President Paula-Mae Weekes has praised the Spiritual Shouter Baptists for their endurance and perseverance in fighting for their independence.
In a message yesterday, Weekes said people of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist faith were prohibited from openly practising their religion, but that was lifted by the repeal of the Shouters’ Prohibition Ordinance of 1917.
Today, three members of that community hold important positions in the Inter-Religious Organisation. They include Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke, Mother Germaine Charles Jordan and Mother Joan Irish, hold the office of president, assistant secretary and treasurer respectively.
Weekes said the Shouter Baptist community faced persecution and oppression and had to go underground to practise their religion, risking a fine of $240,000 for “offences” such as taking part in Shouter Baptist meetings or holding or attending any such meeting whether indoors or in the open air day or night.
Erecting or maintaining any Shouter Baptist house or confining any person for the purpose of initiation as well as refusing to give one’s name when questioned by police in relation to Shouter Baptist activities were also illegal.
Even people who were not Spiritual Shouter Baptists stood the chance of running afoul of the law, and those permitting Shouter Baptist activity on their land or failing to notify the police of the existence of any such known activity were also guilty of an offence.
But Weekes said the Spiritual Shouter Baptists never lost hope and continuously fought to be allowed the same freedom of worship accorded to other religions.
They finally found favour with then opposition parliamentarian Ashton Sinanan who moved to have the Ordinance repealed. Their persistence was rewarded and the Shouters’ Prohibition Ordinance was, in 1951, relegated to history.
Spiritual Shouter Baptist Day is officially on Friday, but would be celebrated on March 31. However, the struggle was not over and the Spiritual Shouter Baptists had to be persistent to enjoy religious freedom in order to claim their rightful place among the acceptable and mainstream religions.
Shouter Baptist Liberation Day was declared in 1996.
In her message, the President said, “Our Spiritual Shouter Baptists are a source of national pride, they are a truly indigenous religion.
While pulling strands from other influences including Christianity and traditional African religions, they are their own unique creation.
“They have always been miles ahead of traditional organised religion in recognising women in high office long before many of their counterparts. Perhaps the African element importing the ethos of the harmonious operation of the male and female forces in indigenous African religions contributes to this forward-thinking practice.”