Questions arose in Finance Committee last week whether the bill of rights provisions concerning religion would force government-owned Radio Cayman to play non-Christian religious programmes in addition to its Christian programmes.
MLA Julianna O’Connor-Connolly started the line of questioning by asking about a budget allocation for radio broadcasts. She noticed that there was an output measure in the allocation that called for 1,500 to 2,500 religious programmes in the 2008/09 budget.
‘Are these religious programmes all Christian?’ she asked. ‘How will the proposed bill of rights affect [the programming of Radio Cayman}?’
Minister of Communications, Works and Infrastructure Arden McLean was not sure.
‘How the bill of rights will affect us is anybody’s guess, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,’ he said. ‘But I see no reason why it will affect [Radio Cayman’s programming].’
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts spoke up and said the bill or rights ‘absolutely will not affect programmes on Radio Cayman’.
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly brought up recent statement made by a Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin that the bill or rights could have an effect on Sunday trading laws because it was discriminatory to Seventh Day Adventists, who cannot shop on Saturdays and who would like to see Sunday trading.
‘Will [the bill of rights] open up [Radio Cayman programming] to Hindu or Satanism or any other kind of ‘ism’?’ Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly asked. ‘If this could affect Sunday trading, why is this being viewed in isolation?’
Mr. Tibbetts said Radio Cayman controlled the content of its radio broadcasts.
MLA Cline Glidden Jr. offered the view that under the proposed bill of rights, other recognised religions could ask for equal time on a government-owned radio station.
Mr. Tibbetts disagreed.
‘If there are other religions that are currently recognised in this country, they have equal rights already, so it will be the same,’ he said.
Mr. Tibbetts said the bill of rights would only protect the rights of citizens from the actions of government. He also said the bill of rights would recognise Cayman’s Christian heritage.
‘Radio Cayman will continue as it has,’ he said.
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said Radio Cayman’s programming was a prime example of what the bill of rights could affect because it is a government-owned entity.
Mr. Tibbetts maintained his position.
‘Radio Cayman will continue to have the right to do its Christian programmes and [a bill of rights] does not mean it will have to give equal programming to anything else that calls itself a recognised religion,’ he said. ‘What I cannot say is [how the bill of rights could affect] other stations that are privately owned.
‘It’s in the budget and it’s going to be the Christian programming and that’s the end of the story,’ he continued. ‘Radio Cayman is a government-owned radio station and it decides on its programmes depending on the audience it is trying to capture. Radio Cayman will simply continue to do the Christian programmes it currently does.’
Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly was not swayed and asked Mr. Tibbetts to seek legal advice to see what effect the bill or rights would have on Radio Cayman’s programming.
Mr. Tibbetts agreed to check to make sure his assertions were correct.