Conservative Christians in Dominica are seeking to torpedo a lawsuit that challenges the nation’s anti-sodomy law. Merely by requesting the right to enter the lawsuit, an evangelical pastor today brought about the removal of the judge overseeing the case.
Because the lawsuit has nothing to do with religious freedom, lawsuit supporter Jamaican/Canadian activist Maurice Tomlinson says, “the reasons for the churches seeking to enter the case are laughable.”
The lawsuit was filed in July 2019 by a gay Dominican man whose name was withheld for his protection. It challenges Dominica’s laws that criminalize “buggery” and “gross indecency,” targeting the consensual sexual activity of LGBT people.
The High Court in Dominica on Nov. 17 was asked to add the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) as a third-party defendant in the suit. The association’s rationale for joining the lawsuit is that the case could “impair or impede [Christians’] moral rights”.
DAEC stated that it is “desirous of protecting and defending Christians’ interest in respect to sexual orientation.”
DEAC’s president, Pastor Randy Rodney, cited theological arguments for seeking the right to oppose the lawsuit. He declared in an affidavit that “all matters of sex must be between a man and a woman” and that the lawsuit is of “great public interest particularly to the Christian community”.
Tomlinson says the Christian groups’ have no right to intervene:
“[The lawsuit] is a challenge to the ban on private consensual same-sex activity, and in no way touches on religious freedom. There is no attempt to force the churches to support same-sex intimacy and, even if this law was struck down (as is happening around the world), churches would still be at liberty to preach against homosexuality, in the same way that the legalization of divorce did not prevent some churches from continuing to condemn this practice.”
The judge in the case,Justice Birnie Stephenson, recused herself because Rodney is her pastor. The recusal will cause further delay, Tomlinson said.
It had already been delayed in September when the Dominica Christian Council applied for and received the court’s permission to intervene. That meant delaying action until a case management hearing on Nov. 23.
In September, Tomlinson stated about the Dominica Christian Council’s application to enter the case, “This could possibly be a coordinated delay tactic as church groups across the region have similarly applied to join ongoing anti-sodomy law challenges in Belize, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. These religious interventions have contributed to lengthy delays in the hearing of these constitutional claims, which, because they concern fundamental human rights, are supposed to be prioritized and expedited by courts.”
The Roman Catholic Church has also applied to join the case. In 2013, Roman Catholic Bishop Gabriel Malzaire stated that the Catholic Church in Dominica “adheres to the call of the Holy See … to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as to urge all States to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.”
International conference (free, online)
The anti-gay laws of Dominica and dozens of other countries will be the topic of an international online conference Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Friday, Nov. 27. The Intimate Conviction 2 conference will focus on what more needs to be done, especially by Christian churches, to put an end to dozens of countries’ laws against same-sex intimacy. For more information and to register at no charge, visit the conference’s page at the HIV Legal Network.