tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: secularism
A "national award" embodies a status defined by citizenship not religion.Published in TNT Mirror • Newsday • Trinidad Guardian • Reported in Trinidad Express
25 July 2006 • 315 words
Roman Catholic Archbishop Edward Gilbert has now joined with fundamentalist Christians in calling for the retention of the Trinity Cross as Trinidad and Tobago’s highest national award. But, as a sop to tolerance, the archbishop has suggested that another option of equal value be created for those persons who do not want the TC.
Archbishop Gilbert, like all those who have put forward the suggestion of different-but-equal awards, fundamentally misunderstands what a national award represents. A “national award”, by definition, embodies a status defined by citizenship (official or honorary). Within that context, an individual may even receive an award in recognition of their religious or ethno-cultural work. But they receive it, not on the basis of religion or ethnicity, but on the basis of their contribution to the nation.
We find it significant, too, that the American archbishop even suggested that an alternative award could cover both Hindus and Muslims. It is as though he sees the world as divided into two kinds of people: Christians and not-Christians. If, however, we start down this slippery slope of different awards for different groups, then everything will turn ole mas in short order. Are we going to have different-but-equal national awards for Orissas, Jains, Buddhists, Eckists, Zoroastrians, Secular Humanists, Atheists, and Moonies, Scientologists, and Sun-Worshippers? Contrary to Gilbert’s prediction, our Association believes that setting this precedent of divisiveness can only lead to further divisiveness.
Gilbert and others like him can obfuscate all they wish, but their reluctance to let go of the Trinity Cross seems based on their fear that such a move will be a blow to Christianity and the political power wielded by this one particular religion in this supposedly democratic society. Those who are truly tolerant, and who want a truly cohesive society, will have no problem in accepting a neutral symbol as the nation’s highest award.
T&T Humanist Association