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British VI To Repeal “Hippie” Law

October 3, 1999

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ British Virgin Islands legislators have repealed an immigration order that bans ``hippies″ and Rastafarians from entering the islands, an official said Saturday.

Orlando Smith said the bill he introduced Friday passed by a 7-4 vote, with two absent.

``It’s an embarrassment to this country,″ Smith said of the 1980 order.

Legislators still have to fine tune some minor details in repealing the order, and it is not clear when it will go into effect, Smith said.

The law was introduced by Chief Minister Ralph O’Neal, who oversees the Immigration Department, The Virgin Islands Daily News reported Friday. O’Neal was quoted as saying in the newspaper he believed the law was needed because visiting ``hippies″ and Rastafarians would steal fruit and engage in sexual acts in public.

Smith, elected to the Legislative Council in May, said he thought that the order was introduced after there was an increased incidence of anti-social behavior ``created by persons in this category.″

In June the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, a British territory, ruled Friday that an 8-year-old Rastafarian boy would have to cut off his dreadlocks to return to school in the autumn.

Many followers of Rastafarianism do not cut their hair, letting it form into ``dreadlocks″ that have become a symbol of the movement.

The Caymanian court did, however, recognize Rastafarianism as a legitimate religion, noting it offers a ``redemptive ethic″ of good deeds and a savior. Followers of Rastafarianism, which has its roots in nearby Jamaica, worship former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, who died in 1975.

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