tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: secularism
Theocracy rather than a secular democracy for T&T?
Far from being a persecuted minority, as alleged by Prime Minister Patrick Manning in the Parliament on February 26, born-again Christians seem to enjoy undue influence in Trinidad and Tobago.
The upper hierarchy of the Police Service, for example, is apparently filled with Christians, as implied by the fact that a few months ago they chose a Full Gospel church to pray for guidance in their fight against crime. In the Army, senior officials have also favoured evangelical churches. An especially egregious example comes from the Education Ministry, where a born-again husband and wife team oversaw the setting up of abstinence-only clubs in the nation’s secondary schools a policy informed solely by religious belief since all the empirical evidence shows that such policies do not help reduce STDs or sexual activity among young persons. On the radio stations, as well, a disproportionate number of individuals professing the beliefs of born-again Christians are talkshow hosts.
In the Government, at least one Minister has proclaimed herself a “Christian with a big C”, while at present there are no Members of Parliament, either in the Lower or Upper Houses, who are non-believers (all took their oaths on religious books, rather than through an affirmation). If religious bias exists in this society, therefore, it would appear to be directed at persons who do not follow a particular religion (a group which makes up nine percent of the population, according to a 1993 survey by Patrick Johnstone, and who therefore outnumber six of the 10 religious denominations listed by the Central Statistical Office).
In the case of Mr Manning and his “spiritual advisor”, our Association finds it disconcerting that any public official should be guided by the opinions of an unelected religious leader rather than ethical, professional, or even political criteria. But it is especially worrisome in the case of Mr Manning, since he consults such individuals as a matter of policy and he is the Prime Minister. Do the people of Trinidad and Tobago want to live in a theocracy rather than a secular democracy?
Our Association holds that State and religion should remain separate, except and insofar as religious bodies also make a contribution to secular nation-building. This is especially crucial to maintain harmony in a multi-religious society. State monies should not be given to any religious body at all, save to the extent that they do work (charitable, educational, or what-have-you) which benefits all citizens, and not just the members of their particular set. In the specific case of the church being built in Guanapo Heights, we would argue that any group which has $20 million to spend on a building should also have been able to buy a parcel of land in the normal manner.
If religious bodies wish to construct churches or mandirs or mosques to attract more members or to strengthen the loyalty of their existing flock, that is their right. But the State should not assist them in such self-promoting agendas.