The Government is keen to push ahead with the policy to tax church pastors after passing the legislation last year.
A letter signed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, in response to the church’s position on the matter, was obtained by the Samoa Observer. The five-page letter dated June 22, 2018 is written in the Samoa language and addressed to Lau Susuga i le Ta’ita’ifono of the EFKS.
A translation of the letter shows the P.M. differentiating the roles and responsibilities of the church and that of the government and how they should not be confused.
“With all due respect the government’s decision about the law will not change. We have specific and separate roles from God that are based on Samoa as such it is your responsibility as the gospel proclaimer for the abstinence of God's pasture in the spiritual side,” he wrote.
“While tax matters are, however, the matter is governed by the fact that the role of the government is to provide physical nourishment for the peace and happiness of God's flock. These clear responsibilities cannot be confused or complicated.”
The PM then made reference to the scripture and highlighted how the Apostle Paul argued that people should pay taxes to authorities, as the latter was established by God.
“And when we think deeply about the clear words of Apostle Paul he emphasizes: ‘everyone must pay taxes for they are not only the ordinances of God but it is a God given conscience, for the good of him and others. We don’t have to remind you as you are anointed gospel proclaimer of the bible. You have more understanding about the work.”
According to the Prime Minister, 34 out of the 35 churches in Samoa support the controversial law including the L.M.S. Toefuata’ina, which represents 75 per cent of Christians in Samoa.
“The matter of the law we believe that it is not an issue that should be discussed in the church’s annual meeting because it is specifically a matter of the government. The Church Elders also force members of the church to not participate in the consultation conducted by the Ministry hence, why many of the church members do not understand and therefore dragged the matter that is specifically for the pastor and his church.”
The new tax will specifically target pastors with a large income and will include alofas. It excludes gifts from weddings, funerals and saofais.