By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
RELIGIOUS Leader Dr Myles Munroe said yesterday that while he supports the upcoming referendum on gender equality, the government should have “left the date open” and “let the people decide” when they are ready to vote rather than set a fixed date.
He suggested that early 2015 would be
a better date for the vote to give the public more time to digest the issues.
In a proposal submitted to the government and the Constitutional Commission on August 15, written by Dr Munroe and the legal team of his church Bahamas Faith Ministries, he noted that while the November 6 date for the referendum is commendable, it also creates some degree of “anxiety” for those members of the public who do not fully understand what is being proposed.
“It is important that persons can be educated without feeling that they are under the gun,” he wrote.
“We are not suggesting that the date needs to be changed, but all factors need to be considered, and if making further amendments (including those we have suggested) and changing the date will increase the probability of these bills being successfully enshrined in our Constitution, then we would recommend that the Commission and government consider the benefit of any such postponement,” Dr Munroe wrote.
Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, Dr Munroe said the referendum should have been slated for mid-2015.
“Our advice to the government, in our document we said we are not against November 6 but we are for the people understanding (the issues),” he told The Tribune. “If the people don’t understand they will decide whether it’s (the date) good or not. Maybe we should leave the date open, flexible. I would have said ‘a period of time’ if I was the prime minister, leave it open like that, that way the date could be set on how we feel the community has embraced the issue. If they did it like the end of March, the first quarter of 2015, it gives them protection. When you set a date you put your integrity and hope on the line.”
Dr Munroe said he met with the government, the Constitutional Commission and opposition Leader Dr Hubert Minnis on Saturday along with legal professionals from his church to “meticulously review” the Constitution and the proposed constitutional amendment bills to check them against his “values”.
Dr Munroe is president and founder of BFM.
In his list of recommendations, Dr Munroe suggested that the four referendum questions be simplified.
On controversial bill four, which some have suggested would lead to gay marriage, Dr Munroe suggested that “sex” be defined positively as a person who is born either male or female.
“This definition would ensure that (the Article) would not be subject to any future challenges on this ground,” he wrote.
Dr Munroe’s list of recommendations will be used as the guide by the Commission to revise the bills and referendum questions.
“We reviewed the Constitution for six hours, looked at the bills in detail and checked it against our values,” he told The Tribune. “All the bills are noble, I think they confused the people (at first) and the government didn’t do a good job in presenting those bills, the process was flawed. I think the people should decide the date. The government should not determine when I understand the bills and the questions. So the question is not if November 6 is possible, it’s if the people will understand it by November 6.
According to Dr Munroe the deputy prime minister, attorney general, chairman of the constitutional commission and heads of various churches were at last week’s meeting.
On Sunday, Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said the referendum questions have been simplified. The government is also expected to revise the constitutional amendment bills in view of recommendations and present them to Parliament soon.
The revised questions take into account concerns about bill number four and a definition of the word “sex” as male or female has been included.
Question two has also been changed to make it clearer that, under the proposed change, the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman would not receive automatic citizenship, but the right to apply subject to approval and safeguards against marriages of convenience.