On Tuesday April 29th, I found myself in maybe the most surreal human rights conversation in the world.
At 3:30PM in the evening, I was approached by a bunch of Seventh-Day Adventists who say that removing buggery laws that create a hostile environment for LGBT people would not only infringe on their human rights, but would kill Christians by the hundreds.
If you’ve never heard of a group called the Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty, then I suppose you run in the right circles. They’re an organization formed by an offshoot of better-known Adventism aimed at providing ‘human rights services that are geared to promote respect for, and to cause the increase of legal protections for individual rights and freedoms, religious liberty in particular‘. Sounds good on paper, and then you meet them… I had a chance meeting with some of their Trinbagonian members at a UWI lecture hosted for the parents of the late Matthew Shepard, at which they attempted to hand the parents pamphlets that stated that LGBT rights was a conspiracy to limit the religious freedoms of Christians, and ended up having an argument with some of the attendees about their nature as Sodomites.
Me being a firm believer in the inherent goodness of all men (some people just say naive), I had an interesting conversation with a couple of their much better-behaved members (basically, the only two folks who were not aggressively calling strangers abominations as far as I could tell then). They requested to have a much more deliberate conversation about LGBT rights in the future, to which I agreed. I had the idea that it would be a sort of open, informal debate…
Now, me still being naive, I thought that it just meant that these two folks were really interested in having this conversation and coming to some sort of middle ground. So I came as promised, with just a couple friends and a desire to share, only to be met with 15 Bible-armed Thusians sitting around me sharing their interest to ‘prove that LGBT rights is really anti-rights and freedoms’.
The conversation, which originally started as a debate about the right to a private sex life, developed into an all-out defence of the buggery law. If that wasn’t bad enough, all of the logic that built the shield for this archaic post-Colonial law was faulty. Days later, I’m still wrapping my head around it. So I thought I’d share it all and see if some of the people that read my blog could help me with this…
Human Rights Come From God
I think this argument is fair enough. After all, constitution after constitution uses the words ‘founded on the principles that acknowledge the Supremacy of God’. So I opened by saying that I am spiritually inclined, after years of not believing in God, but that my idea of God was not Christian in nature. One of the Thusians cut me off to say, “With all due respect, we don’t care about your religion. We’re here to talk about human rights.”
So it’s safe to say, therefore, that religious diversity calls for a more objective and universal understanding of the foundation of human rights. Something that we all have in common, like humanity for instance. But, after fifteen minutes the Thusians all pulled out their Bibles to say that human rights were given by a Christian God alone.
It’s completely okay to say that you believe in a Christian God, but this is a much more diverse world isn’t it? If the Constitution applies to people regardless of their faith or lack thereof, it needs to to take that diversity of belief in consideration.
Buggery Is About Rape!
Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1986 (Strengthened in 2000)criminalises “buggery”. This section states:
(1) A person who commits buggery is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment—
- if committed by an adult on a minor, for life;
- if committed by an adult on another adult, for twenty-five years;
- if committed by a minor, for five years.
(2) In this section “buggery” means sexual intercourse per anum by a male person with a male person or by a male person with a female person.
If you took a good look at that, you’d notice that it makes no mention of consent or a lack thereof. But the Thusians seem to be convinced that this buggery law was somehow designed by the founding fathers of this nation (which is in itself somewhat incorrect) to further strengthen the rape clause in the same Sexual Offences Act. It’s worth keeping in mind that the rape clause does mention consent heavily, and does not make reference to the genders of the assailant or victim.
Put simply, all rape is covered in the rape clause, whether heterosexual or homosexual. And the buggery clause applies to all anal sex regardless of consent. It makes sense, considering that our rape clause also doesn’t specify where the person was violated, that we should charge all rapists with rape. If that’s the case, what’s the purpose of the buggery law?
If hardly anyone gets charged for buggery, then folks can already do as they please!
I suppose this makes sense. The buggery clause of the Sexual Offences Act, for the most part, has only been used to try rapists (although that’s still a problem), and no one’s ever used it to target LGBT people for having sex.
But that’s not the problem. The problem is that they can.
I don’t know whether you think that Trinidad is an increasingly tolerant place, but most days I do not. The fact that there is a church group that can bring their friends to argue with me at the University of the West Indies about LGBT rights being a ‘conspiracy designed to silence Christians’ proves this for me.
So what would happen if someone so inclined to fight against this conspiracy was in a position to use the law that was already there? What would stop them? Since the law’s so clearly defined, it would simply a matter of proving that two people have engaged in the act and that’s it…and if it’ so hard to remove an under-enforced law, imagine how much more difficult if we decided to start using it.
Also, if the law’s so unnecessary that we won’t use…why not remove it again?
They’ll Kill Out The Christians!
Now this has to be my overall favourite statement of the night. A young man, no older than I am, stood up and said that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because, for the most part, they are against the rights and freedoms. They raped and murdered men, women and children, especially Christians, and held no remorse for their debauchery.
To me, that sounds vastly differently from them being destroyed for homosexuality, but I digress…
The young man continued that this is the inherent nature of the Sodomite (which they argued was the correct term for ‘homosexual’, even when I asked them politely to not use that word). To be clear, the nature of a Sodomite is one who anally rapes and murders Christians. Still not sure what this has to do with consensual homosexual relationships, but that’s another digression…
His argument; that we should retain laws that inhibit LGBT rights because, without them, the gay community would rise up and murder all the Christians in the nation. Seems legit, right? That’s been the entire homosexual agenda all along – to amass enough inalienable human rights to eradicate the Christian population and finally achieve world domination. How could I have been so naive not to see it…
That sort of logic, for obvious reasons, does not inform policy-making and legal reform in any other instance. So how is it that we allow it to here?
There was one point I will concede – no one should limit people’s religious freedom to say what they believe. But also, folks like the Thusian Institute need to understand that just because you’re speaking doesn’t mean you’re speaking sense, or that people should listen. This is a diverse society, where all people deserve respect. If you forget that, or allow yourself to disrespect others, then you might not find yourself in hell.
But you’ll definitely find yourself all alone when everyone decides not to listen to your hate any more.