E.F.K.S. gives reasons for clergy not paying taxes

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Dear Editor,

 

Finally, the E.F.K.S. church gives in writing the reasons for refusing to have its church ministers pay income tax. Here are a few brief responses to some of the reasons given and to the church’s General Secretary’s comments about his own beliefs and actions on the subject. 

First and foremost, God’s Word, commonly known as the Bible is the sole guide on how man and woman, God’s creation are to live their lives, and most especially on how they are to worship Him. And so naturally, the Bible is not silent on the subject of Christians paying taxes to civil authorities or governments. (Roman 13, 2 Timothy 2:2-4. When pointedly asked on the subject, Jesus also reaffirmed obedience to Rome on the subject of taxes, the ruling power over Israel at the time. As far as we can tell, Christians, including the Europeans who brought the Gospel to Samoa have since been paying their taxes like everyone in line with Biblical teachings on the subject.

The General Secretary of E.F.K.S. is entitled to his personal beliefs. But when those views are in conflict with the tax laws of the land, laws, which happen to have Biblical support and are in line with the practice of the world Christian community, then he is on very shaky ground indeed. 

As to the democratic way the E.F.K.S. made its decision not to pay tax, please bear in mind that on moral issues, God’s Word, not the views of the majority is our only true guide. Besides, if given the opportunity to decide, I am sure no one of us will be paying taxes today. Anarchists preach against the principle of government and against paying taxes. We don’t want to see the church preaching anarchy. 

So please stop touting the democratic process in your church. Samoa’s tax laws are also decided by a democratic process. Also keep in mind that democracy works for the good only when the people making the decision are properly informed.

Please note also that the” alofa” that the E.F.K.S. ministers receive is no different from the offerings other denominations collect from their parishioners to pay their ministers, and the latters’ taxes where applicable. The only difference is the method of collection. The motive for giving is love “alofa” towards God (not the minister) for all that He has done for the giver. So the General Secretary’s objection to “anyone touching” his alofa is seriously misinformed. As income earners (from alofa offerings), E.F.K.S. ministers have an obligation, like every other income earner, to support the God ordained institution of government.

 Incidentally, God also gave clear guidance on how that “alofa” was to be given to Him. And the reason? So that other motives like “praising and shaming” by men don’t compromise the “alofa” only motivation for giving that God will accept. 

As to the reasons given by the E.F.K.S. letter for not complying with the change to Samoa’s tax laws, here are a few quick responses. Most of these have been addressed often enough.  To begin with, the Bible is clear on the extent and the limits of Christians’ obligations and civic duties. This includes paying taxes with no mention of any exemption for church ministers.

Pagan governments like Egypt and ancient Persia and pagan Samoa in the past, out of fear and superstition put priests and taulaitu on a pedestal and even worshipped some as gods. Remember Tamafaiga? They were not required to pay any taxes or dues or contribute in any way for fear of retribution and withdrawal of favours. Sounds very familiar. 

E.F.K.S. is entitled to its core beliefs but unless they are biblically based, there is no reason to put them ahead the laws of Samoa. To do so would be subversive.

 As to the impact of government taxes, they most certainly already impact the work of all denominations not just E.F.K.S. Think of the benefits to the EFKS from the developments of infrastructure, of education, of health, of employment opportunities, of law and justice; the list goes on and on. And these are funded from the taxes of ordinary Samoans and of church ministers who pay taxes both here and overseas in countries like Australia, NZ, Japan, and China, countries who make no song and dance about their religion.  

And think of the help for the poor government provides from these taxes, the poor that the church does not care much about as it spends on lavish buildings and lavish life styles.  

E.F.K.S. is not the only denomination that has contributed to Samoa’s development. Most other denominations and civil society organizations and individuals have done as much if not more. They are not asking for any special recognition let alone exemption for their clergy from paying taxes.  The theme of government’s budget last year was “Equity and fairness”, making sure that all those who can contribute to Samoa’s development do so. We just heard from our parliamentarians the long list of needs and wants of their districts they want government to fund. With what may one ask if there is no equity and fairness?

Finally, as to separation between church and state, there has never been any and most likely will never be at least in our time. But EFKS can’t cherry pick on when it’s convenient to preach separation. If it wanted separation, it should have objected when the Constitution was changed last year to make a Christian state not only in name but also in law. 

It has also tried to get government in making laws that limit the entry of other denominations etc. E.F.K.S. can’t have it both ways.

 

Gasa Pito Like Gafa. 

A Cheerful Taxpayer.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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