God's plan versus the planning board

“We are a Christian nation.” — That’s Gospel in the Cayman Islands. … But is it true?

We hear it all the time from politicians, public figures and members of the general populace. It’s an ideal idea, which for years has functioned as a universal rejoinder to any perceived slight of anything remotely related to religion, or religiosity, in Cayman.

Whether we’re inquiring about hazardous obstructions of public roadways and roundabouts, restrictions on private business operations (such as Sunday trading laws), or obvious instances of outright squandering of taxpayer dollars – when it has anything to do with churches, anything at all, the likely response we receive is: “We are a Christian nation.”

In light of a story appearing recently in the Cayman Compass, our self-attested reputation may have to be reexamined, reevaluated, and perhaps revised.

Consider the case of Grand Cayman’s Bethel Refuge Apostolic Church, to whom the Central Planning Authority denied planning approval for a $1 million, 400-seat church on the inland side of Shamrock Road, close to Spotts Newland Road.

Now located in the heart of Prospect Park, and claiming a growing congregation of 150-plus members (whom the pastor describes as being of “Caymanian, Cuban, Jamaican, African and Honduras origins”), Bethel Refuge sought permission to build a new 8,300-square-foot sanctuary on an acre of land in an area which, according to the Planning Department’s analysis, includes apartments, houses, the “light industrial” LIME telephone building, a primary school and another church.

A group of neighbors filed objections to the project, arguing that the new church “will not be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood,” “will adversely affect the property values of the existing owners in the neighborhood,” and “will create a traffic hazard.” Additionally, they argue that “the community of Savannah … currently has at least four existing churches and is adequately served.”

Cayman’s contagion of NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard”), it seems, has spread beyond Seven Mile Beach hotels and Bodden Town landfills, and now applies to proposed churches in Savannah.

Lest any non-Caymanian become scapegoat for the church’s rejection, observe that every single one of the six individuals who attended the Planning Authority’s meeting in order to oppose the church project are registered Caymanian voters.

The appointed members of the Planning Authority (also 100-percent Caymanian), sided against Bethel Refuge’s application, saying that the church “will detract from the ability of neighboring land owners to enjoy the amenity of the area.” Tossing out an antithetical analysis by the National Roads Authority, the Planning Authority unilaterally decreed that the church “will create traffic safety problems.”

Administering the coup de grace, the Planning Authority decided that the church should not be treated as a 400-seat facility at all, but as a 600-seat facility — and thereby upwardly revised the minimum required number of parking spaces from 50 (as depicted in the church’s plans) to 75. And thus the church’s application was denied.

While the objections to the church may arrive as a shock to some, the Planning Authority’s maneuvering will surprise no one who faithfully follows the board’s proceedings, in which a variant of the doctrine of “predestination” often seems to prevail — parting the sea of red tape for the “right” applicants, and overthrowing the others in its midst.

The next time a question is raised in earnest about the government’s disparate standards of accountability for church activities, or apparent favoritism shown toward specific denominations at the expense of other religious or non-religious groups, we fully expect the same predictable reply: “We are a Christian nation.”

But please, forgive us if we appear to be rolling our eyes — We’re simply looking to the Heavens and praying for serenity.


  1. When I read this editorial I went back and read the comments to the original article published last week, and I noted eight comments by the same person that puts this decision in the context of the Caymanian/Expat antipathy. I wondered then if your editorial today is consequently rising to the bait in referencing expatriates being scapegoated. If that is so, please note that, however many times repeated by the same person, it is still the view of one person.

    I am not saying that there is not some unfortunate antipathy out there, but I don’t think it helps the national dialogue to set a tone suggesting that this view is shared so widely that you must underline it in your editorials.

    Similarly, it feels a little unseemly to use the sarcastic tone employed in the last paragraph. That just does not set the positive tone that is expected from editorials that should aim to enrich rather than alienate.

  2. About 40 years ago and more yes, I would say that Cayman was a Christian Nation, however now-a-days we are far from that. Just look at the facts and accept them, out of a population of 55 thousand people, there are only about 20 thousand who are Original Caymanians; made up from what ever you may want to call us. The other 35 thousand are a vast mixture of persons from all parts of the world.
    So, I see it as being too late to try and still claim an old heritage of Cayman being a Christian Nation. However, it does not matter how many unbelievers enters our shore, it will not deter me and my family from believing and serving the Lord.
    Some may say yes we have too many churches, and may think what purpose they are serving or contributing to the community. Crimes are worse, people are living from hand to mouth, some do not believe any more and have just given up. So what are we doing as a church to help, beside having church every Sunday or Saturday morning. SORRY, BUT ITS NOT ENOUGH.
    THE GOVERNMENT NEED TO change their rules and laws and regulations concerning the churches if they feel that things have gotten out of control like permissions for churches to be built without charging for permits or bringing in material and other articles. When concerns and suspicions are raised about the churches, who get the blame? The GOVERNMENT. Being on a voters list in Cayman tells you nothing about people’s belief and where are their origin.
    You may not want to hear the sound of JUSTICE, but sorry I am going to speak that. The same way that all GOVERNMENTS INSPECT, CLOSE DOWN, HARASS and send small businesses through the mill to sell a glass of coconut water, sugar cane or bred kind on the streets, they should have these same rules for churches under tents, garages and around corners. STATE THEIR TRUE PURPOSE IN THE COMMUNITY.
    I see absolutely nothing wrong with large tabernacles being constructed if they have the money to complete and will not be a burden on the Governments. ASK YOURSELF, WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A CHURCH? If churches cannot prove that they are helping in their community, winning souls, scholarships for the Caymanian youths, making donating to schools, assisting meals on wheels for the shutin, prison ministries for youth and the lost families. Families in dire need and the list go on, then I may ask WHAT IS YOUR CHURCH PURPOSE.
    To the Churches I will say, TRULY CONSIDER THIS. Are we really standing on the promises of God, or are we just using church gatherings for our own gain and purpose?. Remember there is work to do except filling the pews on Sunday mornings, and unless we can get out there and make disciples, we will be objected to. Besides money staying in the collection pan serves absolutely no purpose, if it is not being used to carry on and complete earthly purposes to the glory of God, whether it be in building his tabernacle or making disciples. Churches I continue to say let us do our part and leave everything else to God.

  3. God’s Plan is fixed and never falters, whilst a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

    Mr Editor, I am happy to know that you are looking at the heavens, which heaven, I don’t know, but will assume that it’s your own. I want to invite you and others to the beautiful Heaven that no man seeth, and have to pay the price to see.

    I am quite sure if it could be bought many wouldn’t be in turmoil as to who is next door to their parcel of property down here. But you see, Sir my Heaven is worth more than silver or gold. You have to be judged before entering,and before that, you have to return to dust from whence you came, thus saith The Lord.

    There’s no Planning zones for the underground carriage and your parcel is barely 4ft by 6ft. Whether it is dressed in gold or velvet or some other unknown color on the inside, the carriage for ALL is 4×6.

    And so with all the riches in one’s possession, you can’t carry it for there is not enough space in the carriage and leaving the big parcel for the undersized parcel is definitely a drastic down size. No one can’t choose the size of their carriage. By the way, it is the home of the beggar man,the thief, the murderer, the drunkard and the rich man.

    Tell me then why all the fuss about the Sanctuary of God being built on the top? The purpose is to win souls for Christ until his return. Better for the Sanctuary to be in my back yard than a dead man tomb.

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