In a meeting with the Opposition United Democratic Party on Monday, members of the clergy suggested that Cayman’s Bill of Rights should be contained in a separate piece of domestic legislation instead of being included in the new constitution.
The Opposition invited clergy members to the consultative meeting in advance of their meeting with five Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials this week for talks regarding Cayman’s constitutional modernisation.
The meeting covered several concerns of the clergy about the Bill of Rights, Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said.
‘It goes way beyond [gay] cruise ships to things like religious education,’ he said.
In a press statement issued Tuesday, the Opposition also said the clergy members made the point that ‘elected representatives should try their endeavour best to ensure that the cultural and social norms of the Cayman Islands manifest themselves within the Bill of Rights’.
A third point made by the clergy was that the Bill of Rights ‘reflects the wishes and aspirations of the majority of Caymanians’.
The Opposition said it agreed with the position of the clergy.
‘The Opposition United Democratic Party legislative group concurs with the view shared by the clergy and fully commits to advocating these positions during the constitutional negotiation process,’ the press statement said.
Chairman of the Cayman Minister’s Association, Pastor Al Ebanks was one of the clergy members present at the meeting.
‘We’re always pleased whenever someone seeks to consult with us on these kinds of issues,’ he said.
The clergy have had concerns about the Bill of Rights for a long time, Mr. Ebanks said, noting that having the Bill of Rights separate from the Constitution was of chief concern.
‘I probably have been the one to voice the concern over it from the beginning,’ he said.
Mr. Ebanks said that if the Bill of Rights becomes embedded in the Constitution, all other laws will become subservient to it. Furthermore, once adopted, the country would be stuck with the Bill of Rights if it were in the Constitution.
‘A constitution is not something that is changed very often,’ he said.
‘We should first consider the benefits of having [the Bill of Rights] separate vs. having it in the Constitution.’
Mr. Ebanks said Cayman needs to make sure people understand how a Bill of Rights will affect their lives.
Reverend Nicholas Sykes of St. Alban’s Church of England, who was also in attendance, said he was glad to have a chance to express the concerns about the Bill of Rights to the Opposition.
One of the things Mr. Sykes said the local clergy was looking at is some of the unintended effects of adopted Bills of Rights in the United Kingdom, Canada and Europe.
‘There is a certain Trojan horse effect of this thing,’ he said.
Mr. Sykes said a written summary of eight concerns about the Bill of Rights was submitted to the Opposition.
Various aspects of homosexuality were major concerns in the summary paper.
‘One consequence [of having a Bill of Rights entrenched in the Constitution] is that constitutions become locked into international ethical models that conflict with the traditional ethics of communities,’ the summary stated.
‘In particular, experience teaches that the traditional Christian ethics of marriage and human sexuality become marginalised or even condemned by legal judgements based upon compliance with international standards.’
The summary also broaches the subject of gay marriages and the fact that the Government in power has not responded to requests by the Cayman Minister’s Association.
‘The fact that a letter from the Cayman Minister’s Association urgently requesting an amendment to the Marriage Law of the Cayman Islands seeking to give explicit recognition to the longstanding intent of the Law to legislate for marital union between a man and a woman has gone unanswered after five weeks is considered to be ominous,’ the summary stated.
There is also a concern expressed that the term family life has been interpreted to include homosexual relationships with the Canadian Constitution and the European Convention.
The clergy believe that legal adoption into same-sex families and homosexual sex education in schools would in time become inevitable if European and International Covenants and Conventions are include in Cayman’s Bill of Rights.
Pastor Winston Rose of the Church of God Chapel Bodden Town, who was also at the meeting with the Opposition, said judges would have more room for interpretation if the Bill of Rights were included in Constitution. He maintains those interpretations often focus on European precedents.
‘We don’t want our Bill of Rights to be reflective of what is happening in Europe,’ he said. ‘It should be reflective of the values we have, and within the frame of reference of Caymanian culture and values.’
Having the Bill of Rights as a separate piece of domestic legislation would give Caymanians greater control over the Bill of Rights, he said.
Mr. Rose fears that in the United Kingdom’s quest for closer ties with the rest of Europe, Cayman could become a ‘sacrificial lamb’ when it comes to the Bill of Rights.
‘I wonder if [the U.K.] will really give us what we want,’ he said. ‘I can’t see them jeopardising their position for us.’
Regardless, Mr. Rose said he was glad the Opposition arranged the meeting.
‘We most definitely want dialogue with member of the government,’ he said. ‘We want them to hear us and take our concerns in consultation.’
The Opposition’s press release said it would do just that, with the clergy and others.
‘We value the input of all sectors of our community and will continue our consultative process in the coming weeks and months as the process unfolds,’ the release stated.