Renee Webb: Religious faith should not dictate what secular 
society does. *File photo
Renee Webb: Religious faith should not dictate what secular society does. *File photo

The Seventh Day Adventist Church has distanced itself from controversial comments made by the Deputy Mayor of Hamilton Donal Smith.

Dr Sydney Gibbons, executive secretary of the Seventh Day Adventists in Bermuda, said Mr Smith was not a member of the church.

He added: “He is a community figure and Issues is a community outreach programme.

“On this particular issue, there were a variety of people interviewed. His views do not reflect the official position of the church.”

Dr Gibbons spoke out after Mr Smith was heavily criticized for making “offensive and derogatory” about gay people, by the Rainbow Alliance group, set up to protect gay people from discrimination.

In a TV interview for the Seventh Day Adventist Church programme ‘Issues’, the contents of which were subsequently reported by The Royal Gazette, Mr Smith had likened gays to “freaks” and their behaviour to that of “dogs” and suggested those who support gay marriage are condemned. 

Earlier this week, Government Minister Michael Fahy said: “It is shocking that an elected official could attack homosexuals in this manner.”

And he called on Mr Smith to apologize — he did so yesterday (see story, right) — and hinted that he should stand down from the Deputy Mayorship altogether, or be fired.

Dr Gibbons pointed to his own and the church’s position on the issue, which he delivered on the same edition of the Issues programme. 

He said: “We hold that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are loved by God. We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse.

“Still, God’s word that transcends time and culture does not permit a homosexual lifestyle.”

Former PLP Government Minister Renee Webb, whose attempt in Parliament to extend human rights protection to include sexual orientation failed, said Mr Smith’s views were not uncommon.

She added: “The comments of Donal Smith are reflective of many who profess to be Christian.”

And she also criticised the United for Change group, which includes more than 70 clerics of several denominations, which asked for special exemptions on gay rights for churches.

Ms Webb said: “The pastors who signed the ‘carve out’ request to be able to discriminate despite the inclusion of sexual orientation under the Human Rights Act are an example.”

“These professed Christians, none of whose utterances emulate the teachings of Jesus, need to understand that their faith is theirs. Their faith should not, and does not dictate what secular society does. 

“Their beliefs do not put them above others, nor do they have the right to judge others or dictate to an elected Government of the people what it should or should not be doing regarding laws that everyone, including them, should abide by.”