Also, please see A
New Kind of Christianity
time Guyanese like Kit Naciemento proclaims Guyanese as being
"equal under the law" or President Jagdeo chant about
"democracy being strong" remind them about the Public
School Prayer which defies our Guyana Constitution and the law
of separation of church and state enshrined in it...n
The Guyana Constitution stipulates a separation
of Church and State. The Guyana Constitution allows for the freedom
of religious practices. But it prohibits the use of public, state-owned
institution from being used for or in allegiance with religious
or theological practices. But the Ministry of Education allows
public education to be sanctioned by a Christian prayer (The Lord’s
Prayer). The Ministry of Education allows public (“government”)
schools to be used for religious practices by some Christian denominations
such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (see below).
The Ministry of Education granted permission for
the distribution of a religious book (Book of Hope) in
certain public schools in 2001.
Questions about Church
and State Hypocrisy:
What happens when the largest religious denomination
(Christianity) in a country sits idly by as religious discrimination
(or prejudice) is practiced systematically by the state against
other religions but itself? Does this make the Christian community
guilty of obstruction the Guyana Constitution? What happens when
the government of the day, via the work of one of its ministries
(the Ministry of Education), allows by ignoring, the systematic
disregard of the law of separation of church and state? In Guyana,
there is separation of Mosque and State and Temple and State but
no separation of Church and State
Is Guyana a "Secular State" as
Stabroek News editorialized in November 2004?
The Lord's prayer is still said in some
Saturday, November 13th 2004
I read your editorial titled "secular state"
(SN 11/11) and enjoyed it. The sentence I have a problem with, however,
is this: "Guyana is a secular state in which Christians, Hindus,
Muslims and adherents of other religions worship freely without
interference of any kind."
I know that we have the freedom to practise our
religions. But I also know that there is an interference. I know
that your paper is aware of our public or state-owned education
system and that for decades the "Lord's Prayer," which
is a Christian hymn, has been the mandatory prayer in all these
institutions. Therefore, I am left to believe that your paper is
ignoring an old and obvious contradiction to the idea of us being
a secular state, simply because to challenge the "obvious"
would be to ignite aÂ debate that would only conclude in parliament.
Or, the paper thinksÂ this is not a serious enough violation
to warrant a question mark over our supposed secularity?
It is interesting, this editorial, because it attempts
to discuss national politics and an organized religion in the recent
US election, whereas, the same concern ought to be shown to our
public school system and this very organized religion. And by this,
I mean, where are the editorials on the use of "government"
schools in Guyana (e.g., Grove Primary School) for religious business?
That the Ministry of Education allows this to occur, and refuses
to explain granting such permissions when questioned in the press,
is testimony of the false democracy we have inherited. While we
do haveÂ numerous freedoms, weÂ do not haveÂ an
absolute case of separation of church and state.
The evangelicalism that the Bush administration
is associated with is already in Guyana. It is in the TV, on pre-recorded
sermons on CDs and cassettes, boat-libraries (e.g., the boat Logos
that visited us recently), and of course, free gifts from Christian
organizations in the US. Money is the real power behind evangelicalism,
and the concern your editorial raises, as others in America, is
testimony of the dangerous swing Christianity is assuming. Behind
closed doors the wars in the Middle East are more than just a clash
of civilizations. It is a change of civilizations; we not only defeat
them; we convert them.
War, Bernard Shaw has made us to understand, makes
for good business. The evangelicals are waiting for the gun barrels
in Iraq to grow cold to begin work. The two US women arrested by
the TalibansÂ were not only "aid workers," but evangelical
missionaries (thus their arrest).
On the Logos, a number of books were given out
"free." What people don't know is that many of these books
could not be sold, because Logos got them for "free" (for
promotion) from publishers (e.g., McGraw Hill). Getting a "free"
book from a boat that is managed by a faith-based team, may be the
thing that makes a poor non-Christian make a trip to a crusadeâ€¦Whereas
we are given books etc. to alter our religious views, Bush gave
tax dollars to Christian groups to change their political views.
Writers in Guyana should write about the consequences
of these things. What, for example, are the musical and cultural
forms in Guyana at risk of being severely reduced orÂ eliminated
because of evangelicalism? Perhaps this editorial is a start.
Editor's note (from Stabroek News):
Regulation 68 of the education code regulations provides as follows:
"It shall not be required that a pupil shall attend or abstain
from attending any Sunday school or any place of religious worship
or that he shall, or shall not, attend any religious observance
We understand that the Lord's prayer is still said
in some schools but that non-Christians do not have to participate.
Nevertheless, we are sending a copy of this
letter to the Minister of Education for any comments he may wish
to make on this and the use of government schools for religious
*This is the third of such letters sent by Stabroek
News to the Ministry of Education, prompted by letters from Rakesh
Rampertab on the subject matter. Never was there any response from
the Ministry of Education. (Editor's Note, Guyanaundersiege)
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