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Getting Cross

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE


You may have seen a news item this week from Kentucky in the United States where Kim Davis, a Clerk in the Rowan County Courthouse, refused to issue marriage licences to gay couples, claiming that it was against her religion and defying a landmark ruling in June this year by the Supreme Court, declaring gay marriage legal in all 52 states.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing same-sex couples asked Judge David L. Bunning of the Federal District Court to hold her in contempt and fine her, and a hearing on that motion was set for Thursday in District Court in Ashland. The lawyers did not ask for jail time but that was the punishment imposed by the judge who told her she would stay in jail till she agreed to issue the licences.


In a counter-argument, Ms. Davis said in a statement released by her lawyers that she had received death threats, but that she would neither resign nor relent.


“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” she said. She added: “I have no animosity toward anyone and harbour no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s word.”


Following the Supreme Court ruling Ms. Davis has steadfastly refused to issue licences and took her own case to court claiming that she should be excused on the basis of her Apostolic Faith.  Her claim was rejected, and although she had earlier been granted a temporary stay that expired this week and legal experts say that Ms. Davis has very little chance of succeeding in any further pursuance of her case.


Now you might wonder why she has simply not been sacked but in the USA the position of County Clerk is an elected one and so they are not easy to remove.  In fact Ms. Davis only succeeded to the role in January of this year, taking over from her mother who served for 37 years.

Opinions in this very conservative state are sharply divided on the stance she is taking, some saying that she is only defending her First Amendment Rights, others that her views are out of step with modern thinking.  She is also not alone in her stance, with another Clerk also holding fast against the issuing of same-sex marriage licences and another complying but under duress.


Ms. Davis is not the first worker in the world to come into conflict with her employers over a religious belief.  In 2013, for example, a British Airways employee, Nadia Ewelda, won a case against her employers which she had taken all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, after BA had told her in 2006 not to wear a cross around her neck at work in case it caused offence to non-Christians. 

The company changed its policy in 2007 but was still ordered to pay Ms. Ewelda compensation in the ECHR ruling.  However Ms. Davis’s case is particularly interesting in that in the USA there is some confusion where religious beliefs begin and end and how they conflict with jobs in the state and federal sectors. 

There is the oft-quoted clear separation of State and God but then again the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ appeared on US coins  from following appeals from Christian leaders in the country after the American Civil War.  Almost a hundred years later, in 1956, President Dwight D Eisenhower, went one step further, declaring the phrase the official national motto and enshrining it into the Pledge of Allegiance.  It subsequently began to appear on some US banknotes as well as coins. 

Since then it has been the subject of debate since it appears to be in direct conflict with the concept of separation of state and religion but it has remained enshrined in patriotic pledges and as a national motto, in much the same way that American courthouses always insisted on witnesses placing their hand on a Bible and affirming that they ‘swear by Almighty God that the evidence they are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them, God’, though nowadays concessions are made towards other faiths and holy books.


The problem, of course, only arises in countries of multi-faith. It is hard to imagine any such conflict in Israel, for example, where the vast majority of the population is of the Jewish faith.  Similarly in France, Spain and Italy, most of the citizens remain resolutely Catholic and take their instructions from the Pope first and the President second!  But in the US some seriously whacky religions exist and are officially registered and recognised, so drawing a line between belief and the workplace norm becomes almost impossible. 

Here are just some, all official faiths:

Scientology – its followers believe in a 75million year-old deity called Xenu who dropped frozen aliens into volcanoes in earth to save her planetary empire from over-population.  The aliens were then blown up with hydrogen bombs but their souls were not destroyed and hang about inhabiting the bodies of people today.  It’s most famous follower is of course movie star and crazy person Tom Cruise.


Jediism – May the Force Be With You!  This religion is founded on the Star Wars cinema franchise.  I will say no more than that.


Woodism – A religion founded by followers of former leader and film director Edward Wood Jr. who use his films to inject spirituality and imbue happiness into the world.  At gatherings Woodites always dress up as the opposite gender since Ed Wood loved transvestites and often featured them in his films.


Apatheism – Apatheists are the counter to believers, atheists and agnostics.  They claim they couldn’t care less whether God exists or not and they meet annually to pop wrapping bubbles to demonstrate their total lack of interest in all things Godly.


Pastafarianism, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – followers worship pirates who they view as saviours of the world.  Their official dress includes the wearing of a colander on the head.


All of which puts a whole new take on the expression ‘religious nutter’.  On the positive side, it’s hard to see a Pasta, an Apatheist, a Jediist or a Woodist taking an extreme stand on marriage licences or religious jewellery.  Not sure about the Scientologists, though – what say you, Mr. Cruise?


STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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