Head of the Presbyterian Church in Grenada, Dr. Osbert James has said that he does not see homosexual practice as being a criminal act.
Dr. James made the statement while participating in a Town Hall Meeting last week Saturday at the Grenada National Stadium.
He was speaking on the topic: “Is Christianity a Gospel of inclusion?” which looked at the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
“Our argument is that homosexual practice though in our view is immoral, it is not criminal”, he told the gathering.
“It is not inconsistent if some of us, while advocating for the decriminalisation of sex between two consenting adults, while at the same time would refer to homosexual practice as something prohibited in scripture,” he said.
The Presbyterian Minister noted that the denominations of the church in North America with which they have fraternal relationships, including the United Church of Canada for a number of years have been pushing for gay rights, and have gay ministers, and recently made it possible for gays to be married.
However, he said the Presbyterian Church in Grenada is a fully autonomous body and its practices will, to a large degree, reflect the religious culture or context in which it is operating.
He told the audience that when he came out in defense of Senator Chester Humphrey, an avowed communist and atheist being elected to the post of President of the Senate last year, his views were informed by his religious heritage.
The local Religious Minister said his theology is essentially a relational one, and founded in an understanding of love as a pre-eminent impulse of God, adding that the Presbyterian Church does not indoctrinate its members.
“When I speak, therefore, I express not the views of the Presbyterian Church, but my own views,” he said.
Rev. James threw his full support behind the controversial “Rights and Freedoms” Bill on the grounds that he does not see the loopholes some are claiming it has, adding that even if it did the Church and State are separate entity.
The Alliance of Evangelical Churches (AEC) has urged its members to vote “no” on the Rights Bill out of concern that persons engaged in same sex activities might seek to use it to officially formalise their relationships.
Attorney-at-law, Claudette Joseph who has been very critical of the Rights Bill, believes the legislation “opens the door” to allow for members of the LGBT Community to have certain constitutional rights.
“While I believe that the Bill opens the door for the assertion of certain rights by members of the LGBT Community, there is nothing in the Bill that gives the right to persons of the same sex to be married to each other,” she said.
According to Joseph, her main contention with the promoters of the controversial bill is that there is a tendency to highlight certain aspects of the piece of legislation and not others.
The female attorney informed the audience that the Bill does not only cover the chapter on gender equality, but three segments – the expansion and refinement of the existing “Rights and Freedoms” under the existing constitution, the directive principles of State policy, and gender equality.
She stressed that the chapter dealing with gender equality is being promoted to expand the rights of women.
“When the Bill is being promoted, the public must be given full disclosure so that when they vote they know exactly what they’re voting for. When you vote on this Bill you must know that it’s a Bill containing three chapters but you have one vote,” she said.
Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) Dr. Francis Alexis threw his support behind Rev. James on the Rights Bill..
In endorsing James presentation, Dr. Alexis said, “there is no loophole in this Bill, No.6 letting anything harmful to our society.”
The CRAC Chairman indicated that within the Bill there will be gender equality, and both men and women are entitled to equal rights and status in all spheres of life, among others.