By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Save Our Bahamas Committee - the group that opposed the 2013 gambling referendum - yesterday launched a vote no campaign against the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The group is urging people to vote “no” to question four in the June 7 gender equality referendum. The committee is spearheaded by a number of the nation’s leading pastors.
During a press conference at the Grace Community Church on Sunday, the committee called on the electorate to “vote their conscience” on bills one, two and three; but urged voters against being duped by the government’s “diabolical” plot to allow for same-sex marriage under the guise of gender equality.
The committee said it was convinced, given the precedent set in other countries, that the fourth bill would open the door to legalising same-sex marriage in the Bahamas despite the government’s continued assurance that it would not.
According to Save Our Bahamas, its view was reinforced by the Christie administration’s refusal to amend the constitution to define marriage as a union between a “born male” and a “born female” only.
The committee said these terms were originally put forward and endorsed by late pastor Dr Myles Munroe.
The group accused the Christie administration of “misrepresenting” the work of Dr Munroe, insisting that the government has presented his comments as only having issue with the terms “sex” and “sex at birth,” when in fact the late pastor often called for the phrases “born male” and a “born female” to be included in the amendments to the Constitution.
“This is what the people of the Bahamas (have) asked for, but once again, rather than favourably respond to the expressed will of the Bahamian people, the government has turned a deaf ear,” said senior pastor of Bahamas Harvest Church Mario Moxey.
“On bill four, we are definitely asking the nation to vote no,” he added.
Save Our Bahamas said it also intends to deliver a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister, requesting initial seed funding of $100,000 for its campaign. The group insisted that the government has made it clear in recent weeks that it has a “horse in the race,” a factor the group said could send the wrong impression to the electorate.
Lyall Bethel, pastor of Grace Community Church and associate member of the Save Our Bahamas committee, suggested that the Christie administration’s botched handling of the 2013 gambling referendum has made the vote “no” campaign more difficult.
Save Our Bahamas has also called for full disclosure of how much money the government has invested in its vote “yes” campaign.
According to Pastor Bethel, voters are now uninterested in casting ballots because the government did not adhere to the results of the 2013 gambling referendum.
However the gender vote is a constitutional referendum, therefore its results are binding.
“Persons are rightfully discouraged,” the pastor said. “But, I want to caution everyone who is discouraged to realise (that) you can’t let your discouragement translate in to you not going out to vote. If you are discouraged and you feel as if this government needs to be taught a lesson, then go out and vote no.”
During the launch of the government’s vote “yes” campaign last Sunday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the referendum did not propose radical change, pushing back against what he called “false rumours or incorrect information.”
He contended that the controversial amendment would not lead to same-sex marriage, stating that it would ensure that Bahamian men and women were equal under the law.
Mr Christie went on to argue that by law – under the Matrimonial Causes Act - marriage in the Bahamas must be between a man and a woman, implying the new amendment would not change that.
However, Save Our Bahamas took issue with this. Pastor Bethel stressed that all laws are subservient to the Constitution.
Pastor Bethel said the group has approached both major political parties in recent months about its concerns about the referendum.
He said meetings with the Free National Movement yielded great results. But, according to Pastor Bethel, the governing party has refused to even meet with his committee.
The fourth amendment seeks to eliminate gender discrimination in the Constitution by inserting the word “sex,” which has been defined as being “male or female,” in Article 26.
The group will hold a prayer meeting in Rawson Square at 7.30 tonight, and every Monday night leading up to the vote.
The group will also hold a pastor’s forum on Thursday to ensure that Christian ministers have a full understanding of the potential ramifications of bill four.
Thursday’s forum will be held at Evangelistic Temple.
Save Our Bahamas also consists of Minister Kevin Harris; Alfred Stewart, senior pastor at New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church; and Geoffrey Wood, senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church.