JAMAICA: Several local Christians are calling for Canadian Professor Richard Albert to be removed from the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) named last month, claiming he has a distinct pro-LGBT and pro-abortion bias.
Albert, who is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the United States, is a trained scholar of world constitutions, constitutional reform and constitutional replacement. The only non-Jamaican on the committee, he has previously worked with a number of countries in modernising their constitutions.
The lawyer-heavy committee has been assembled to guide Jamaica’s transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic and to advise what amendments or new laws may be required.
Two of the local groups believe that Albert’s inclusion is a crafty move by the Government to change laws relating to homosexuality. They have called on the Government to explain his involvement.
Among those voicing objection to Albert’s inclusion is Bishop Dr Alvin Bailey, chairman of Jamaica CAUSE and president of the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance.
“This man must be removed from the Constitutional Reform Committee with immediate effect. His presence … compromises fairness, objectivity and sensitivity to the present laws of Jamaica,” the clergyman charged.
Although he does not speak for all church groups on the island, Bailey said that, unofficially, all have disapproved of the appointment.
“We are against it because he is a non-national. The Constitution is our local document, which will be sacrosanct, legal and binding … . I believe that no outsider should have a part to play in its construction,” he added.
Stressing that buggery is illegal in Jamaica, Bailey said Jamaicans should stand against any perceived attempt to legalise the practice in the country.
“The least the Government can do is give us an explanation,” Bailey said.
The Jamaica Coalition for Healthy Society has expressed similar sentiments.
In a recent interview on CVM Live, the group’s advocacy officer, Phillippa Davies, questioned the inclusion of the non-Jamaican, especially given that his beliefs are opposed to that held by the majority of Jamaicans.
A 2022 RJRGLEANER Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll found that four out of every five Jamaicans want buggery to remain a criminal offence. Twelve per cent of the respondents believed it should be decriminalised, while the remaining eight per cent were unsure.
Davies argued that Jamaica is not short of eminent constitutional scholars and jurists.
“Why do we need a Canadian? Why do we need a foreigner and Canada is also a constitutional monarchy? Why is it that we are having a non-Jamaican on this committee that is looking at such a sensitive and important issue?
“And not only that, we have seen and heard from Professor Albert his worldview on some very sensitive issues and those positions that he holds on those very important issues are diametrically opposed to the values and the views of Jamaica, so we are very concerned,” Davies said.
Dr Elaine McCarthy, head of the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches, told The Gleaner on Sunday that the body was made aware of the concern and will be discussing the issue with its members.
Gleaner calls and messages to Albert for a response were unanswered up to press time on Sunday.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling last year, Albert told KVUE news in Austin, Texas, that the decision would not necessarily prevent abortions but force women to seek unsafe means to undergo the procedure.
“It is very sad. It’s a devastation for the country, for women and anyone who believes in fundamental rights and freedom,” he said.
He has argued that if the US overturns its previous ruling on same-sex relationships, it would be a fundamental breach of the right to privacy for all, including homosexuals.
Albert has believes that the right to privacy in sexual relationships between two persons, whether they are of the same sex or not, should be respected.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte will co-chair the committee with Lt Gen Rocky Meade.
Phase I of the reform work will focus on the repatriation of the Constitution, abolition of the constitutional monarchy, the establishment of republican status, and all matters within the deeply entrenched provisions of the Constitution for which a referendum is required to amend.
Phase II will look at the wording and provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and the ordinarily entrenched provisions of the Constitution for which amendments are desired and required.
The last phase will focus on fully assessing the country’s legal and constitutional infrastructure to facilitate putting together a new Constitution.
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