Church at Centre of Sex Scandal Operating Illegally, Says Mayor
By Alicia Dunkley
The Jamaica Observer
July 19, 2006
The Dayton Avenue Church of God, which has come under fire recently for condoning the actions of one of its deacons who failed to put a stop to the sexual assault of a 13-year-old schoolgirl in his presence, could soon be forced to close its doors.
The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) said yesterday that the church had contravened the Building and Town Planning Regulations and, as such, was operating illegally. "Outside of the act of sexual abuse - which is illegal - we are also finding out that the church is operating illegally, because this so-called 'House of God' was converted from a private home into a church," said Kingston Mayor Desmond McKenzie.
He was speaking yesterday at the graduation exercise for the Early Stimulation Programme, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.
McKenzie later told the Observer that checks carried out by the KSAC had revealed that "no application was ever made to the KSAC" for a retention of the use of the property to operate a church.
"We will be moving to take action within a week as soon as the paperwork is completed," he said.
He did not elaborate on what course of action the KSAC would take, but noted that the church would be asked to put in an application.
At the same time, the mayor cautioned that the submission of an application did not automatically mean that the church would be granted permission to remain open at the current location.
"The application doesn't necessarily mean that they will be granted a retention of use to operate something of that nature there...no application was made to the KSAC for retention of use so what is good for the goose is good for the gander," Mayor McKenzie told the Observer.
"We have to recognise that when we find people that are flouting the law and is upholding things that are illegal, whatever we can do to ensure that it doesn't continue it is our responsibility to do so," he added.
In his usual no holds barred manner, the mayor said "it was the responsibility of the KSAC to take the necessary steps to ensure that there was compliance".
The church rose to public attention after a video tape of the alleged incident was leaked to the media. Deacon Donovan Jones, James Rogers, 18, Shamar Morgan, 18, and a 14-year-old boy, were subsequently slapped with several charges for the indecent assault of the teenager, which they also video-taped.
Noting yesterday that he had 'stayed away' from the public debate stirred by the sexual assault case, McKenzie said this latest finding has spurred the KSAC to take action.
According to the mayor, the church could not be allowed to "get away by breaking the law".
"If they were doing so and doing it in a godly way, then it would not be bad, but they are abusing our children and we cannot allow that to take place, so the KSAC is getting involved on that front and we are going to ensure that they comply."
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