Bishop Delton Fernander, President of the Christian Council. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By Natario McKenzie
Tribune Business Reporter
CHURCH leaders will “wait to see” if the Government changes the Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) Bill to address their concerns, adding: “We’ve made our case.”
Bishop Delton Fernander, head of the Christian Council, told Tribune Business that church leaders had met with the Attorney General, Carl Bethel QC, over their concerns but did not wish to disclose details given that he recently accused Civil Society Bahamas (CSB) of divulging confidential information and trying to force the Government’s hand.
“We met with the Attorney General. We had our lawyers put our case forward, citing jurisdictions,” said Bishop Fernander. “We will wait and see what the new bill looks like and make our position known from there.
“We are at the point now where we have made our case from a legal perspective. We’re just waiting to see what the new bill looks like, if it takes into consideration what we proposed or not. Then, if it does or doesn’t, we will make our position very clear.”
Mr Bethel previously told Tribune Business that the Christian Council and Bahamian churches were seeking “a complete exemption” from the Non-Profit Organisations Bill and its provisions, despite his agreement to make the legislation less onerous and “more user friendly”.
He said they cited one other jurisdiction that had developed a law exempting the church from such regulation, arguing that it had established a precedent to justify their demands.
Mr Bethel, though, described the church’s viewpoint as an “unsustainable position”, adding that the information he possessed contradicted their assertions. While agreeing that one country had drafted such a law, he added that it never been brought to Parliament or passed on to the statute book.
Bishop Walter S Hanchell, head of Great Commission Ministries and Citizens for Justice, recently expressed fears that the Bill “will allow the Government to control churches”.
Arguing that Bahamian sovereignty was again being undermined, he said in a statement: “Non-profit organisations exist not for the benefit of the organisations or their staff but entirely for the benefit of the community which they serve.” The Bill is now expected to be debated in the Senate some time in January 2019 to allow for the re-drafting.