Thanks to the work of local activists, supported by the voices of people and organizations—including the Legal Network—opposed to hate in all its forms, an American hate-preacher was prevented from spreading his murderous message in Jamaica.
Initially, it looked as if the efforts would be for naught. Steven Anderson, an American extremist Christian “pastor” who has gone on record calling for the stoning of gays and the subjugation of women, as well as denying the Holocaust, was heading to Jamaica for a “mission trip.” Some Jamaican activists thought that it would be impossible to stop him. He has previously been denied entry by other countries, including Canada, because of his hate-mongering. However, given Jamaica’s lack of hate speech legislation and initial statements by the Jamaican government, it seemed likely he would be allowed to enter the country and preach his hatred.
But one brave young gay Jamaican stood up and said, “No.” Jay John decided to start a petition calling on the Jamaican government to ban Anderson because of the imminent threat that he poses to lives of vulnerable Jamaicans. The murder rate in Jamaican is currently averaging five per day, and the last thing Jamaicans needed was another extremist bigot calling for more homicides.
Jay had tried to create an official government petition, but his request was effectively denied as the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) never published it. So Jay moved to create a Change.org petition.
When the Legal Network heard about Jay’s petition, we amplified his important message by circulating it through our networks. (Thank you for adding your voice!) Together, we managed to get more than 38,000 signatures. Through our media relations efforts, we were able to make our voice heard in Jamaica’s major newspaper and condemn Anderson’s misguided visit.
The resulting publicity pushed the Jamaican Ministry of Labour to issue a statement that Anderson would need a work permit to preach in Jamaica, or at least be sponsored by a Jamaican church. Nevertheless, Anderson declared his intention to travel to Jamaica and preach without this permit.
This victory was not without hurdles: when Jay John delivered his petition to the OPM he was told that it would be ignored because it was not on the official petition platform, despite having more than 2.5 times the number of signatures required for a response from the government.
In response, the Legal Network prepared an open letter to the Government of Jamaica making the legal case for banning Anderson. We pointed out that under Jamaican law, an immigration officer could deny Anderson entry because of his outspoken campaign for murder and his Holocaust denial. The letter was signed by some 70 organizations and individuals in Jamaica and around the world, including the Jamaican Canadian Association, the Global Inter-Faith Network For People of All SSOGIE, CATIE, the Namibia Diverse Women’s Association, and many prominent Jamaicans. Forty-eight hours before Anderson was due to arrive in Jamaica, we sent it to the Jamaican Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Security, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Public Defender, and several opposition Members of Parliament.
Our work—and your support—paid off. On January 29, we received news that Anderson was about to board a flight from Atlanta to Kingston, Jamaica, when he was told that the Jamaican government had denied him entry into the country. The Jamaican Ministry of National Security issued a statement that Anderson would be denied because “the pastor’s statements are not conducive to the current climate.”
Needless to say, Anderson was not pleased and lashed out at Jay John with more homophobic hate speech for his role in this important decision. The international press coverage was overwhelming, and may give other countries pause before letting Anderson step foot on their soil in future.
This is an amazing, hard-fought victory, but much more remains to be done. Sadly, we know that Anderson is already planning to visit another Caribbean island, which he has uncharacteristically kept secret. His “missionary team” is also in Jamaica visiting schools. The work to stop the export of religious homophobia continues, and the Legal Network will continue to amplify the voices of local activists and challenge oppressive laws and policies the world over.
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