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Religion and Politics should not be mixed

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Tue, Apr 24. 2012

Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party Arnhim Eustace acted correctly when he revoked the senatorial appointment of Anesia Baptiste.

He had no choice but to fire her.

In her eleven-page letter to Mr Eustace, Mrs Baptiste made it clear that she did not intend to abide by the Party policy relating to adverse comments about religious groups, not now, or in the future.{{more}}

Mr Eustace said on radio yesterday that the position of the Party in relation to adverse religious comments was arrived at after much debate among the Strategy Committee, and at the end of the discussion, Mrs Baptiste was the only one of the seventeen persons at the strategy meeting who did not agree with the policy.

When Mrs Baptiste sent her now widely circulated letter (see pages 20 & 21) to Mr Eustace on Tuesday evening, she must have known dismissal would be the result.

In arguing her point, her language was offensive and at times condescending, but she was clearly willing to take the risk. She may have overestimated her personal popularity, but as she will soon learn, if she hasn’t already, many of the persons who supported her in the past, will be unwilling to do so if it means going against their party.

In any organization, there are rules, and if he or she cannot abide by them, he or she should leave. Had she just written a letter of resignation, instead of trying to beat a dead horse, she would have parted ways with the NDP amicably, and without the Party’s dirty linen being washed in public, giving the Unity Labour Party ammunition to use against them.

Reading Baptiste’s letter, however, one gets the impression that she somehow believed that she could, by presenting a strong argument, persuade the NDP to change its policy and the Party Leadership’s interpretation of the term “religious liberty”, to what she believes the term means. This shows to some extent, her naivety.

At the root of all this, however, is the danger of mixing politics with religion. Mrs Baptiste is unwilling to compromise her religious beliefs at the altar of political expediency, and for that she should be respected.

To be fair, she is always made her priorities very clear. When she was sworn in as senator in December 2010, she stated, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, that she intended to look at all her senatorial duties from the perspective of people’s “God-given rights and freedoms,” as every aspect of their lives are impacted by them.

God-given rights and freedoms, as she sees them, are paramount, and included among these is the right to express one’s opinion, even if it is negative, about other religious organizations.

Minority extremist religious positions, such as those held by Mrs Baptiste and members of her church, are unlikely to have popular appeal and go counter to the interests of mass political parties. Many political observers are of the view that what transpired between Mrs Baptiste and the NDP was inevitable because of her history of being unwilling to compromise.

So, whither Mrs Baptiste? Her political future looks dim at the moment, but she should not be written off. She has youth, a sharp intellect, articulacy, a strong will and energy in her favour. She will one day, no doubt re-emerge, hopefully wiser and less strident in her discourse, to make a valuable contribution to the development of this country. We wish her all the very best.

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