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Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day

  • 31 Mar 2021 9:52 AM
    Message # 10256360
    Willoughby Francis (Administrator)


    This public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago is always celebrated on March 30th each year.

    Spiritual Baptist Day may also be known as Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and marks the 1951 repeal of the prohibition on practising the religion.

    History of Spiritual Baptist Day

    Spiritual Baptist is a religion that developed from similar faiths in several Caribbean countries. It combines elements of Protestant Christianity with African customs and rituals.

    The Baptist faith in Trinidad is a legacy of the Merikin community. The 'Merikins' were African-American refugees of the War of 1812 – freed slaves who fought for the British against the Americans during the war of 1812. Following the end of the war, the Merikins established a community in the south of Trinidad. They brought the Baptist faith, having been part of evangelical sects common in places such as Georgia and Virginia.

    In 1917, practising the religion was prohibited under the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance by the British colonial government. The reason given was that the noise created their services was disturbing the peace. The ordinance was introduced by then-attorney general Sir Henry Gollam who described the way members of the faith worshipped as an "unmitigated nuisance." Another possible reason behind the ban is that the leaders of the other established religions saw the popularity of Spirtual Baptists as a threat.

    For the next 34 years, it was against the law to take part in a Shouter Baptist service or use a property for that purpose and the penalty was a fine of $240.

    Spiritual Baptists are sometimes referred to as 'shouters', as, during services, they shout, clap, sing loudly and ring bells. During the time of the prohibition on their religion, the Spiritual Baptists dropped the name Shouter Baptists in order to gain more respect for their religion.

    The ordinance was repealed on March 30th 1951, leaving the Spiritual Baptists free to practice their religion as they wish.

    This holiday was first observed in 1996, during the administration of Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, to mark the repeal of the prohibition and the struggle for religious freedom.

    It has become a tradition that bells of freedom are rung across the land proclaiming the diversity and freedom that all citizens enjoy today.

    Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the world that celebrates a public holiday for the Spiritual Baptist faith.

    Reproduced courtesy

    Last modified: 27 May 2021 12:57 PM | Willoughby Francis (Administrator)

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