Editorial — 20 August 2016
Carnival, cable television, and the churches

It does appear that in Belize we have been moving from crisis to crisis to crisis for many months now, perhaps years. We think that there are battles going on to win and control the hearts and minds of the Belizean people. There are wealthy, powerful forces on the regional and international landscape which have a special interest in The Jewel, and one of the reasons things appear so hectic, explosive sometimes, in Belize is because the Belizeans you are listening to are speaking with the voices of the region and of the world. Everything is now larger than Belizean life, as it were. Everything is louder than loud.

The evangelical pastor Louis Wade has been claiming on his television station that the homosexual lobby in Belize, known as UNIBAM, received US$3.4 million in funding from abroad shortly after the Supreme Court verdict favorable to the homosexual agenda was read last week in Belize. He also says that $1 million in Belize money has come for UNIBAM from local donors, and he pointed the finger at the Government of Belize.

Our understanding from Mr. Wade on his television station is that these moneys are for attorneys, some of whom will be working through the Ombudsman’s office, in order for UNIBAM to advance the homosexual agenda, above and beyond the sodomy law verdict of Wednesday, August 10, and protect the human rights of Belize’s LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders) community in the days ahead.

In the aftermath of World War II (1939-45), you know, most people came to the opinion that England and France should have sought to stop Hitler at Munich in 1938. Similarly, as this newspaper observes an apparent division in the ranks of the Christian churches on the matter of public morality as represented by the pro-homosexual ruling of Wednesday, August 10, 2016, it occurs to us that the churches erred when they allowed Carnival to enter Belize unimpeded in 1975 and allowed cable television to follow in 1982. The churches should have paid more attention than they did at the time of Carnival and at the time of cable television. Hindsight is, of course, easy pickings.

As late as the 1970s, Belize was a place where old men and old women censored foreign movies every week and had scenes removed which included heavy romancing. The public morality of Belize was under rigid control. There was a form of bacchanalia during the public processions organized for the September celebrations, and for sure alcohol was in evidence. But everyone was fully clothed.

Gradually, the imported Carnival phenomenon began to change the “fully clothed” aspect of public processions. When the Pandora’s Box of American cable television was opened less than a decade later, it was unbelievable what was being shown inside homes and therefore available for the consumption of Belizean children. The response of the churches to Carnival and cable was weak. Belize lost at least two generations of children to a foreign perspective on sex and public morality.

Louis Wade is saying that Belize was specifically chosen for the pro-homosexuality offensive in this region, because Belizeans, unlike Jamaicans say, have not displayed a willingness to take to the streets when they are aroused by community and societal issues. Still, he is trying to mobilize the Christian faithful to march in Belmopan next Friday, August 26, when a meeting of the House of Representatives is scheduled to be held.

For us, with respect, the core aspect of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin’s August 10 ruling is this: he is saying that it is no longer a criminal offence for consenting adults to engage in homosexual activity. We therefore consider this a pro-homosexuality ruling. The Chief Justice is not on a pro-homosexuality crusade; he is not calling for a homosexual offensive. But, in essence, the August 10 decision is a victory for homosexuality in Belize.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, August 17, Prime Minister Dean Barrow of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) announced that his administration would not appeal the Chief Justice’s August 10 ruling, but that the churches were free to do so. The Prime Minister, from one perspective, is in a politically enviable position in this matter, because the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), led by Hon. John Briceño, has made statements which practically indicate approval of the August 10 ruling on Section 53. In this case, the PUP is not the UDP’s problem.

Not only that, and to repeat, there appears to be division amongst the churches where resistance to the Chief Justice’s ruling is concerned. While the leadership of the Roman Catholic and the evangelical churches are militantly opposed to the pro-homosexuality decision, the leaderships of the Anglican and Methodist churches are not so opposed. This is as far as we can see.

The time has surely come for there to be professional poll taking in Belize. In such a matter as the August 10 decision, there appears to be widespread dissatisfaction amongst the masses of the Belizean people. But the homosexuality issue is so delicate, we would be well served if we could refer to a formal, professional poll. On the face of it, it seems that the Supreme Court has made a ruling which is not in line with the thinking of the Belizean majority. That Belizean majority is represented in our legislature – the House of Representatives, in Belize’s constitutional parliamentary democracy.

It may now be said, however, that the judicial arm of government has overruled the legislative arm. If this is so, what does this mean constitutionally and what does it mean in a historical context? We have seen the UDP legislature/executive, on more than one occasion recently, rewrite and change laws in the House to suit their political imperative. This amounted to the legislature/executive’s deciding to take sensitive matters out of the hands of the judiciary, and placing those matters, ultimately, in the hands of the people. In this matter of homosexuality, our Pontius Pilate legislature/executive has chosen to wash its hands of the matter and allow the judiciary to rule, unimpeded, at the level of the lowest of Belize’s three high courts.

The elected politicians of Belize who are in power are there at the behest of the Christian churches of Belize. The vast majority of the Belizean voters are loyal to some Christian church or the other. You cannot achieve political power in Belize without the blessing of our Christian churches. So then, this is one of the serious ironies of the present crisis: the elected politicians are in disagreement, and perhaps conflict, with a large section of the Christian churches.

And, to repeat, in the matter of the Section 53 ruling, the political directorate of Belize, which has chosen to bypass the judiciary on several occasions in recent years, has chosen to take cover behind the robes of the Chief Justice. It would be a bit humorous, indeed, if the Section 53 matter was not of such massive and momentous gravitas.

Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol in cold blood on September 25, 2014.

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