Saturday, March 10, 2012

There is nothing wrong with religious figures speaking at political events... ...They are citizens too ...and thus have the right to voice their concerns about the direction of their country

Reasonableness, family and politics


Retired Archbishop Drexel Gomez’s appearance at a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) rally on Friday in North Andros has caused some controversy.  He is the former head of the Anglican Church in the West Indies.

Bishop Gomez appeared at the rally and spoke in support of his brother Dr. Perry Gomez, the PLP’s candidate for North Andros and the Berry Islands.  Dr. Gomez has led the fight in The Bahamas against HIV/AIDS as long-time director of the National AIDS Programme.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham raised the question about the appropriateness of Bishop Gomez addressing the political event while he addressed Free National Movement (FNM) supporters in Long Island on Monday night.

“And I saw the former archbishop of The Bahamas, Bishop Gomez, who was down there in his bishop's collar.  I do call upon Perry Christie to apologize for that.  He knows better,” said Ingraham.

“Many of you Anglicans who celebrate Lent time do not do such things.  In fact, I saw Father Sebastian Campbell in the newspaper complaining about us holding meetings during Lent.  Well what [do] you think about a bishop on the political podium during Lent?”

Bishop Gomez on Tuesday dismissed Ingraham’s call for Christie to apologize for allowing him to address the rally.

“I was there simply because I was invited by my brother, who was having the formal opening of his headquarters in Nicholl’s Town,” Bishop Gomez told The Nassau Guardian after being contacted for a comment.

He pointed out that he stayed clear of political statements when he addressed PLP supporters.

“I felt I was the most appropriate person to make the presentation, as the older member of the family and the person who has been in the public domain,” Bishop Gomez said.

“I chose my comments very carefully.  I only spoke about my brother and our family.  I made no reference whatsoever to political issues or to political parties.  My intention was simply to introduce him to the people at the formal opening of his headquarters.”

Bishop Gomez said he exercised two rights when he spoke at the political event.  The first being his constitutional right to speak in the public domain on public issues and the second being his religious right to comment on matters of justice and truth.

Now as we proceed through the election cycle, there will be many questions raised about many things in the effort to advance political causes.  While it is good for us to have robust debates, we must be reasonable.

There is nothing wrong with religious figures speaking at political events.  They are citizens too and have the right to voice their concerns about the direction of the country.  We think, however, that it would be irresponsible for religious figures to go as far as ‘anointing’ a political party or candidate as ‘God’s choice’, consequently suggesting that opponents stand against divine will.

Reverend Frederick McAlpine is a FNM senator and in the past he regularly spoke at FNM rallies.  He is a charismatic speaker and is good at firing up the crowd.  There is nothing wrong with him doing this, just as there is nothing wrong with Bishop Gomez speaking in support of his younger brother.

Similarly, there is nothing wrong with Delores Ingraham, wife of the prime minister, attending political events and standing on stage with her husband.  She is a public servant and is principal of C.C. Sweeting High School.  There is a prohibition against public servants being involved in frontline politics, but commonsense must be used in evaluating that standard.

We hope that as the political crossfire continues the combatants don’t reach for any old thing to bludgeon their opponents with.  Reasonableness should guide the process.

Mar 08, 2012