An honor established by the Queen of Great Britain to recognize distinguished service and gallantry on the former British colony of Trinidad and Tobago has been declared unlawful following complaints that its Christian name and cross insignia were offensive.
The Trinity Cross of the Order of Trinity was established by Queen Elizabeth II in 1969, the Times Online reports. It takes precedence over all other British decorations except the Victoria Cross and the Gorge Cross.
The decoration has been received by 62 people including cricket stars, novelist V.S. Naipaul, and many of the islands’ leading politicians and diplomats. It is the highest national honor of Trinidad and Tobago.
However, some of those nominated have refused to accept it because of questions about its overtly Christian nature.
The Privy Council in London ruled that the decoration was unconstitutional because it discriminates against non-Christians. The council ruled that the creation of the honor breached the right to equality and the right to freedom of conscience and belief.
According to the Times Online, Lord Hope of Craighead in his Privy Council judgment said the Trinity Cross was perceived by Hindus and Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago as "an overtly Christian symbol both in name and substance." Lord Hope said the honor breached the islands’ Constitution of 1976.
The Council refused to make its declaration retroactive so recipients will not be stripped of their past honors.
The Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago has already agreed that the name of the award should be changed to the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The Order of the Trinity will become the Distinguished Society of Trinidad and Tobago. The decoration itself will be redesigned, having its cross replaced with a medal.
The islands’ Muslim and Hindu populations account for about 30 percent of their 1.3 million residents, the Times Online says.
Queen Elizabeth II, who is head of the Church of England, is expected to visit the islands in November.