The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, South Leewards Conference, is taking umbrage at threats by the Gaston Browne Administration to legislate how private schools operate and apply their rules.
The Cabinet’s involvement and response are the result of a widely publicized incident in which a five-year-old girl was rejected by the New Bethel Academy, after registration, due to her dreadlocked hairstyle.
The school’s action prompted condemnation from many residents and several quarters of the society, including the Rastafarian community.
Carson Greene, President of the religious body, says the firestorm ignited by the Seventh-Day Adventist’s policies on deportment is unfortunate and regrettable.
Greene says the charge of discrimination is ill conceived, since no other Christian denomination advocates more profoundly for religious freedom than it does.
However, “what is most concerning” to the President, “is the suggestion of legislation on the part of the government to govern the policies and standards of private Christian institutions.”
Therefore, Greene says, the Church strongly condemns the various statements to that effect and views then as an attempt by the “secular authority to control or unduly influence the Christian Community on its values and principles.”
The lines between Church and State should forever remain clear, he declares.
Meanwhile, Greene says the incident in which the child was not allowed to attend school has been amicably resolved, with both the parent and New Bethel reasonably satisfied with the outcome.
Greene says the institution is a Christian school that is governed by the Christian values articulated in its student handbook. These address matters of discipline in several areas – and not just hairstyles, he notes.
“Children do not have the right to do everything that adults do, and uniforms and standards in school are designed to assist with the process of development of discipline,” he explains.
Finally, in instances such as these, the President recommends conversations and tolerance as alternatives to “accusations and indifference” toward those who hold different views.