Why I don’t support the decision to tax Church Ministers

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Dear Editor,

Re: Church opposes tax law 

I do not support this law by the Samoa government. It is NOT RIGHT and it has many bad consequences if enforced. 

First of all the money donated by the parishioners or members of a congregation to the Faifeau or the church is for their heart felt desire to be used for the work of God whether it be for the faifeau or any programmes being run by the church for the benefit of those who are members of that organization.

They were not donating this money with the intention that it be diverted to pay taxes. All of the people paying lafoga for the church should already have taxes taken out of their income PRIOR to paying the donation to the church. The church then is responsible to the members to use that money as intended. 

For the government to enforce a tax on this donation is to insert its own control over the churches. This violates the separation of church and state. The State can now make churches subject to their control which violates the 11th Article of the Samoa constitution which states: 

FREEDOM OF RELIGION 

(1) Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his or her religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in a community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest and propagate his or her religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law in so far as that existing law or the law so made imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred under the provisions of that clause in the interests of national security or of public order, health or morals, or for protecting the rights and freedom of others, including their rights and freedom to observe and practice their religion without the unsolicited interference of members of other religions. 

Under part 2 it is clear that the laws of the land cannot interfere, unless they are “reasonable”, with the exercise of the freedom of religion. So the questions arise, does this law 1. interfere with the freedom of religion of Samoans and 2. is this interference reasonable? I would answer that yes this law does interfere with the freedom of religion by imposing a penalty on the faifeau if they do not pay this tax which will be a state control on religion. Therefore this law taxing the clergy violates the Samoa Constitution and is therefore void and null under Article 2 of the Constitution.

Part 2 of the Article state that the law affecting the free practice of religion can be considered reasonable if the practice of religion is affecting the country’s “national security or of public order, health or morals, or for protecting the rights and freedom of others...” clearly there is no such application here. No national security is at risk...etc., etc...This is strictly a money grab. The government needs more money so they are desperately resorting to taxation of churches. Pathetic!

State and religion have long been separated because to exert any influence over the religious institutions is a slippery slope toward the eventual undermining of this freedom under the guise of a state benefit. It is always considered taboo for a state or government to interfere with the religious beliefs and exercise of that belief. If a religion contends they do not believe in taxation then the state needs to stay out of the religious beliefs because these are protected rights that are fundamental in the democratic societies we all are a part of. This is why most western nations avoid taxing churches because it is a clear and obvious interference with the religion’s ability to practice its beliefs free of the state’s control which is what taxation is...CONTROL over that religion!!!! 

This is Tuilaepa’s Modus Operandi. He is a control freak and has now shown how desperate he is to squeeze every dime out of the people to pay for his idiotic political decisions including the national debt, which he must repay. This is a sign of the debt becoming too much for him to manage. 

The other issue is that by penalizing the Faifeau he is sending a very destructive message to the members of the Samoan community. That we as Samoans now honor the government more than God. God is not as powerful as the government.

This is a clear and obvious departure from our Samoan heritage and the roots of our culture, which has placed God at the pinnacle of our culture. 

By doing this we as Samoans are turning our backs on the culture and the respect for our Maker and our God that has been at the core of our nation since we were founded. 

Again it is an attempt to replace God with Tuilaepa as the supreme authority in Samoa. How sad is this for the generations to come when they lose sight of what made Samoa special. 

It is sacreligious as well as the introduction of secularism as the new God of our people. Please we must refuse this law at all costs. It goes straight to who we are as a people. We lose God we lose Samoa!

 

Namulauulu Albert Ainuu

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