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Belice: Government, church and homosexuality

In his Independence Day speech, Belice’s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, declared that his government “will thoroughly respect the right of church to express their viewpoint regarding the morality or immorality of homosexuality. However, the government can’t elude its duty to guarantee that every citizen without exception enjoys full protection of the law”.

Avatar of Alessia Valenza

3rd October 2013 16:42

Alessia Valenza

Ladies and Gentlemen, My Fellow Belizeans:

Above all else or, better put, including all else, Independence is about patriotism. So no Independence Day speech can be complete without a reflection on patriotism. And on this score I believe we are also in good shape. Indeed, in ways both ordinary and extraordinary, Belizean patriotism is always on show. And there are times when there is a great onrush, a great outpouring of that patriotism. One such was our Gold Cup football appearance. Belizeans went wild over the Jaguars; and the platitude that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, took on a whole new meaning. It was, without a doubt, our Invictus moment.
Belizean patriotism has, of course, always been bound up with Belizean diversity. When we speak of unity in diversity we speak of the oneness, the solidarity, the surpassing fellow feeling that love of this country has produced among disparate ethnicities, disparate social groups.

Recently, however, a most unsettling phenomenon has arisen. A version of the culture wars has come to our country and it is souring the harmony and disrupting the rhythm of Belizean life. The golden knot that ties us all together, is in danger of coming loose. Now I do not wish to give offense to anyone on Independence Day. So what I say next is spoken not in anger or even in sorrow, but merely by way of exhortation. The diversity that we have hymned for so long must not now prove to be an empty trope, so much PR fluff. It must pass this latest test. In particular, we cannot afford for Government and the Churches to be at odds. The filigreed chain that links the two is a proud part of the national ornamentation, and it cannot be allowed to break. Government will therefore fully respect the right of the churches to propagate their understanding of the morality, or immorality, of homosexuality. But what Government cannot do is to shirk its duty to ensure that all citizens, without exception, enjoy the full protection of the law.

After all, the Belize Constitution that affirms the supremacy of God also affirms fundamental rights and the dignity of the individual human being.

That same Constitution further declares that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to non discrimination; to freedom from interference with their privacy; and to freedom from unlawful attacks on their honour and reputation.

There is, I submit, no logical inconsistency between these different tenets of our Constitution. And Government, the Churches and the Belizean polity must find a way to uphold all the principles of our foundation document.