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All are not equal in Pastor Moss’ eyes

Published: Aug 10, 2017

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Dear Editor,


I think the good Pastor Cedric Moss needs to be reminded that we are a secular state that separates the affairs of Caesar from the affairs of God. The Constitution does not, however, preclude voluntary collaboration between church and state for the common good, such as in state support for schools operated by religious groups.

The preamble to the Constitution recognizes our abiding respect for Christian values, while making it crystal clear in Article 22 that Bahamians have a right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

Because he is a man of God, I have no problem with Pastor Moss defending his territory and holding firm to his religion’s teachings on marriage. He would know, however, that while his church gives him the right to perform marriages, if the celebrants want to have their marriage legally recognized, he must be a state-licensed marriage officer and they must first apply to the government for a marriage licence.

The Pastor conveniently forgets that marriages and civil unions are legal contracts. The state gives many people the right to enter them and like any other civil contract only a judge can dissolve them. You can go to your pastor for marriage counseling but you must ask a judge to get a divorce.

If Pastor Moss acknowledges these facts then he would quickly see that his objection to a recent newspaper editorial on civil unions was an empty sermon.

The law does not require ministers of religion to marry anyone who does not hold to the tenets of their church. But the same law seems to imply that a judge or magistrate or duly constituted marriage officer has no “moral exemption” escape and therefore must marry anyone who presents a licence.

In my humble opinion, the editorial took a very humanistic approach to the constitutionally-guaranteed right of every citizen to associate with whomever they please. The Pastor tries the cheap shot about incestuous gay marriage but we need remind him that we already have laws about incest and exploitation of minors.

What many people forget is that as with any contract there are rights and privileges, financial obligations and penalties that automatically come with civil unions and marriages.

The law even recognizes sui juris or common law marriage, something that dates back to ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. Back then marriages were private agreements between individuals and their families. Neither state nor church took part in these ceremonies and there was no civil register.

Canon law gave us what we now know as marriage, albeit the common law form is still practiced all over the world today. In fact, up until this year some jurisdictions in the United States were still practicing these so-called “marriage by habit and repute”.

Marriages and civil unions continue to evolve. In England 174,600 of the 247,000 marriages performed five years ago were civil, not religious. And this is a country that has an official religion, the Church of England.

Those 349,000 people joined in civil ceremonies are as legally married as the 156,000 people who got married in churches, synagogues and mosques. The law makes no distinction and not a single pastor in England got his knickers in a twist about it.

But in the eyes of Pastor Moss and others it is anathema to even suggest civil unions. Beaming with confidence from last year’s referendum implosion, Pastor Moss wants the voters to decide on civil unions; but the rights of minorities should not be infringed, even by the majority.

If we accept, like many other democratic societies do, that marriages and civil unions are legal contracts, then surely the door is open for an aggrieved party to sue the government for the right to have her or his partnership recognized by the state.

A former Chief Justice has already hinted that this matter will eventually be dragged across the court-house door and will have to be looked at through the impartial lens of the Constitution, not the stained-glass windows of a church.

As for Pastor’s Moss’ contention that marriage is the only legitimate context for sexual relations, allow me to quote Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for you?”


– The Graduate

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