Local religious organisations have strongly condemned Humanists Barbados for urging Government to remove all references to God in local law books and scrap prayer in public schools.
The bold assertions by the group’s president Maachelle Farley to also eliminate ‘blasphemy’ as an offence have raised the ire of the faith-based community as the various entities took turns in rebuffing the declarations of the human rights body.
The Muslim community “strongly” disagreed with the suggestions made by Humanists Barbados and defended the status quo.
“There is no need to remove any reference to God in our local law books or to remove prayers from our schools. In fact, there should be a greater thrust at bringing more spirituality into our society and anchoring citizens to faith, beliefs, and spiritual moorings. This is what is most needed especially at this time when many are facing severe life challenges and are trying to cope,” Secretary of the Muslim Association of Barbados, Sulieman Bulbulia told Barbados TODAY on Thursday.
Two days ago, moments after hosting a webinar entitled Freedom of Thought in our Republic and Beyond: No Monarch, No Massa, No God, Farley called for a sharp shift away from centuries of religious principles and dogma characteristic of colonialism as the country prepares to transition from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Parliamentary Republic.
Among the suggestions from the group was the removal of all references to God in the local law books and the scrapping of all forms of prayer in public schools.
“Barbados has a secular Government and is home to diverse religious and non-religious populations. So using the term ‘God’ is divisive as it begs the question as to which religion is being referred to,” Farley said.
“It is certainly appropriate in the context of the family home, but when you have children from all walks of life, from different religions, from different families, who believe different things, how can you then expect a child who doesn’t pray at home to clasp their hands and pray to a God that they don’t know anything about,” Farley contended.
But the Muslim spokesman said: “Barbados does not impose belief in God and allows for everyone to have their own faith practices or have none if they wish. But the majority of Barbadians also recognize, as our anthem proudly proclaims, ‘the Lord has been the peoples’ guide…’ Why would we want to discard our faith in the Creator, which has been our source of strength and resilience for all these centuries?”
Bulbulia contended that religion, faith or belief in God cannot be condemned because there are individuals who “misinterpret” and choose to “misuse” Scripture to advance their own “inhumane” agendas.
He said history is replete with examples of persons who have no faith or belief in God and carry out even more “heinous crimes” against humanity than their counterparts who claim religious motivations for their “barbaric” actions.
“As Barbados moves to become a Republic we recognize all persons who have contributed to the development of our country and continue to contribute. And we must recognize that our faith communities have contributed significantly to the development of our nation and its peoples. To cherry-pick from our colonizers and enslavers to condemn religions is a flawed argument. The enslaved were people of faith and spirituality of varying backgrounds,” he added.
At the same time, Bulbulia agreed that Barbadians must condemn all forms of injustice and inhumane behaviour and seek to rid the country of them in a united way as people of faith or no faith.
The Barbados Evangelical Association (BEA) offered a swift response, arguing that any attempt to dialogue with the humanists would be a waste of time “since we begin our respective positions from two opposing premises”.
BEA Vice President Dr Winston Clarke noted: “Increasing secularism has been, to some extent, responsible for the decadence in our society. It is the voices of the secularists which have been loudest in relatively recent times. Secularism prevents the values which assist in the reinforcement of many of our social norms, dulls the conscience of some persons, increases a sense of hopelessness in challenging circumstances and points to the depravity of humanity,” Dr Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
While conceding that people are free to have their views, the spokesman for evangelicals across Barbados insisted: “The Christian religion has as its foundation in faith – belief, assent and appropriation. When we believe that we are who we are because of He in whom we believe, belief becomes a conviction because it is experiential,” he concluded.
Outspoken founder of Mount Zion’s Missions Inc Barbados, Rev Dr Lucille Baird has appealed to the Christian community to boycott the radio call-in show, Down To Brass Tacks when political scientist Peter Wickham is moderating.
Wickham, who has declared that he is an unbeliever, also addressed Tuesday’s webinar and questioned the relevance of God in a secular arrangement as Barbados transitions to republican status.
The pollster declared that the title of the webinar was most appropriate, contending that the country’s linkages to the concept of God are generally tied to a history of colonialism and slavery.
“I ask the Christian community of Barbados to boycott Brass Tacks when Wickham is on. I further hope that this Government is not taking advice from these “godless” humanists. I make reference to the USA and their removal of God and prayers from the schools. The end results are that we now have multiple assassins in the classrooms,” Rev Baird stated.
“The fool hath said in his heart, that there is no God. When the fool chooses to open his mouth and verbalize it, he is demonstrating that he is a ‘double fool’. I do believe that these immoral, Godless humanists are undermining the moral fabric of our country,” the church leader told Barbados TODAY.
She also suggested that the humanists are going to negatively impact the vulnerable youth in the most destructive manner.
“To remove God from the National Anthem and our lives is to court destruction. These Godless humanists didn’t just happen overnight. They were here among us covertly operating and influencing individuals. There may be significant damage done to our morals, values and to our Christian culture already,” Rev Baird suggested. [email protected]