The Chairman of the National Council of Churches, Deacon Leaupepe Kasiano Leaupepe, has distanced himself from the dispute between the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa and the Government over the taxing of church Ministers.
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi used Parliamentary privilege yesterday to send a message to the Church that Parliament is the supreme law making body of the land and no one can derail their decisions.
That’s the latest development in the ongoing tax saga.
Contacted for a comment yesterday, Leaupepe told the Samoa Observer the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa is a sovereign body that is free to make their own decisions.
“The E.F.K.S. church’s response to the matter is their own human right,” Leaupepe said. “They are in control of their own decision making and so I cannot say anything."
“The church has come up with a decision and as the Samoan saying goes “e le aiā mo’o i liu o va’a” therefore I am not going to interfere."
“That is my response to the matter; I have no power over the church’s decision about the law.”
Last week, the General Secretary of the C.C.C.S., Rev. Vavatau Taufao, confirmed that their Church maintained its opposition to the law to tax the Head of State and Church Ministers.
He said they are looking for an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Tuilaepa to discuss the issue.
In Parliament yesterday, Tuilaepa said he is looking forward to meeting the Church leaders. He said he waited for them on Monday and even yesterday, hoping that they would come.
But in a Ministerial statement he delivered yesterday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the law has been passed and there is nothing that can be done about it anymore.
He reiterated that Parliament is the supreme law making body of Samoa and its decisions are final. If Parliament gives in to the wishes of the E.F.K.S. Church, Tuilaepa said he fears what would happen to integrity and finality of laws passed by Parliament.
The Prime Minister also dismissed claims that the law is the first time in Samoa’s history the Government has taxed Church Ministers. He told Parliament that he has archives from Savali editions of the past, which proves that Church Ministers of the L.M.S. (London Missionary Society) paid taxes.
Tuilaepa went on to claim that the C.C.C.S. Church is divided over the issue and that some Ministers have already registered to pay their taxes.
Last week, the General Secretary of the Church maintained that church members want to understand the rationale behind the law.
“The reason has to link to church beliefs. There is no teaching by Jesus that points to the taxing of Church Ministers.”
According to Reverend Vavatau, “Jesus teachings is clear, what belongs to God, give it to him."
“And the common belief among church members of their alofa to the Faifeau, is that they give freely with the notion this is their way expressing of their love for God. That is why they give and more reasons why they do not want the Church Ministers to pay taxes.”
Rev. Vavatau said it is the right decision.
“For me personally, I am very proud of my church, they stand by their faith and I am very proud of that,” said Reverend Vavatau, while fighting back tears.
“I am proud of my Church,” he reiterated.
He reminded the teachings of the Bible not to compromise the Gospel.
“We can’t compromise the Gospel to satisfy human necessities.”