Veteran pollster and talk show host, Peter Wickham has refused to retreat into the shadows over his radical views on religion that are prompting calls for him to be sacked as a moderator on the Down to Brass Tacks call-in programme.
And, he appears to have the support of the management of the Starcom Network, whose Station Manager, Anthony Greene has expressed a commitment to the “fair and free” exchange of views on national issues.
Wickham has raised the ire of many in the public domain for supporting calls from the group Humanists Barbados for an end to prayers in school, the mention of ‘God’ in legislation, and the death penalty, as part of the new Republic.
The comments from president of the non-governmental organisation, Maachelle Farley and Wickham’s subsequent support have raised stern rebukes from Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association, Suileman Bulbulia; Vice President of the Barbados Evangelical Association (BEA), Dr Winston Clarke and outspoken Reverend Lucille Baird.
Baird even encouraged the boycotting of Down to Brass Tacks when Wickam moderates the programme, suggesting that he was a ‘double fool’ for verbalising his unbelief and expressed hope that Government was not accepting advice from persons of Wickham’s persuasions.
On the contrary, the moderator declared that the sentiments expressed, particularly those of Reverend Baird exposed a gross misunderstanding of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution of Barbados.
He however admitted that the calls for him and his views to be removed from the airwaves is not a new discussion and in the past have come from ‘silly people’ who abhor his stance on politics, his choice to be married as a gay man and/or his views on corporal punishment.
“My grandfather in the 1930s left Barbados and went into exile. I have absolutely no intention of doing that. I do live outside of Barbados for quite a bit, but I have no intention of going into exile based on the views that I hold, and I will continue to express them,” said Wickham.
“But when I hear people like Lucille Baird suggesting that I be removed because I have professed not to be a Christian or not to believe in God, I really feel that these people need to examine the concept of religious freedom.
“Barbados is not the Islamic Republic of Iran. Barbados is not the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan where Sharia Law rules. Barbados is a secular state in which people have the right to hold and express views and I think the richness of Starcom is made better by virtue of having people that have slightly different views in relation to all of these issues,” he added.
Wickham expressed particular disappointment with Bulbulia’s comments noting that the Barbadian concept of religious freedom often excludes members of the Muslim faith. In fact, he recalled that as a student at The Christ Church Foundation School, there were two boys, one a Muslim and the other a Jew, who were always excluded from morning prayers.
As for Reverend Baird, he added: “She needs to remember that the Bible in Corinthians speaks clearly to women being silent in church and instead of picking and choosing the aspects of the Bible that she wants to speak to, I think that she should be true to the entire document and keep out of these conversations and leave them to men.”
Overall, the controversial moderator revealed that he receives more direct expressions of love than hate and more than enough encouragement to continue his work across the region.
When contacted, the Starcom Network Station Manager maintained his position that internal employee matters should not be discussed in the public domain but declared that the programme is one for all views to be heard.
“We welcome the conversation. Brass Tacks is there to facilitate a fair and free exchange of views on national issues. Anyone who disagrees with a particular view is welcome to call and likewise those who agree,” Greene declared. [email protected]