“No person shall be hindered by government in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression …”
— The Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009
Anthony S. Eden, the venerable MLA from Bodden Town, enjoys the constitutionally protected right to free speech, as does each individual who resides in the Cayman Islands. However, as an elected member, Mr. Eden is also sworn to uphold the laws and the Constitution of the Cayman Islands.
This is where the trouble begins.
In August, Mr. Eden spoke to a private members’ motion that reaffirmed language in the Constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. From there, things didn’t just “go downhill,” they plummeted into the fiery pits of Mr. Eden’s rhetorical Hell.
When the sulfurous smoke cleared, we said this about Mr. Eden’s performance: “If the purpose of Mr. Eden’s discriminatory diatribe was to confirm the Cayman Islands’ adherence to Christian values, it failed. Where it succeeded was to put the Cayman Islands back in the international spotlight as an intolerant, homophobic country …”
Nevertheless, while Mr. Eden’s remarks may have been distasteful to some, we would defend his right to utter the words that he did.
His outburst Wednesday, while it may seem similar to his August remarks, is actually quite different and more troubling.
This time, Mr. Eden didn’t confine his inflammatory statements to the “satanic confusion” of homosexuality, but he targeted attorney James Austin-Smith, declaring, “We do not need an atheist chairing our Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission.”
In this speech, Mr. Eden did more than “double down” on his earlier remarks. He made statements that conflict with Cayman’s Constitution.
Here in Cayman, we have not only freedom of speech; we also have freedom of religion.
When Mr. Eden effectively proposes a “litmus test” for a government-appointed commission, based on religious beliefs or lack thereof, Mr. Eden is being unfaithful to the Constitution.
The Constitution is not a casual manuscript that can be shelved like any old consultancy report. It is the defining document that underpins democracy in this country. It cannot be ignored when convenient.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick acknowledged as much in the aftermath of Mr. Eden’s remarks: “An individual’s religious beliefs are not relevant to whether they can serve on, or perform effectively in, any of Cayman’s Commissions.”
As an individual, Mr. Eden has the right to abominate atheists and castigate people for their sexual persuasions. But once he assumes the mantle of office and speaks on the House floor as a member of parliament, he has an absolute obligation to uphold, support and enforce the Constitution which the people of the Cayman Islands voted to put into place.
Many of Mr. Eden’s colleagues in the Legislative Assembly may disagree with his pronouncements — not that they’d dare say so publicly. Theirs is a silence that is maintained not out of respect for Mr. Eden, but out of reticence that appears based on a political calculation. If Mr. Eden’s words are censured, he may figuratively march out of the Legislative Assembly, followed closely by his elected Bodden Town brethren. The math is inescapable: If Bodden Town withdraws its support from the PPM administration, then the government, as presently constituted, falls.
That truism is reflected in matters ranging from “No Dump in Bodden Town” to the tepid reaction to Minister Osbourne Bodden’s profane “driftwood” remarks to Mr. Eden’s latest verbal adventures.
Mr. Eden believes he answers to a higher authority, and he bases his positions on “Holy Bible evidence.” As an individual, he has that freedom. However, as an elected official — empowered by the Constitution and receiving his salary from the public treasury — Mr. Eden’s highest authority is the secular law of the land.
If Mr. Eden’s personal beliefs do not allow him to reconcile his religious obligations with his official obligations, then he has the freedom to resign from that office — and should promptly do so.