Pastor of the Cornerstone Ministries, Davis John, has condemned government’s planned proposal to subject Marriage Officers to paying a license fee.
Minister of Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre, told the local media that a recommendation of imposing a registration fee on persons seeking to become a Marriage Officer was made to the Keith Mitchell-led Administration by a sub-committee that was established to review the granting of marriage licenses to Church Officials.
Minister Pierre said that recommendation was supported by all of the Representatives of the Religious Bodies.
The senior Government Minister said that apart from reporting to Cabinet, the committee had also informed the Heads of Churches across the State whom had endorsed all the recommendations.
She disclosed that the Churches were also very supportive of the move being made by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to “put some order in terms of how we do what we do.”
However, in an exclusive interview with The New Today Newspaper, Pastor John spoke of not being aware of the Churches supporting that recommendation.
“They (government) said they have a committee… they have Representatives from the Church, I’ve never heard of it until I heard the Minister (of Religious Affairs),” he said.
“This so-call, they have a committee, and the Church is represented, I don’t buy that,” he added.
Pastor John told this newspaper that as a member of the Evangelical Association, he knows nothing about the Church recommending the imposition of a license fee on Marriage Officers.
“Normally, when they (the Evangelical Association) have things like that, they will call a meeting and they will send a Rep, and they will inform us,” he remarked.
Pastor John believes if that recommendation is put forward to the Churches, they will voice their strong opposition to it.
The Cleric said he has been a Marriage Officer for 25 years, and has never had to pay anything to perform those duties.
He said conducting a marriage is a service the Pastors are providing to people on behalf of the State, and he cannot see how the Churches will subject itself to being taxed.
The religious figure noted that traditionally, it is in the Laws of Grenada that the Church be exempted from paying taxes including property tax.
He views the move as another attempt being made by the cash-strapped Mitchell Government to get money for its Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) done with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“We don’t have a tradition of (Church) Ministers paying anything to obtain the marriage license or to retain it,” he said.
According to Pastor John, the Church should be respected and be viewed as God’s anointed property.
He said it is not good for government “reaching its hands in the coffers of the Church and taking.”
Two of the other recommendations are that Marriage Officers should be appointed for five years, and not lifetime as now obtained, and that the appointment of Ministers who are not residing in the State as Marriage Officers be discontinued.