No day at the beach: The Human Rights Commission said homophobia is still a problem in Bermuda.  *iStock photo
No day at the beach: The Human Rights Commission said homophobia is still a problem in Bermuda. *iStock photo

Next week’s community forum on LGBT has been met with mixed and in some instances cryptic reaction from faith leaders on the island.

Pastor Veronica Outerbridge of the Living Word Christian Fellowship, for one, questioned whether LGBT discrimination was a prevalent problem in Bermuda. 

“Are they really discriminated against or is it a matter of a group wanting to have their way in a country that basically says no?” she asked. “I don’t see any discrimination any more than when I see discrimination against blacks. I don’t see it. I don’t see it. I see a group that wants to get their own way.”

“If you’re doing anything against the norm you’re going to feel inferiority,” said Ms Outerbridge. “That’s what they’re feeling — inferiority.”

The Human Rights Commission, along with the Consulate General of the United States, have organized a panel discussion about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) rights and tolerance in Bermuda in an attempt to foster open and forthright dialogue regarding that issue. 

The discussion is scheduled for June 24 at Bermuda College. The day before that discussion, a screening of Pariah, a film about a 17-year-old African-American girl exploring her sexuality, will feature at Specialty Cinema.

Earlier this month, Zakiya Lord, the research and project coordinator of the Human Rights Commission, said homophobia is still very much a problem in Bermuda. 

Not everyone has embraced the event with open arms. Elder Edward Lightbourne, of the White Hill Gospel Chapel, questioned the purpose of the forum.

 “My personal stand, I wouldn’t see the validity in that. God’s position has not changed: We love the individual but we won’t condone the sin.”

He added, “I think you would get more mileage out of a face-to-face meeting rather than a forum.”

Asked if he had any plans to attend the forum, he said “No, sir. If anyone wants to chat with me personally, I have no problem with that, but they’re not going to educate me on anything new.”

Dr Ernest Peets, Jr., reverend at the Church of the Nazarene, said the forum was a sign of the times and acknowledged that LGBT discrimination, was “probably just as important as some other topics.

“I wouldn’t have any direct firsthand experience with that, but racism and discrimination is an issue in every society,” he said.

Dr Maria A. Seaman, pastor of Shekinah Worship International Ministries, stated through an e-mail: “The law of the land gives all human beings the right to hold a forum.”

She added, “I will continue to uphold the laws of God above all other laws.”

She did not elaborate.

Last year, a collection of dozens of faith leaders in the island, called United For Change, released a lengthy statement in response to an amendment to the Human Rights Act that called for sexual orientation to be added to the list of prohibited ground for discrimination.

The statement read, in part, “In conclusion, it is our belief that we should show love and respect to all persons regardless of their lifestyle because they are created in the image of God. 

“By including sexual orientation as: a prohibited ground of discrimination along with race, place of origin, colour, or ethnic or national origins, etc., we are concerned that persons of faith who have a scriptural conviction against homosexual activity may be at risk of being the subject of a human rights complaint.”