Society for a Secular Bermuda
Several years ago, in 2004, I set up a small group called the ‘Society for a Secular Bermuda’ (SSB).
This group originated within the Regiment, largely as a result of reaction towards what I can only describe as Christian chauvinism at Warwick Camp.
Camoflaged covered New Testaments were being handed out, the Ten Commandments were being put up in barracks, soldiers were marched in full military parade to Church services and soldiers in the canteen or at muster in the parade square were subject to forced prayer.
Myself, a strong advocate of secularism, and a number of other soldiers, some Christian, but also including non-theists, Muslims and other faiths, protested this, to the point of engaging in non-violent ‘civil’ (to the degree one can call it civil in a military setting) disobedience.
This later merged with other issues internal to the Regiment, relating to pay, training and so forth, but as regards the Christian chauvinism itself, I think I can safely say we got the Ten Commandments removed from the barracks, effectively ended Church Parades, got rid of camo-Bibles and won the right to ‘fall-out’ from prayers (we were pushing for minutes of silence, but still, baby-steps).
Beyond Warwick Camp?
We established communication with the UK National Secular Society with the objective of formal affiliation as a UKOTs chapter, and briefly engaged with non-Regiment issues.
Primarily, we handed out some leaflets at one of the first demonstrations relating to amending the Human Rights Act (in reaction to Church interference on this issue), and waged a campaign to get a large six-foot cross removed from the General Post Office.
I can’t say the groups active members were very large, and it fizzled out as I directed my focus instead on fighting for socialism within the PLP from 2006 on.
I had hoped other members would continue, but as we left the Regiment the energy kind of deflated.
Time for a ‘Resurrection’ of the SSB?
In light of the recent National Day of Prayer, I wonder if it may be time to revisit this initiative, to re-launch it?
If anyone is interested in working with me on this, please get in touch.
Comments in the RG
I think it was the long-memory of the RG, about my involvement with the SSB, as their main leader and spokesperson, that they contacted me about the National Day of Prayer that was held yesterday.
My full comments, of which most was printed in the RG, are as follows:
Premier Cannonier may be right that without spirituality we are all doomed, but I find it disappointing that our society has yet to see a proper division of Church and State.
Such a separation of Church and State is, I believe, an essential element for promoting equality between all citizens.
We are an island of many spiritualities, denominations and religions or philosophies. Religious individuals have a right to attend religious gatherings, but our elected officials should only attend these in their private capacity, rather than blurring the line between spirituality and State privileging of one religion over another.
If people want to pray, go ahead. But leave that to the Churches or other religious groups, and keep the State separate.
I am particularly concerned about the de facto forced indoctrination of school children through this. There is no place for religion in our education system.
If parents wish their children to attend particular religious education they should do that on their own time, not in the formal school system.
I’m pretty shocked at the comments though (by Premier Cannonier). I’m a militant secularist, pretty much, and find his comments offensive to be honest.
He doesn’t speak in my name, of the non-religious (up to a fifth of the country, I think, in the last census), nor the Muslims, Jews, Bahai’s, Hindus or other religious groups.
Representatives of State should not be attending this in an official capacity, and they most certainly shouldn’t be making such Christian-centric/chauvinistic comments like that, in my honest opinion.
And the school children were there? Public school? Why would they be taken out of school for such an event? The private religious schools (BI, MSA – even BHS & Saltus, as officially Anglican) I can maybe understand, but not the public schools.