…Norton raps agency for violating secular principleIn light of a social media post by the Public Health Ministry on Friday morning, Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton stated that the post was “inappropriate” and it goes against the promotion of unity.Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George NortonOn its Facebook page, the Ministry of Public Health made a post captioned “Declarations for 2020” under which it states “We make the following Declarations on the Basis of the Word of God”.The post also states “We declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the health sector…”As soon as the post was made public, persons and organisations were quick to condemn the message, reminding that Guyana is a secular State.One person commented: “This is an embarrassment. Total disrespect for persons who follow another religious belief or none at all”.When contacted early Friday morning by Guyana Times, Dr Norton said he was unaware of the incident.Public Health Minister Volda LawrenceHowever, when asked if it is appropriate for a Government agency to make such a post, he replied: “certainly not…because we’re a secular State, there is no doubt about it”.A secular State is or purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.Dr Norton, who previously served as Public Health Minister, suggested that the post might have been an “oversight”.The post, despite the public backlash, was not removed after more than an hour after being uploaded. It was eventually taken down.Moreover, another person noted, “Not only is this post terribly inappropriate, it is offensive and bigoted and clearly demonstrates that the MoPH obviously lacks appreciation of the secularism of state agencies guaranteed by the Constitution and is a flagrant slap in the face of all peoples in our multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society of Guyana!”“This set of declarations are bias. It reflects a poor representation of our motto ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’. The Minister continues to demonstrate a mediocre character. It is riddled with cognitive biases, poor responsiveness, and lacks ethical standards. It demonstrates the lack of empathy and inclusion – in a historically diverse country. We are a vulnerable people, in Guyana, and this weakens our nation-state – internally and internationally. This minister lacks any leadership skills!” another person posited.Meanwhile, The Guyana Independent Voices started a petition, demanding that the President of Guyana distance himself from this statement and that the subject minister issues an immediate, public and unreserved apology to the Guyanese people.A statement from the group further stated that not only is the Ministry’s statement insensitive and backward, but it is also insightful and propagates race and hate at an ominous time in Guyana’s history.The group reminded the public of Article 1 of the Guyana Constitution which reads, inter alia, “Guyana is an indivisible, secular, democratic sovereign state…”In addition, social media users are calling on the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) to intervene. Efforts to contact the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the constitutional body on Friday proved futile.