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Trinity Cross? Trinidad and Tobago is a secular democracy?Published in Newsday • Trinidad Guardian • Trinidad Express
06 June 2006 • 355 words
The Government has undoubtedly made the right choice in deciding to rename the Trinity Cross. In announcing the decision, Prime Minister Patrick Manning suggested that “we have reached a defining moment in the history of our country.”
The members of the Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association agree that this may well be so. The value of the decision is not that it satisfies Hindu or Muslim concerns, but that it is a step towards the secularisation of all aspects of the State. This is necessary if we are to get out of the politics of competitive grievance, in which religion is frequently used as a front for tribalism. From this perspective, the replacement of the Trinity Cross by a secular symbol goes beyond the issue of a national award, and could signal a new mindset in the way our society is organised.
Mr Manning has displayed true leadership in recognising that secularism is the best system for a plural society a system within which all religious believers, as well as non-believers, can be accorded equal status as citizens. This is no doubt why he so emphatically stated, “Trinidad and Tobago is a secular democracy.”
We must commend Mr Manning for this recognition, especially in the light of the fact that his previous statements and actions have implied that he lets his personal religious beliefs affect public policies. But we must also caution him that the term “secular democracy” can be contradiction in terms. A majority of believers of different religions may agree that murderers should be hanged; that homosexuals should be denied basic rights; and that the country’s antiquated abortion law should not be reformed. But ecumenism is not secularism. Secularism dictates that such policy decisions should be made on rational and ethical bases, not on the basis of age-old religious strictures.
There will always be those who, for partisan and self-interested reasons, oppose secular values. But those citizens who want the best for all the groups that make up our diverse society will support this small step towards creating a nation where every creed truly finds an equal place.
T&T Humanist Association