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All require equality under the law

Pro same sex marriage supporters and preserve marriage demonstrators both make their options know on the grounds of Cabinet building ( Photograph David Skinner)

“God the Creator has already declared His original intent for male and female humans. I choose to side with God. Unlike popular opinion, this is not a private matter; this is a matter of the future sustainability and prosperity of our island home.”

— Pastor Terence Stovell

Last week, Pastor Terence Stovell shared his views on same-sex marriage and concluded that to support equal marriage rights is to go against God’s original intent for male and female humans. And per the statement above, allowing same-sex marriage will lead to Bermuda being unsustainable and impoverished.

The root of this view is that, according to the Bible, God created man and woman and instructed them to populate the Earth. Stovell refers specifically to Genesis 1 26:28 and essentially concludes that any idea that runs counter to procreation, runs counter to God and, therefore, is sinful.

This is what many call a purist or literal interpretation of the Bible, and I find it problematic for many reasons. For starters, not everyone who engages in sex is seeking to have a child, and few would argue that having sex when you can no longer have children is sinful. As such, the idea that sex is meant only for procreation is absurd. But there is something even more fundamentally wrong when taking a purist approach to sexual behaviour. If we are to do literally what the Bible shows, how do we get around the idea of incest? You simply cannot get around it if you believe that the world was populated by an original family of four. Yet, if you ask your average Christian how they feel about incest, they will tell you that it’s sinful.

The same applies to polygamy. Today, many believe that marriage to more than one person is sinful. In fact, it is illegal in many countries. But turning back to the Bible, there are multiple examples of highly regarded patriarchs who had multiple wives. So has society become unstable or impoverished by failing to take a purist approach to incest and polygamy? No. Aren’t we being selective in what we choose to follow when judging same-sex marriage, divorce, virginity and promiscuity? I have yet to witness a stoning in Bermuda, so the answer here is yes. Interestingly, Stovell quoted from The Voice Translation, which according to Bible.com is but one of 1,306 versions of the Bible. The publishers describe their version as follows:

“The Voice invites a generation of story lovers to step into the Bible through a fresh expression of its timeless narrative. It recaptures the passion, grit, humour and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. Readers will enter into the story of scripture more deeply and discover that they can actually hear God’s voice speaking into their life today.”

As far as I understood, the Word of God is not meant to be entertainment, nor is it as something that is meant to be altered as men see fit. Nevertheless, the authors of this translation think differently.

The key point here, though, is that Stovell has presented what he believes to be God’s divine plan, and his beliefs are based upon his interpretation of what he finds in a Bible translation that he believes is preferable.

Stovell is entitled to his beliefs and he should be allowed to practise his religion as long as it is lawful and does not impinge on the rights of anyone else. But let’s be honest for one moment: if you believe that society will be destabilised by giving gays equal rights, it is because you believe that you are superior to them. And when that sense of superiority allows for discrimination, you are practising religious bigotry.

History has shown over and over that far too much blood has been spilt over religious beliefs. The carnage in Orlando is yet another reminder of what can go horribly wrong in today’s times. For us to survive, whether you believe in X, Y or Z, no one should be allowed to force their beliefs upon another, no matter how resolute they are about God’s will. In a free society, individuals should have the right to choose, and no one should be denied equal rights because of any group’s religious beliefs.

This referendum is not about whether or not you agree that homosexuality is a choice. It’s not about forcing those who want to marry the opposite sex to marry someone of the same sex. It’s also not about forcing anyone to abandon their religion. It’s about ensuring that no one is denied equal rights under the law because of religious reasons. It’s about making clear that, by law, sexual orientation does not define one as being inferior to another.

•To contact Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com

• On occasion, The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers