Church Leaders in Bermuda Want to Legalize Discrimination Based on ‘Religious Freedom’

This July, Bermuda passed legislation called the Human Rights Amendment Act which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But that’s unfathomable to some religious leaders, who are pressuring the government to legalize discrimination so long as it falls under the category of “religious expression.”

United for Change, a group comprised of about 80 pastors from 60 Bermuda churches, signed and publicized a statement explaining that the anti-discrimination law could adversely affect religious freedom. Their primary concerns? First, that preaching against LGBT people will constitute hate speech, and second, that this will ultimately lead to the legalization of marriage equality. And they can’t have that.

“Trends in other countries have demonstrated that when such legislative amendments have been made, people of faith have found themselves to be the subject of a human rights complaint that have been brought against them by homosexuals,” the group said.

“Of further concern is that in other countries when human rights legislation has been amended in this manner, further legislative change has often followed resulting in” the legalisation of same-sex marriage, a movement toward parenting rights for same-sex couples, “and eventually to muzzle clergy and faith-based media by erroneously identifying Biblical teaching on sexual immorality as hate-speech”.

The group formally asked that the government introduce “carve-outs” in the Human Rights Amendment Act to protect religious individuals who refuse to abide by the anti-discrimination policy based on their religious beliefs. Of course, this creates a perfect opportunity for these people to discriminate against any group they please, from LGBT people to secular people, and to do so freely and legally.

The icing on the cake is that they’re calling it “freedom of conscience.” From the statement, which was also published in a full-page ad in a Bermuda newspaper called the Royal Gazette:

The statement adds: “We accordingly ask that the Government of Bermuda be mindful that a vast portion of the population of the nation hold to scriptural teachings that prohibit homosexual relations and to ensure that the Human Rights Act be worded in a manner that will guarantee the freedom of conscience of all people of faith according to the Bermuda Constitution.

“This will ensure that the rights of religious freedom are protected in our nation.”

The Anglican Church, Bermuda’s largest Christian denomination, has reportedly not yet taken a stance on the issue, failing to sign the United for Change document. Their public statement, too, was lukewarm:

Yesterday, Bishop Dill said the issue was a “complex” involving “differing pastoral responses”.

He said he had promised his church that the whole issue of sexual orientation discrimination would be discussed within the next few months.

In addition, the Human Rights Commission in Bermuda has already publicly opposed United for Change’s movement, but it’s unclear whether that will have any impact. But for the record, at least some people are speaking out:

“Residents in Bermuda should not be placed at a disadvantage, or be refused the same rights as others, simply because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or any other ground covered by the Act.

“The underpinning principle of Human Rights Commission is to ensure minority groups have the same rights and opportunities as the majority, the suggested amendments encapsulated in yesterday’s advertisement would be counter to the HRC mandate.

“Currently under the Act such discrimination would be unlawful, and will remain so unless there are legislative changes.”

Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time finding any other news source covering this issue, so these reports are all from the same news site, which is also the newspaper where this disgusting statement was published as an ad. As problematic as that is, it’s even more unfortunate that none of this sounds surprising in the least.

Now more than ever, this is the kind of thing we should all be keeping tabs on, so by all means, please confirm or deny any of this as you’re made aware of more information!

(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Nicholas for the link!)

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a recent college graduate working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • Sven2547

    Of all the dumb, fallacy-ridden reasons to oppose equality, “It infringes on my RIGHT to discriminate” is probably the most shortsighted and nasty.

    • trj

      And yet the most predictable.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    “United for Change” is one of the most ironic names for a group since “Focus on the Family”. Shouldn’t it be “United Against Change?”

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    “Let’s say they have a scripture”

    “Then you could never say that they’re wrong”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTKf5cCm-9g&t=7m30s

  • Carla

    I mean, if the Act makes saying certain things a hate crime, their rights are technically being infringed on…. They still have the right to say whatever they want, even if it’s mean, especially within their own churches. (Unless Bermuda doesn’t work that way?)

    • Blacksheep

      Right. If the act actually limits free speach, then they have a point. I’m assuming that the law won’t eliminate freedom of expression.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Later, when asked to share a rattle with the neighbor kid, the 80 pastors screamed, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” and held their breath until they turned red in the face. When asked for further comments on the story, their mother replied, “Shhh. It’s nap time. You don’t want to wake the little buggers up. It’s the only time Mommy can get some peace and quiet.”

  • baal

    When you’re on the side arguing that civil or human rights legislation shouldn’t apply to you (carve out), you look like a freaking monster. If there is a problem with a proposed rule or law, you should be able to defeat it on the merits as it applies to everyone.

    • Randay

      Unfortunately, I have had exchanges with Jesus Freaks who think they are above the law and that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to them. Dan Barton for one.

    • UWIR

      Yeah, that’s the problem that i have with the religious objections to the ACA. If the governmental interest is great enough to justify imposing the ACA on someone who doesn’t want to follow it for secular reasons, then it is great enough to impose it on someone to objects to it on religious reasons. If the ACA is an infringement on religious people’s freedom, then it’s an infringement on everyone’s freedom. Someone who has religious reasons for not wanting to follow the ACA shouldn’t get any more consideration than someone who just plain doesn’t want to follow it.

  • GodlessPoutine

    I wonder what the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom will have to say about this – or the US counterpart. I think that as religious privilege wanes moving forward we’re going to see more and more religious groups screaming that their “religious freedoms” are being violated because they can no longer be bigots.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Religion. Using spooks and magic to justify stupidity, prejudice, hate, brutality, and murder for 10,000 years. Keep it up, guys, only a few decades left for you.

  • Keyra

    Always fixating on the misrepresentatives. How rational :)

    • baal

      Please spell out the misrepresentation. I don’t see one.

      • Bitter Lizard

        “Misrepresentation” = theist speak for presenting any factual information that is incongruent with whatever lies said theist finds expedient at the time.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      If you ignore problems, they never get fixed. Thankfully someone is fixated on fixing your ‘misrepresentatives’.

    • Edmond

      What? This article isn’t about you….

    • islandbrewer

      You are so totally right, Keyra! We should ignore all our problems, hum a little tune, and hope they go away! That’s a great way to deal with discrimination, instead of all this “fixating”!

      Now, I’m really irritated by all those civil rights agitators like MLK Jr., Bayard Rustin, and John Lewis who kept “fixating on the misrepresentatives” of white America!

      *sigh*

    • Guest

      So you’re in favour of gay marriage then, Keyra?

    • God’s Starship

      What’s irrational is blaming the messenger.

    • Matt D

      Can you provide a list of who is “misrepresenting” Christianity, pumpkin? How do you maintain that others aren’t Christian, without ever speaking to those you accuse as such?

  • Bitter Lizard

    Islamic fundamentalists still don’t have the religious liberty to kill infidels in most places. We should stop persecuting them so bad.

  • Mick

    “Currently under the Act such discrimination would be unlawful, and will remain so unless there are legislative changes.”

    So what are the devil dodgers going on about? If they seriously wanted to stop the legislation they would have seriously tried to stop the legislation instead of waiting until it’s too late.

    Now they’ve been caught with their pants down, and they’re desperately trying to convince the flock they still have things under control.

    I’ll bet next Sunday there will be an extra collection taken up to create a fighting fund for the battle to come.

  • Rachel Warner

    Hmmm…Not sure what to say about this one.

  • eric

    United for Change, a group comprised of about 80 pastors from 60 Bermuda churches, signed and publicized a statement explaining that the anti-discrimination law could adversely affect religious freedom

    Was the statement entitled the “Send All our Tourism to the Caribbean” act? Because that’s what it will likely do.

  • Guest

    Can they not just practice the non-homophobic bits of their religion? The anti-gay stuff is just a few verses anyway. I assume there’s no poor people to feed in Bermuda, and no sick people to heal, or widows to comfort, since they’re focusing on such a minor issue…
    What’s next, the mixed-fibres police?

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    As a gay atheist I will be the first to say that I don’t give a flying fuck if your religious views are being challenged because of anti-discrimination laws, which they are not. You can still preach all you want about how i’m going to hell, like I care or believe you, and other people get to be treated with dignity and respect.

    If it came down to it I will always say that human rights are far more important that religious beliefs or rights. It would be the same if someone died because they were taken to a JW hospital and did not receive a blood transfusion. Your bronze age fables do not get put up on some pedestal.

  • Steve In MI

    Some background from an occasional visitor to Bermuda:

    The Royal Gazette, the Bermuda Sun, and “bernews.com” are pretty much the only news sources in Bermuda. (This is a TINY nation; Evanston has a larger population). Search “gay” on the Sun or bernews site for some good background. There have been some public discussions in recent months on whether Bermuda is missing out on business and tourism revenue by not embracing equality more quickly.

    There are longstanding political divisions in Bermuda, which the politicians try to exploit along racial, religious, and class boundaries. (Sound familiar?) I’m not sure if Bermuda is any more conservative than Europe and the UK; my observation has been that the Bermudians tend to act more slowly, but ultimately will act in their own self-interest. If it bring business to the island, they’re probably going to be for it.

  • Crazy Russian

    The whole “religious freedom” thing is a crock of shit, of course. Same-sex marriage does nothing to oppress heterosexuals, that much is obvious; what *is* happening, on the other hand, is the society, being led by progressive legislature and change of societal norms and recognizing the dissonance of the new norms and outdated dogma, begins to question the church, which undermines its authority and credibility, and makes control, subjugation, and extraction of profit from the populace more problematic, and that — I agree with Camille — they can’t have.

  • DougI

    At least they’re being honest about Christianity being a religion of hate.

  • rufus_t

    Good for Bermuda for passing the act, sadly unsurprising from the 80 priests, and also utterly unsurprising from the Anglican church (no doubt a decision will be made after three separate votes by three different groups, where two will be in favour of the act and the other will be opposed).


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X