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Oct 9, 2013

The churches question amendments to the criminal code

The Government of Belize has been coming under fire from all quarters, on matters as diverse as the Public Accounts Committee and the passport scandal. And now the churches have thrown some more wood unto the bonfire. This time it’s about proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. The bill is supposedly crafted to protect children, and has been endorsed by Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Barrow. But the churches, from the larger established denominations to the small local evangelical churches, are concerned. So much so, that they asked to be present and to make presentations on Tuesday when the Standing Committee met on the bill. Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On Tuesday representatives from the Evangelical Association, the Council of Churches, pastors, church leaders and supporters headed up the steps of the National Assembly. Their destination was the meeting room of the Standing Committee of the House, where some of them were scheduled to make presentations. The Standing Committee, which includes government and opposition representation, is meeting to consider a bill for an act to amend the Criminal Code.

 

Phillip Wright, Anglican Bishop

Phillip Wright

“As always with these documents that are in draft form, some of the wording and the content itself would be something that persons would look at and say well we have some concerns about the way this is phrased or this terminology that is being used. But I think, if I were to capture the concern, it is to again make sure that the proposed Bill in a way meets the aspirations of us as a people and as Christians, I suppose.”

 

On paper, the Act seeks to reform the law in relation to sexual offences against children. But some members of the church say the wording is sending up red flags all over the place. The lightning rod is proposed amendment to Section fifty-three, that infamous section of the Criminal Code. In a nutshell, the more vocal members of the church feel that the wording in the amendment is too ambiguous where the issue of consent is concerned. They feel that the clauses are too loose and would allow perpetrators to go free. Additionally, they feel that the wording suggests support for abortion. And finally, they feel that the government should not even be touching Section fifty-three while the Chief Justice has yet to rule on its Constitutionality.

 

Phillip Wright

“It speaks of course to matters of, from what I read and understood; that dived into a lot of the matters and issues that surround rape and the definition and understanding of rape and how it could be prosecuted criminally. Of course when you deal with that, you are also dealing with sexual behaviors, sexual practices that may be done during the act of a rape. And I guess the concern there would be that some of the amendments again may be dealing with the issue of homosexual acts and acts of that nature and I want to think that the church again takes some interest because of that.”

 

Representative of the Council of Churches, Anglican Bishop Phillip Wright, was sober in his reflection on the meeting and the repercussions of the amendment. But there are other elements in the church which are far more vocal and are seeing conspiracy theories in every shadow.

 

Phillip Wright

“The Council of Churches is indeed a bit more tempered in its response and conspiracy is a very strong word. You are then questioning the motive and the intentions of people and to a certain extent you can do that if you want, but that may not be the only way to approach your response to particular situations. So I would say for the Council of Churches, at the stage in which we are, we recognize that this is a process. It is really partly seeking clarification—what do you mean by this, what exactly is this saying or suggesting. That’s where we are as opposed to placing on it any ulterior motives and so on. I think we choose not to have that approach in terms of how we respond.”

 

The meeting of the Standing Committee concluded just after six thirty on Tuesday, with an agreement to hold a public meeting next week in Belmopan. This is so the issues can be ventilated and discussed…and to allow for input from the public. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

While the parties might differ in their interpretations of the amendments, according to Bishop Phillip Wright all present at the Standing Committee meeting are united in their intent to protect children.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “The churches question amendments to the criminal code”

  1. ceo says:

    Wright can you just go preach? The country should not and will not be run like the church. I do not and will never support homosexuality but I understand that they are Belizeans and they pay taxes like the rest and should be afforded the rights and priviliges that every Belizean is entitled to. Every Belizean will never agree one with the other so we need to find a way live together until he that shall come, will come. Then and only then will all the ills of this world be corrected! By the way wrere were you and the rest of your crowd when priests and other religeous leaders were raping children. Where were your speachs of vehimence? Yeh where were you guys?

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