Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Diocese backs Jehovah’s Witness ban

The Diocese of Jamaica has backed the decision by a church school to ban a Jehovah’s Witness from serving as a student leader at a prestigious girls school. The decision to remove Jade Clarke as head girl of St Hilda’s High School, one of the top schools on the island, after she disclosed she was a Jehovah’s Witness has prompted accusations of religious bigotry against the school. In a statement published in The Gleaner on 9 Oct 2015, the Bishop of Kingston, the Rt. Rev. Robert Thompson (pictured) said he had met with the parents and the headmistress of St Hilda’s and backed the school’s decision. “The principal made the right decision and she has the full support of the board and the Diocese,” Bishop Thompson said, adding: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses, in terms of their own tenets and beliefs, would not be permitted to take on any civic leadership in the country. They see themselves as exclusive rather than being inclusive and, even though she was chosen because of her outstanding academic performance and fine qualities, the school pulled her file and it was confirmed that she was a Witness.” Vincent McNeil, a Jehovah’s Witness elder in Kingston, supported the decision, noting: “There are certain things that, if she was a baptised Jehovah’s Witness, she would conscientiously object to.” McNeil’s daughter had been offered the position of head girl in the 60’s but declined due to her faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses may not participate in joint devotions or civic ceremonies. However the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) has urged the government to intervene, charging the Anglican school was engaged in religious discrimination. The NPTAJ “believes that those duties which would conflict with her religious beliefs could be undertaken by one of her deputies or a senior prefect.”

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