31 July, 2007

Clergy Politicians

Constitutional Discussions 14: Ministers of Religion Disqualified to be Candidates. Section 37 of the Constitution sets out some disqualifications for running in elections as a candidate. One of them is if you are a Minister of Religion. This is a traditional disqualification. It exists in Britain. There is a historical reason. The church is represented in the British Parliament by the Bishops who are members of the House of Lords. The British take the view that it is unfair to give the church a second bite at the cherry by letting them run in politics as candidates for election to the House of Commons. We have no House of Lords in Anguilla. The Commission discussed this issue up and down the island. People wrote-in on the Commission’s website. Some sent emails to members of the Commission. Some turned out to public meetings. There were some Anguillians in favour of keeping the restriction. They thought that clergymen had an unfair advantage in being able to influence their congregation to vote in their favour. These were mainly the “professional politicians”. A large majority of Anguillians making representations to the Commission were in favour of getting rid of it. They thought it might be a positive influence to have someone in the Assembly who would bring a religious perspective to the Assembly’s deliberations. Most churches have members who support a cross-section of political views. Most persons making representations thought that it would be a disaster for a churchman to risk offending half of his congregation by campaigning in politics. For this reason, they thought it highly unlikely that a serving clergyman would risk offending a large portion of his congregation by running in elections.

The Commission accepted the view of the majority. At paragraph 87 of its Report, the Commission recommended that this disqualification be removed. Regrettably, the Members of the Assembly meeting in caucus at the Limestone Bay Café took a different view. They supported the minority in opposing Ministers of Religion running in politics.

They have fallen into error! It is difficult for us non-politicians to appreciate what it is they are afraid of.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.