An LGBTQ group in the Cayman Islands is demanding that police investigate a Christian WhatsApp group after leaked messages showed members discussing killing gay people “in a loving way.”
Screenshots from a conversation between members of Cayman Caribbean Cause, which includes leaders from the local religious community, were anonymously emailed to LGBTQ group Cayman Colours, Cayman Compass reports.
In the texts, members urge for the murder of LGBTQ people on the Caribbean island and suggest that homosexuality should be criminalized.
One person said that they should “maybe hang one or two [gay people] in a loving way” to warn other gay people against living openly.
That same person also suggested adopting the Koran’s stance on homosexuality to criminalize homosexuality, writing, “If this was a Muslim country, they’d be [thrown] out by the thousands.”
Group members also shared photos of lawmaker Kenneth Bryan meeting with Colours Cayman last year, and offered suggestions on using the comments section of a Cayman news website to attempt to sway opinion towards their anti-LGBTQ attitudes.
Bishop Nicholas Sykes, who organizes the group, denied any knowledge of the messages when asked by Cayman Compass.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Derek Byrne said in a statement that no criminal complaint had been made, but that police had been contacted about the messages in the group chat.
“We are aware of overt concerns among some members of the community who are challenging the LGBTQ community. Our assessment at this stage is that these persons are operating in a space of free speech and right to peaceful protest and that they have ensured not to breach boundaries that would amount to suspected criminal behavior,” he said.
“While the posts that I have seen are challenging and overtly opposed to the LGBTQ community, they do not reach a criminal threshold to justify alarm, distress, harassment to any individual, i.e., a breach of the penal code. The RCIPS will continue to monitor the matter on an on-going basis to ensure that the criminal law and penal code is not breached.”
But the RCIPS was later forced to issue a separate statement after Colours Carribean, which is connected to Colours Cayman, decried Byrne’s description of the message, and noted that the Cayman Islands Penal Code prohibits intentional harassment, alarm, or distress, calling his statement “legally questionable at best.”
“Threats of hanging, however dressed up, or suggestions of how to ‘eradicate’ LGBTQIA+ people by any means go well beyond causing alarm and distress to our vulnerable community — they are exceptionally disturbing and dangerous,” the group said.
Colours Cayman said that Byrne’s statement had “a sinister and compounding impact on LGBTQIA+ people that he should be reprimanded for as it could, itself, be construed as criminal.”
“By his negligence, the Commissioner, hopefully unintentionally, has risked giving the ‘green light’ for people to harass, alarm and distress an already marginalized community without any criminal consequences,” they said, adding that Byrne should apologize for his “inexcusable failure of judgment.”
RCIPS responded by saying that an investigation would be carried out into the messages, despite not receiving any criminal complaints.
“As a service we take any complaints regarding any content seriously and any such complaints received will be fully and thoroughly investigated to the full extent of the law,” RCIPS said in a statement.
RCIPS noted that there is no specific reference to hate speech in the Penal Code, “there are many criminal offences contained in our legislation that provide considerable protection for our community against harassment, alarm, distress, etc., which provide the legal basis for the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.”
The statement continued: “RCIPS wishes to advise the public that the matter will be kept under constant review and monitored on an on-going basis to ensure that the criminal law and penal code is not breached.”
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