Top Anglican in Jamaican seeks repeal of buggery law

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Anglican bishop of Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Howard Gregory, Anglican bishop of Jamaica. (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

The leader of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands has declared his opposition to Jamaica’s anti-homosexuality law, calling for Parliament to repeal it.

Under a biased headline, the Jamaica Gleaner reported the news in this article:

Free up buggery! – Leader breaks ranks with many Christian colleagues

Head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Bishop Howard Gregory, has broken ranks with many of his Christian brethren and urged the parliamentary committee examining the Sexual Offences Act and related laws to recommend the removal of the offence of buggery from the law books, widen the definition of rape, and recognise marital rape.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Photo courtesy of the Bonhoeffer Center)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Photo courtesy of the Bonhoeffer Center)

In a written submission to the committee in which he emphasised that his views were personal, Gregory placed his position in line with executed German Christian leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who had argued that the aim of the Church is not “that the authorities make Christian policies, Christian laws and so on, but that they be proper authorities in the sense of their special commission”.

According to Gregory, the State should not waste time with a referendum on the buggery law but should just strike it from the books.

Gregory said Christians should be cautioned against believing in the view that they must be the gatekeepers of the law against buggery in order to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

“This submission does not accept the cause and effect relationship which is being introduced into this matter, neither is it advocating homosexual marriages,” he said.

Gregory argued that while the anus is not a sexual organ, it has been part of sexual activity between men and women.

Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act of 1864 criminalises the ‘abominable’ anal sex – consensual or otherwise. The maximum punishment is 10 years’ imprisonment. But Gregory argued:

“Sexual activity engaged in public spaces is illegal and should continue to be so, whether of a heterosexual or homosexual nature.

“Beyond that,” Gregory added, “what happens in privacy between consenting adults should be beyond the purview of the Government.”

He said to establish that the offence took place under the current laws would require the people being exhibitionists or persons or agents of the State “peeping” into the privacy of consenting adults, “which the Government should not become entangled with”.

Andrew Holness (Photo courtesy of NewTalk93FM.com)
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Photo courtesy of NewTalk93FM.com)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, before his party won the 2016 general election, promised that the removal of the buggery law would be put to Jamaicans in a referendum. Since the victory, Holness has said while the referendum will take place, it is not a priority for his Government.

Delroy Chuck, who chairs the parliamentary committee, said at a function earlier this year that CARICOM’s parliaments should simply stare down the church lobby and strike down the law. But he soon after reverted to the referendum position after facing criticisms.

Gregory, in his submission, said treating the anal sex issue as a priority and to continue the criminalisation “needs to be seriously questioned as a sustainable position” and whether it is not a distraction to governance “better confined to a realm defined as personal ethics and sexual preference”.

“The promise of a referendum on the issue is at best a way in which those responsible for governance are postponing the issue in order to avoid taking controversial decisions,” he argued.

Most Jamaicans have historically been against homosexuality. A Gleaner-Bill Johnson poll in 2014 found that 91 per cent of Jamaicans believe lawmakers should make no attempt to repeal the controversial buggery law.

Six church groups and the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society gave their submissions to Parliament, urging the lawmakers to retain the buggery law for the health of the nation and upholding Christian principles.

In a separate appearance, the president of the Marcus Garvey Research Institute, Baba Heru Ishakamusa Menelik, called for tougher penalties, saying homosexuality is not a “normal way of life” and could quicken the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. …

The parliamentary committee completed oral submissions last Tuesday, with its report expected to be completed by November and submitted to the House of Representatives for debate.

For more information, read the full article, “Free up buggery! – Leader breaks ranks with many Christian colleagues.”

Anti-gay opposition to Bishop Gregory’s appeal:

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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