous phrase.

“Different denominations promote different values, and several Christian churches now appoint LGBTQ pastors and conduct same sex marriages.”

The RB statement continued: “On the other hand, the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression which the organisers of Pride Bahamas wish to take advantage of, are concretely and explicitly defined in the Constitution. They are also explicitly protected, with violations thereof attracting clear penalties. If the BCC remains unsure of the distinction, they are welcome to test it in court.”

RB warned the council to be mindul of its messaging to the public, and by extention the international organisations that are currently in the Bahamas providing millions of dollars in Hurricane Dorian Relief aid.

“The proliferation of intolerance, discrimination, and selective Christian doctrine can only serve to embarrass the country on the world stage.”

The statement added: “Bishop Fernander has said that he is mobilising his international contacts to assist in the BCC’s bid to block Pride Bahamas 2020. He may rest assured that the forces of fairness, tolerance, open-mindedness and justice are doing the same.”