By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas Christian Council is unlikely to boycott the constitutional referendum or to encourage Christians to say no to proposed constitutional amendments, BCC Acting President Archdeacon James Palacious told The Tribune yesterday.
After the government chose to ignore the results of last year’s gaming referendum, some disappointed BCC members, including President Rev Ranford Patterson, said they would not support another referendum called by the Christie administration.
Nonetheless, Archdeacon Palacious said that encouraging churchgoers to boycott the referendum would be an “untenable” action by church leaders whose members he noted are predominantly women and would want to see discrimination against them removed from the Constitution.
“There should be no law that does not give women constitutionally equal rights to men,” Archdeacon Palacious said. “That’s my position and I do believe that is the position of the Bahamas Christian Council.
“We were always in agreement with that. God doesn’t make second class citizens and no law in any land where women pay taxes should treat them in a discriminatory way. How can you say ‘Daughter, you don’t have the same rights as your brother?’ I think that fundamentally wrong and flawed.”
As for whether the church, still disappointed by the government’s decision to regulate the web shop industry, will support a “yes” vote for the Constitutional referendum, he said: “I don’t know what (Rev Patterson’s) position would be with respect to supporting the (vote), but I would say he was disappointed as many people were that a referendum (costing) over $1 million was not binding. This, however, is not a moral or ethical issue in the way the other one was perceived to be by the church. It’s more clear-cut. I doubt the church will boycott this referendum (because) 77 per cent of the church are women and you going to talk foolishness? That would put us in an untenable place. A change is long overdue.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie introduced four bills in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that, once passed, will lead to a referendum to amend the Constitution.
The first bill would allow a child born outside of the Bahamas to a Bahamian mother and a non-Bahamian father to have citizenship; bill two would allow a foreign man married to a Bahamian woman to seek Bahamian citizenship; bill three would allow an unmarried Bahamian father to pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign mother while bill four would end discrimination in the constitution based on sex.
The referendum is slated for November 6.
In 2002, the Ingraham administration held a referendum which, among other things, addressed the issues of gender inequality in the Constitution.
However in that poll 64 per cent of Bahamians voted “no” to removing discrimination against women, their children and spouses from the Constitution.
The Church’s position on the referendum was mixed at the time. The Methodist Church of the Bahamas urged its members to support the 2002 amendments while the Catholic Church said the changes would improve the quality of lives for Bahamians.
However, then BCC President Bishop Samuel Green said the Council would not support the proposed amendments because it felt the referendum was being held without engaging Bahamians in widespread public discussion and debate.
Archdeacon Palacious yesterday said he doesn’t believe the upcoming referendum will be rejected like the proposed amendments were in 2002.
“A lot of anger existed in the county at the FNM in 2002 and for all kinds of reasons people threw out the baby with the bath water,” he said. “If Hubert Ingraham had told people that Jesus died for them, some of them wouldn’t have believed it.”
Nonetheless, Archdeacon Palacious said more “fundamental” issues than gender discrimination in the Constitution needs to be addressed in this country, though he did not specify what those issues are.
He said he believes the Christie administration is using the constitutional referendum to “save face,” adding that the passing of something so “obviously necessary” would enable the government to finally claim that it has conducted a successful referendum.