Government seeks to tackle religious sharks

Minister of Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre advocates the protection of citizens against exploitation in the form of religion

Minister of Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre advocates the protection of citizens against exploitation in the form of religion

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s is concerned about the abuse of the Grenadian market including citizens in the name of religion, according to Minister of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre.

Addressing the local media at the post-Cabinet press briefing on Tuesday, Minister Pierre said that some set criteria must be put in place to determine if an entity can be called a church in order to qualify for assistance from the State.

“There must be some kind of standards that are recognised by the State. We are not saying that anybody, anywhere, cannot start a church – anybody can, they can call it whatever, they can have it wherever, that is people’s right but within Government there are certain concessions that are afforded to the religious sector, to our churches whether it be concession of vehicle, whether it be work permit, exemptions and so on – we are saying if we have to continue providing those, it must be within some limit,” she told reporters.

According to Minister Pierre, a sub-committee has been set up to handle some of the issues of concern and already a number of recommendations have been made to Cabinet for consideration especially the granting of marriage license and the establishment of churches in Grenada.

“We are also very supportive of the move by the Ministry to basically … put some order into how we do what we do”, she said.

“I do not want to go back into the details of this but you would recall (in my) last budget presentation, I did raise some concerns on behalf of the Ministry of persons who may be conducting Marriage ceremonies without the appropriate license to do so and that we would
have had cases of persons who actually would have thought that they were legally married based on what the law is asking and turns up at the Registry either for certificate or otherwise and to find out that it was not documented because of the way it was done,” she added.

The senior government minister pointed out that the recommendations, which are being reviewed, were endorsed by the leadership of churches in Grenada and explained to some of them.

“The appointment of Ministers who are not residing in Grenada as Marriage officers must be discontinued; meaning that a Pastor who shows up from the United States or wherever and claims to be a Marriage Officer and seeks to perform a marriage ceremony in Grenada, must not be allowed to sign official documents but a residing Marriage Officer be allowed to do so even if the visiting Minister must be allowed to conduct the marriage ceremony.

“…The registration of religious organisations should involve a minimum number of members, minimum period of present and procedural conditions as well as minimum discretion by the state. In other words if the Government is to recognise you as a church operating in Grenada, there must be standards, there must be conditions.

“…We are not saying that anyone with two persons, three persons wishing to operate a church in Grenada is not free to do so because we still practice religious freedom. What we are saying – if you are to benefit from whatever benefits that are available for religious organisations in Grenada, there must be some criteria.

Minister Pierre said Government is putting structures in place to guide what happens in the name of religion in the country as the State has a responsibility to protect citizens and the religious sector.

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