"Additionally, members of the Church along the East Bank have used a school as temporary church buildings on Sundays when the children are not participating in active school lessons. Approval was sought from the Ministry of Education. This practice has not interfered with the school children or their parents..."
—Wayne Barrow, Head, Public Affairs Committee, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.              See Stabroek News, September 24, 2003

What Separation of Church and State?
by Rakesh Rampertab

Also, please see A New Kind of Christianity

Next time Guyanese like Kit Naciemento proclaims Guyanese as being "equal under the law" or President Jagdeo chant about "democracy being strong" remind them about the Public School Prayer which defies our Guyana Constitution and the law of separation of church and state enshrined in it...n
The Guyana Constitution stipulates a separation of Church and State. The Guyana Constitution allows for the freedom of religious practices. But it prohibits the use of public, state-owned institution from being used for or in allegiance with religious or theological practices. But the Ministry of Education allows public education to be sanctioned by a Christian prayer (The Lord’s Prayer). The Ministry of Education allows public (“government”) schools to be used for religious practices by some Christian denominations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (see below).




The Ministry of Education granted permission for the distribution of a religious book (Book of Hope) in certain public schools in 2001.

Questions about Church and State Hypocrisy:

What happens when the largest religious denomination (Christianity) in a country sits idly by as religious discrimination (or prejudice) is practiced systematically by the state against other religions but itself? Does this make the Christian community guilty of obstruction the Guyana Constitution? What happens when the government of the day, via the work of one of its ministries (the Ministry of Education), allows by ignoring, the systematic disregard of the law of separation of church and state? In Guyana, there is separation of Mosque and State and Temple and State but no separation of Church and State

Is Guyana a "Secular State" as Stabroek News editorialized in November 2004?

The Lord's prayer is still said in some schools
Saturday, November 13th 2004

Dear Editor,

I read your editorial titled "secular state" (SN 11/11) and enjoyed it. The sentence I have a problem with, however, is this: "Guyana is a secular state in which Christians, Hindus, Muslims and adherents of other religions worship freely without interference of any kind."

I know that we have the freedom to practise our religions. But I also know that there is an interference. I know that your paper is aware of our public or state-owned education system and that for decades the "Lord's Prayer," which is a Christian hymn, has been the mandatory prayer in all these institutions. Therefore, I am left to believe that your paper is ignoring an old and obvious contradiction to the idea of us being a secular state, simply because to challenge the "obvious" would be to ignite a debate that would only conclude in parliament. Or, the paper thinks this is not a serious enough violation to warrant a question mark over our supposed secularity?

It is interesting, this editorial, because it attempts to discuss national politics and an organized religion in the recent US election, whereas, the same concern ought to be shown to our public school system and this very organized religion. And by this, I mean, where are the editorials on the use of "government" schools in Guyana (e.g., Grove Primary School) for religious business? That the Ministry of Education allows this to occur, and refuses to explain granting such permissions when questioned in the press, is testimony of the false democracy we have inherited. While we do have numerous freedoms, we do not have an absolute case of separation of church and state.

The evangelicalism that the Bush administration is associated with is already in Guyana. It is in the TV, on pre-recorded sermons on CDs and cassettes, boat-libraries (e.g., the boat Logos that visited us recently), and of course, free gifts from Christian organizations in the US. Money is the real power behind evangelicalism, and the concern your editorial raises, as others in America, is testimony of the dangerous swing Christianity is assuming. Behind closed doors the wars in the Middle East are more than just a clash of civilizations. It is a change of civilizations; we not only defeat them; we convert them.

War, Bernard Shaw has made us to understand, makes for good business. The evangelicals are waiting for the gun barrels in Iraq to grow cold to begin work. The two US women arrested by the Talibans were not only "aid workers," but evangelical missionaries (thus their arrest).

On the Logos, a number of books were given out "free." What people don't know is that many of these books could not be sold, because Logos got them for "free" (for promotion) from publishers (e.g., McGraw Hill). Getting a "free" book from a boat that is managed by a faith-based team, may be the thing that makes a poor non-Christian make a trip to a crusade…Whereas we are given books etc. to alter our religious views, Bush gave tax dollars to Christian groups to change their political views.

Writers in Guyana should write about the consequences of these things. What, for example, are the musical and cultural forms in Guyana at risk of being severely reduced or eliminated because of evangelicalism? Perhaps this editorial is a start.

Rakesh Rampertab

Editor's note (from Stabroek News):

Regulation 68 of the education code regulations provides as follows: "It shall not be required that a pupil shall attend or abstain from attending any Sunday school or any place of religious worship or that he shall, or shall not, attend any religious observance whatever."

We understand that the Lord's prayer is still said in some schools but that non-Christians do not have to participate. Nevertheless, we are sending a copy of this letter to the Minister of Education for any comments he may wish to make on this and the use of government schools for religious business.*

*This is the third of such letters sent by Stabroek News to the Ministry of Education, prompted by letters from Rakesh Rampertab on the subject matter. Never was there any response from the Ministry of Education. (Editor's Note, Guyanaundersiege)


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