MONTEGO BAY, St James — Director of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, Nigel Coke is upbeat over talks with the minister of education about alternative dates for SDA students whenever examinations fall on the Sabbath.
“We have had communication from anxious and concerned students who have stated that they have exam days on the Sabbath at the end of this semester in May. To that end, we (a team from the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists) had a meeting with the minister of education (Senator Ruel Reid) and his team two weeks ago and a proposal is being put forward, and we are expecting a favourable response,” Coke revealed.
He said that “the principle is that there should be no discrimination against students because of their religious beliefs, practices or observances”.
“If exams, field trips, labs, et cetera are timetabled in a manner that infringes a student's right against religious discrimination then, by the principle of accommodation, the educational institution should set and offer an alternate date and time for the exam, field trip, lab, et cetera, that does not infringe the student's right to practise his/her religious belief or observance,” Coke argued.
He was speaking at the SDA Religious Liberty Festival, held under the theme 'Religious Freedom, Our Human Right' at King's Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mount Salem, St James, on Saturday.
In the meantime, president of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Glen Samuels expressed his gratitude to president of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) Howard Mitchell and employers who respect the religious rights of workers.
“I would like to thank the president of the PSOJ for his understanding of religious freedom and for his stout statement for those under his umbrella. I would like to thank all employment agencies I want to thank all employers who are respecting the religious freedom of persons, whether they worship on Saturday or Sunday, to give them the privilege to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience,” Pastor Samuels noted.
He added: “It is always a threat when the obedience of a people will cause them to lose their jobs because employment agencies are either prejudiced against their religion or sometimes fail to recognise their religious rights.”
Meanwhile, Coke conceded that by the nature of some businesses, the employees are required to work on the Sabbath.
“I advise that members be very selective in their profession and work because, in some situations, we cannot bend the arm of any employer who has his business to run and basically requires that you are there,” Coke recommended.
Coke also called on members to be a voice of freedom and say “No to religious discrimination”.
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