Members of the clergy comment on Al Miller’s national award

August 13, 2021
The Reverend Al Miller
The Reverend Al Miller

The announcement that two-time convicted clergyman The Reverend Merrick 'Al' Miller will receive a national honour on Heroes Day has sparked contrasting views from several persons in the local religious sector.

Miller, who heads Fellowship Tabernacle in St Andrew, will receive the Order of Distinction, an order which is conferred upon citizens who have rendered outstanding and important services to Jamaica.

Miller was first convicted for negligence in 2011 when his licensed firearm was stolen from his car while he picked plums at a St Andrew school. He was sentenced to a fine of $80,000. Five years later, he was sentenced to a much larger fine of $1-million for his role in the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke saga. He was found guilty for attempting to pervert the course of justice after Coke was found in a sports utility vehicle he was driving along the Mandela Highway in St Catherine on June 22, 2010.

Miller has appealed both convictions.

St Catherine-based Bishop, Rowan Edwards, founder of Lighthouse Assembly, described Miller as a "national builder" whose body of work merits the recognition.

"Why would you hold this against a man after he has been through the court and did the honourable thing by paying the fine the judge said he should pay? He admits that he did something wrong, and that he did not report the matter to the police. Why people are still holding it against him? He is a good man," he said.

However, the Reverend Father Sean Major-Campbell, rector at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Kingston, said "It is not every day that we get to see someone convicted of criminal charges ... being awarded Commander of the Order of Distinction"

He reasoned that many persons have have run afoul of the law are not as lucky.

"These reformed convicts struggle to get a job, and know only too well, there is no sense in applying for a US visa. They have served time in prison, but they live with the continued stigma of having been a convict. Until death shall they part with the struggle to just survive. But they are not the Reverend Al Miller. They cannot be sanitised. Oh, did I note that they would never ever receive a national award?"

Retired parliamentarian and clergyman Ronnie Thwaites is also uncomfortable with Miller getting a national award.

"I do not stand in judgment over him. That is not my role, but what I do say is two things. One; that if you have been convicted of criminal charges, normally that would disqualify you. Secondly, if you have been convicted and you sincerely say you are sorry, and you made a mistake and you make amends, then that should not be held against you. Has the Reverend Al Miller done that?" Thwaites asked.

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