By Adrian P. Torres:Pope Francis once famously remarked that the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations should apologize to homosexuals for contributing to their marginalization in society, citing the catechism, which states, “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” This should be embarrassing for religious conservatives in Belize, whose nihilistic rhetoric on LGBTQ rights runs contrary to this message from Jesus’s principal ambassador to earth. But even more embarrassing—shameful, really—is the Church’s naked hypocrisy on this issue.
The gravamen of the Church’s disagreement with the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Section 53 is that Belize is a Christian nation in which the laws of the country must reflect the supremacy of God, as enshrined in the preamble to the constitution. And since the Bible clearly states that homosexual behavior is an abomination, the sodomy provision of Section 53 should remain in force. There are several ways to refute this argument, but perhaps none more effective than to juxtapose the Church’s position on Section 53 with their inaction on another section of the criminal code—Section 109, which legalizes abortion.
To be sure, abortion is illegal under Section 108 of the code, but Section 109 carves out several circumstances that allow women in Belize to have abortions legally. For example, a woman may terminate her pregnancy under Section 109 if (1) it is performed by a medical practitioner and (2) if two such practitioners form a good faith opinion that a “continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk . . . to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.” Section 109(2) clarifies that a risk to the “mental health” shall include the “woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment,” which implicitly takes into account a woman’s present or future socioeconomic conditions. In other words, to have an abortion in Belize, a woman need only convince two medical practitioners that having a child will negatively impact her present or future socioeconomic conditions. This is a rather low hurdle to overcome to which many women can attest.
Regardless of where one stands on the pro-life-pro-choice spectrum, abortion violates a sacred tenet of Christianity: the right to God-given life, which starts at conception. Yet, the religious conservatives in Belize—like Pastors Louis Wade, Scott Stirm and Lance Lewis—have done nothing to challenge Section 109. How can members of this community on the one hand assail Section 53 by claiming that it violates Christian doctrine while, on the other hand, stand silent on abortion? To put this differently: why are Pastors Wade, Stirm and their ilk so fascinated by and obsessed with consensual intercourse among same-sex adults and the farcical threat it poses for our society, but simultaneously do nothing to hinder the work of the Belize Family Life Association or doctors across the country that offer “family planning” services under the cloak of the law? This brazen incongruity is an ostensible disservice to their faith. As such, the religious community’s tabernacle of integrity is missing the chalice of credibility. This is the true abomination.
In fact, what the abortion analogy above reveals is that our laws, and general human behavior in Belizean society, often diverges from religious dogma. Constitutional principles such as liberty, freedom and privacy not only mean that Belizeans are free to believe in God and to live their life according to the letter of scripture, but they must necessarily mean that one also has the freedom and liberty to live a life wholly untethered from religion or God. They mean that we have the freedom to extol the Ten Commandments, but we are equally free to have other gods; to take the Lord’s name in vain; to forget the Sabbath; to refuse to honor our fathers and mothers; and to covet thy neighbor’s wife and possessions—all without being penalized by the criminal code. Whether we pay for these sins later in life (or after life) is another matter.
How Pastors Wade, Stirm and Lewis reconcile their passion to counter LGBTQ activism with their silence on abortion is between them and God. However, the pastors and their followers would be wise to genuflect before the altar of judgment and recall the following lines from the gospel of Mark: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces . . . [O]n the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy[.]” (Matthew 23: 13, 28).
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
Adrian P. Torres (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an attorney in the Washington, DC office of Perkins Coie LLP. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washington University in St. Louis and a law degree from Columbia University. The views expressed by him do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Perkins Coie LLP.
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