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By Ernest Heatley

SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 3) – An association of Christian churches has formally asked for amendments to the Fiji Bill of Rights in the Constitution that bars discrimination against sexual orientation.

In a letter to Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the Assembly of Christian Churches (ACCF) detailed its grievances over the sexual orientation content of the Constitution which it says condones "immoral" sexual behaviour.

The group said the provision, contained in Section 38 of the Constitution, would give rise to all sorts of immoral practices like same sex marriages and the ordination of gay priests.

The association, which claimed to represent the views of 20 Christian denominations, made the call in light of alleged attempts to establish a gay resort in the Yasawa Group.

ACCF spokesman Sani Matalomani said while they were deeply disturbed by the report of the alleged project, he said the body was not interested in "pruning the issue but would rather get to the root of the problem.

Mr Qarase said he was aware of the concerns of the religious groups but had yet to read the contents of the letter.

"(The letter) might still be in the system,"he said. "Yes, of course I am willing to sit down and discuss their concerns," said Mr Qarase.

ACCF said: "The sexual orientation rights argument is now used to legally enforce the acceptance of immoral sexual practices such as was recently decided by the Lautoka High Court to nullify sodomy laws. It is only a matter of time before same sex marriages, ordination of gay person as church ministers and other unacceptable practices will be enforced here because of the rights protected (under the Constitution). The Government is duty bound to remove this abomination from our laws. The consequences of not removing such evil laws can only be devastating to Fiji as a nation."

Mr Matalomani said while they were hoping to get an audience with Mr Qarase, they would not let the matter rest there and were in the process of gathering support from other unaffiliated denominations and even 13 non-Christian religious groups to support their cause.

Assistant general secretary of the Methodist Church Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu could not be reached for a comment.

Gay rights group, Equal Ground, preferred not to make a statement on the issue at this stage.

October 3, 2006

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