The leader of the fastest growing religious denomination in The Bahamas has claimed that the constitution doesn’t outline enough measures that protect the fundamental rights of all Bahamians.
Pastor Leonard Johnson, leader of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in The Bahamas addressing the Constitutional Commission this past Friday, expressed his disappointment in the way some people in the denomination are treated on the workplace and in college.
He says the Constitution, particularly Chapter III, should be open and mindful of all groups present in the country.
“Section 9 of the Employment Act of 2001 grants a 24-hour day of rest, but fails to allow the employee to choose his day of rest. Thus Adventist employees are still being told in the 21st century that “you work on Saturday or lose your job” and that is discrimination,” he said.
“Also Adventist students attending the national college are still told that they must take exams on Saturday or fail the course. As a nation we need to recognise that if our freedom to worship and practice our religion is not protected then soon all other freedoms will also disappear.”
Now although the pastor pushed for the rights of all individuals living in The Bahamas, he addressed the issue of same-sex marriage that has been the topic of heated national discussions.
Pastor Johnson says the Seventh Day Adventist Church wholly supports that which they’ve known for years and that is that marriage is only between a ‘man and a woman.’
“Consequently, you would know that this is something that we as a church uphold and practice in our preaching and also in our teaching.”
When it comes to the preamble of the Constitution, Pastor Johnson presented the problem that he has with the way the term ‘Christian’ is used.
He believes the word must not be used in a narrow sense to discriminate against non-Christian groups such as Muslims, Baha’is, Rastafarians, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists, just to name a few.
“We believe that some 40 years ago when the Constitution was crafted, based on what existed back then, for people mainly Christians that (the narrow sense) would have been appropriate,” he said.
“But now, we have a pluralistic society where you have different groups and different religions and so that term must not discriminate, but it must be one that recognises the rights of all of these groups.”
Another recommendation from the Seventh Day Adventist church was that there be more gender equality outlined in the constitution, specifically to citizenship.
“We believe that in the interest of equality a foreign man married to a Bahamian woman should be afforded the same right as a foreign woman married to a Bahamian man,” he said.
He said there is an injustice to women which he said, “Is discriminatory to them and should not be allowed to continue as a matter of principle. Thus the Adventist Church calls for an abolishing of this discrimination.”
The Constitutional Reform Commission is currently in the process of visiting the Family Islands, with Long Island being their most recent.
The commission will take a break for the Easter and will head to Spanish Wells April 3.