Leaked screenshots from a Christian, faith-based WhatsApp group have put the islands’ LGBTQ community on alert over the threatening and violent nature of the messages involved.

Advocacy group Colours Cayman is demanding police conduct a thorough investigation into the messages, which suggest gay community members be hanged and their conduct criminalised.

The chat messages, emailed anonymously to Colours Cayman by an apparent member of the Whatsapp group, provide an incomplete snapshot of exchanges about gay rights between members of Cayman Caribbean Cause, a group that includes several prominent leaders from the church community.

Bishop Nicholas Sykes of the Cayman Ministers Association said he is “leadership of the Caribbean Cause”* but denied knowledge of any of the messages described to him by the Cayman Compass. Sykes is also a former member of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission.

In one leaked chat message, a member suggests Cayman “maybe hang one or two [gay people] in a loving way” as a warning to others. In another message, he suggests implementing teachings from the Quran to criminalise homosexuality.

“If this was a Muslim country, they’d be [thrown] out by the thousands,” the man wrote.

A message from another member includes photos taken in secret of MLA Kenneth Bryan meeting on the patio of a café last year with a member of Colours Cayman. Other messages provide suggestions on how to manipulate the Cayman News Service comments section to favour the group’s opinion.

While the Governor’s Office and Colours Cayman have been in contact with police about the messages, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said a criminal complaint on the matter had not been made.

“At this time, we are not in receipt of any complaints of a criminal nature made by any person(s) or group impacted by these posts. We are aware of overt concerns among some members of the community who are challenging the LGBTQ community.

“Our assessment at this stage is that these persons are operating in a space of free speech and right to peaceful protest and that they have ensured not to breach boundaries that would amount to suspected criminal behavior,” Byrne wrote the Cayman Compass.

“While the posts that I have seen are challenging and overtly opposed to the LGBTQ community, they do not reach a criminal threshold to justify alarm, distress, harassment to any individual, i.e., a breach of the penal code. The RCIPS will continue to monitor the matter on an on-going basis to ensure that the criminal law and penal code is not breached.”

The RCIPS later on Thursday issued a statement saying the police commissioner’s original statement had been taken out of context by another media house when it published a story on the issue. That story led to a statement by Colours Caribbean, an extension of Colours Cayman, which rejected Byrne’s characterisation of the messages and highlighted Section 88A of the Cayman Islands Penal Code, which prohibits causing intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

“Firstly, Colours Caribbean finds Commissioner Byrne’s statement to be legally questionable at best. Threats of hanging, however dressed up, or suggestions of how to ‘eradicate’ LGBTQIA+ people by any means go well beyond causing alarm and distress to our vulnerable community – they are exceptionally disturbing and dangerous,” a Colours press statement said on Thursday.

“Secondly, we observe that the statement by Commissioner Byrne has a sinister and compounding impact on LGBTQIA+ people that he should be reprimanded for as it could, itself, be construed as criminal. By his negligence, the Commissioner, hopefully unintentionally, has risked giving the ‘green light’ for people to harass, alarm and distress an already marginalised community without any criminal consequences.”

Colours has also requested an apology from Byrne for his “inexcusable failure of judgment”.

The RCIPS’s later statement said that while the complaints received were “not of a criminal nature”, an investigation will be carried out.

That revised statement read, in part, “While the Commissioner has not received any complaints of a criminal nature made by any person(s) or group impacted by any posts, as a service we take any complaints regarding any content seriously and any such complaints received will be fully and thoroughly investigated to the full extent of the law.

“We encourage any person(s) that have been affected directly by any criminal act to contact the RCIPS to report the matter. While there is no specific reference made to ‘Hate Speech’ contained in our legislation, there are many criminal offences contained in our legislation that provide considerable protection for our community against harassment, alarm, distress, etc., which provide the legal basis for the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. This RCIPS wishes to advise the public that the matter will be kept under constant review and monitored on an on-going basis to ensure that the criminal law and penal code is not breached.”

Noel Cayasso-Smith, head of the LGBTQ Foundation, has been in contact with police in light of the messages, which mention the fundraiser being hosted by the organisation later this month.

Cayasso-Smith said he had not received any direct threats or disparaging remarks about the upcoming fundraiser. He has taken the precautionary step of hiring additional security for the event.

“In light of recent happenings surrounding hate speech circulating around the island, we are not suggesting that anyone should be scared,” a foundation press release said on Friday.

“All we want to say is that we are going forward with the Rainbow Cocktails Fundraiser on September 26th. There will be security at the premises and we have now increased that protection with added police presence.

“This only further proves the need for services like our LGBTQ Foundation. For any queries or concerns please email us at [email protected] or visit our website at www.clgbtq.com.”

*Editor’s note: This story has been amended, at the request of Bishop Nicholas Sykes, to reflect his role in the Cayman Caribbean Cause chat group.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I have been living on Grand Cayman for about six years now. During that time, I have been fortunate to see some of the changes that have occurred making the lives of all living here different. The vast majority have been positive, but as with all things, some are not.

    With these rapidly occurring changes, comes fear. Fear that native Caymanians will lose control of their homeland. Fear our children will forget their heritage. Fear that the values of our society will be over-run by the search for monetary gain. And on an on and on. At my age, I have come to understand many fears come from lack of knowledge, lack of accurate information, and an overabundance of old fashioned tales. I once had a colleague who would argue that those opposed to her views were “ignorant”. Stated forcefully, this was always insulting. But over the years, I came to understand she was only crying out “But you don’t understand!” If she only would state it that way, and opponents would be convinced to listen to her position, we would have gone much farther, much faster.

    I have come to notice there has been little activity relating to bringing people of different backgrounds together. After all, people from Asian countries, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the United States have all be raised very differently than people in the Caribbean. I think we will call agree people of different Caribbean nations are different from Caymanians.

    All of us who are foreign-born and raised should put Caymanian traditions and culture first. But given the fact that Cayman is somewhat of a blend of cultures, isn’t it reasonable to suggest Caymanians might want to reach out and taste the wonders of other cultures? After all, going to the grocery here in Cayman is a trip around the world. With the exquisite flavors and tastes of foreign-inspired foods and cuisines, it’s a trip around the world — every week!

    The ongoing dispute over LGTBQ issues inspires this comment. But it is also inspired by my perception there is little effort to bring different cultures together. There are class differences dictated mostly by financial position. But is it necessary to have cultural differences? We should all be willing to explore the different historical, cultural, and societal differences we are exposed to every day here on these islands. What a wonderful learning experience!

    Perhaps it is time for our community leaders, be they government, business, religious, fraternal, or educational, to work together to bring us all together. In my opinion, such activities would be much more beneficial to all than our current trend of splitting the islands into different, disparate factions.

  2. Being a frequent visitor to Cayman and property owner there for over 30 years, this local attitude does not surprise me. It is sad however that these so-called religious leaders don’t even know their own scripture. If they look to Matthew 22:39, Genesis 9:6 or Genesis 1:27, they would see how wrong their unfounded hatred is even by their own Book.