Charge Of Religious Intolerance Against Prominent High School

St. Hilda’s High School in Brown’s Town, St. Ann, Jamaica has received a lot of flak from not only members of the public but also former Prime Minister, of Jamaica, Edward Seaga.

The school has been harshly criticized for the removal of Jade Bascoe as head girl of the school based on the fact that she is a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — a sect that discourages its members from holding leadership positions in schools as well as prohibiting members from participating in religious activities outside its faith.

The matter came to public attention after the student’s mother, Rhonda Clarke, complained to the press that her daughter was stripped of the position because she was believed to be a member of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

The local high school is one of several high schools that are operated by the Anglican Diocese of Jamaica.

In responding to the criticism, the school has defended its position, citing potential for conflict, given that the student is a Jehovah’s Witness.

The school has also received support for its decision from Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the Right Reverend Dr. Robert Thompson.

“I’m very satisfied with the decision that the school took. We don’t like the idea of the Church being embroiled in a situation like this, but I am indeed very comfortable that the principal made the right decision and she has the full support of the board and the Diocese,” he reportedly told the press.

“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,” he added.

In the meantime, the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) is urging that the student be reinstated.

“Religious tolerance should have been exercised as was done in the appointment of a governor general of the Adventist Faith,” the NPTAJ charged.

“The National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica believes that those duties which would conflict with her religious beliefs could be undertaken by one of her deputies or a senior prefect.”

In the meanwhile, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga has called on the Office of the Public Defender to intervene in the imbroglio surrounding the removal of the head girl of St Hilda’s Diocesan High School, even as the Ministry of Education urged the institution to revise its decision.

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