Responding to complaints from Muslims and Hindus, the Trinity Cross of the Order of the Trinity, a honor established by Queen Elizabeth forty years ago to recognize “distinguished service and gallantry in the former colony of Trinidad and Tobago,” has been declared unconstitutional because it “discriminates against non-Christians.” Muslim and Hindu groups had complained that its Christian name and cross insignia were offensive. Sixty two people have received the cross since it was established in 1969, among the cricketers Garfield Sobers and Brian Lara, the novelist V. S. Naipaul and many of the islands’ leading politicians and diplomats.
The legal case had been brought to the Privy Council in London—which has jurisdiction over these matters—by groups representing Trinidad and Tobago’s Muslim and Hindu communities, which account for about 30 per cent of the Caribbean islands’ population of 1.3 million. In 2004, the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago had ruled that the Trinity Cross discriminated against non-Christians and that it should be renamed the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and redesigned to have the cross replaced by a medal (shown below).
They High Court, however, recognized that it did not have the authority to invalidate a royal order. Hence the appeal ot the Privy Council, which ruled yesterday in favor of the petition. Five British law lords said that the creation of the honor breached the right to equality and the right to freedom of conscience and belief. Lord Hope of Craighead, in his Privy Council judgment, said that the Trinity Cross was “perceived by Hindus and Muslims living in Trinidad and Tobago as an overtly Christian symbol both in name and in substance.” He said that it breached the islands’ Constitution of 1976.
The law lords refused to make the order retrospective, meaning that the recipients will not be stripped of their honors.
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