The origins and early development of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Religion in Trinidad and Tobago are not well known, but the consensus is that the religion developed among the people of African descent during the 19th Century. It can be found throughout the Caribbean under various names but according to Rev. Hazel Ann Gibbs de Peza, the name Spiritual Shouter Baptist is indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. It is a unique religion, comprising elements of Protestant Christianity and African doctrines and rituals.
On 16th November 1917, legislation was enacted by the then Colonial government to ban the practice of Spiritual and Shouter Baptists by way of the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance. This Ordinance forbade them from holding meetings or practising their religion. Estate managers and owners were required to report any meetings to the police, and the police were authorized to enter a building where a meeting was being held without a warrant. Worshipers were arrested, beaten and jailed if they were caught practising their religion. They had to flee to the hills and forests to practise their religion. Even then, the police still pursued and brutalized them. Nevertheless the Spiritual and Shouter Baptists survived. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Baptists fought many court battles and tried to counteract the negative perceptions of their faith.
This lasted for thirty-four years until 1951. After many years of lobbying, the bill to repeal the ordinance was passed on 30 March 1951, as The Repeal of Shouters Prohibition Ordinance. The Spiritual Shouter Baptists were finally free to practise their Religion.
In 1996, under the astute UNC Government led by then Prime Minister Honourable Basdeo Panday, the Spiritual Shouter Baptists were granted an annual public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago. This holiday is celebrated on the anniversary of The Repeal of Shouters Prohibition Ordinance, 30th March in memory of the struggle for, and repeal of, the Shouters Prohibition Ordinance of 1917. Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the world that celebrates a public holiday for the Spiritual Baptist faith.
Further to that, the People’s Partnership Government, led by Prime Minister the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, recognising the importance of this religious body, opened the first ever Spiritual Shouter Baptist Primary School – the St Barbara’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Primary School, in September 2012, after an almost decade long wait by members of this religious group.
As we approach the 18th anniversary of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day holiday in Trinidad and Tobago, the United National Congress St Joseph Constituency Executive pays tribute to all members of the Baptist faith, who endured over the years to ensure equality and freedom of religion. As we know, Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the world that celebrates a public holiday for the Spiritual Baptist faith.
We extend heartfelt greetings to the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community as we continue to pray for our beloved nation. May God bless Trinidad and Tobago.
United National Congress
St Joseph Constituency Executive