Shouters Celebrate in Trinidad

There has been much religious persecution in the world, but much of the angst and dislike for other religions has been based on disagreements regarding creed or basic religious beliefs. The Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago is the only place in the world, that I know of, where a religion has been banned because of the volume of noise they made.

The Shouter Baptists of Trinidad and Tobago, who are also known as the Spiritual Baptists, robustly follow the instructions given in Psalms 100: v1 which state “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, which is something they do with gusto.

From 1917 right through to 1961 the Shouter and Spiritual Baptist Church was banned by the government because of their rowdiness. According to the records the legislation to enact this ban, the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance, was passed on November 16, 1917. The reason given for the ordinance was that the Shouters made too much noise with their loud singing and bell ringing and disturbed the peace.

Witnesses reported that during worship, participants danced, shouted, shook and fell to the ground in convulsions. Such behaviour was deemed unseemly by the more traditional and conservative elements in the society. Also, the established churches regarded such behaviour as heathen and barbaric.

It is not as if there is a lot of religious intolerance in Trinidad and Tobago because a number of religions, including Islam and Hinduism are followed along with Christianity; seemingly the Shouters shouted a lot too enthusiastically.

The ban was repealed on March 30, 1951 when the Shouters were free to bellow once more. Which brings me to one of the world’s most unusual public holidays.

Each year on March 30 there is a public holiday called Shouter Baptist Liberation Day when anyone can holler to their heart’s content.

The Shouters aren’t the only religious movement to enjoy a public holiday. Mainly observed by Catholics on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi is a public holiday that is celebrated by joining in large religious processions.

The Festival of Divali is another public holiday, which is also known as the “Festival of Lights” and it is celebrated in October or November to commemorate Lakshmi the Hindu Goddess of Light.

Eid-ul-Fitr is a Muslim public holiday that is held to celebrate the sighting of the new moon which heralds the end of Ramadan.

However, the big celebration each year is Carnival which is celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday each year, and it is just as colourful, energetic and exciting as the Carnival they celebrate at the same time in Rio de Janeiro.

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