Jamaica, Uganda lose patience with preachers, and Ghana is to host a humanist gathering

ACTING on complaints from passengers getting ear-ache from Gospel-spouting fools, a transit company on the island of Jamaica has reportedly banned evangelising on its buses.

The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) said it has issued a notice to all of its bus drivers to politely ask any passengers that seek to evangelize while in transit to zip their lips.

Harley Lewin, the director of JUTC, states that he doesn’t oppose the Gospel, but doesn’t think that buses are the proper place for proselytising.

I am all for evangelising but they can’t use the bus as their platform.

He said that the company took action after it received phone calls from those that didn’t like having to listen to the preaching, stating that it “disturbs” them.

Area Christians explain that while they will obey the prohibition for now, they may seek legal recourse under the Jamaican Constitution, which they assert grants the right to

To manifest and propagate [one's] religion.

Said one Bible buffoon:

We won’t be going back on the bus until the matter is resolved because we are being verbally abused, and the last thing you want is to be physically abused.

News of the ban prompted a Ghanaian blogger to ask whether a similar ban should be imposed on “eardrum-breaking” preachers in that country.

Bedlam on the buses: this picture shows passengers being harassed on a bus in Ghana (via GhanaCelebrities.com)

Jamaica’s ban follows a reported attempt last month by Ugandan legislators to sweep preachers off the street, describing their activities as “inflammatory”.

Said government official Alex Ruhunda:

We need to control these people before it’s too late. We cannot allow people who abuse other peoples’ religions; this will cause chaos in the country.

However, a local pastor, and many other evangelists said that a complete ban would be unconstitutional.

Simeon Kayiwa of Namirembe Christian Fellowship Church complained:

Open air preaching is an ancient Christian practice and shouldn’t be banned.

Latif Ssebaggala, who first addressed his concerns to parliament in the form of a letter, stated that the protests that had broken out around the world over the film Innocence of Muslims demonstrated the need to silence offensive speech. He asked the government to condemn those who promote “religious hatred” by using various forms of expressing to speak against Islam.

Deputy Prime Minister Moses Ali advised that Muslims should notify police whenever they come in contact with those that denounce the Islamic religion.

While a decision has not yet been made about the matter parliament urged its fellow government leaders:

To ensure that street preachers do not plunge the country into chaos.

Uganda is 41 percent Roman Catholic, 35 percent Anglican, 8 percent evangelical Christian and 12 percent Muslim.

Meanwhile it is reported here that Ghana – said to be Africa’s most religious country – is to host a gathering next week of African non-believers seeking to find ways of promoting  an “enlightenment” vital to bringing their continent into the modern age.

Leading African humanist Leo Igwe

Nigerian humanist campaigner Leo Igwe said:

At a time when the dark and destructive forces of religious fundamentalism and superstition are ravaging the continent, the Ghana conference is a sign of light, hope and renewal.

Ghana’s newly formed Humanist Association, host of the three-day gathering in Accra from November 23-25, said that just the announcement that it is being held has encouraged closet atheists to “come out” and sign up. An association statement said:

We do not wish to eradicate religion from our culture but to show there are alternative ways of viewing the world and that asking questions and following the evidence is essential if we are to develop as a nation.

What is needed, Igwe told Reuters, is a process like the 18th century Enlightenment in Europe which loosened the grip of religion and churches on the popular mind and eventually all but removed their power to dictate to governments.

With its overwhelming religiosity and adherence to superstition like witchcraft, he notes, Africa also figures at the tail-end of United Nations indexes on development and heads those on poverty and early death.

Hat tip: Leo Igwe (Ghana conference report)