Church implores Govt. to reconsider tax law

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 19 June 2018, 12:00AM

The Elders of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) are urging Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration to reconsider the law to tax the alofa received by Church Ministers.

This is the gist of a letter from the Church to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, dated 15 June 2018. The 11-page letter, written in Samoan, highlights the church’s position on the issue. 

It was submitted to Tuilaepa prior to their much-anticipated meeting yesterday morning. Held at the Prime Minister’s office, Church officials were silent about the outcome of the meeting.

The Church delegation was led by the Chairman, Reverend Elder Tautiaga Senara. He was accompanied by Reverend Elders and Deacons from Upolu and Savai’i.

In the letter to Prime Minister Tuilaepa, the Church argues that:

• The tax law is not in line with Biblical principles 

• The tax law contradicts the E.F.K.S’s core beliefs

• The tax law will impact the work of the church 

• The tax law does not take into account the church’s contribution to the development of the Government and Samoa

• The need for separation between the church and state

“It is the belief of the E.F.K.S. that our customs, traditions and Christianity beliefs are the pillars of the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa,” reads a translation of the letter.

“Samoa is founded on God. It means any law that contradicts our customs, traditions and Christianity beliefs, should not be implemented at all.

“There is no doubt that the law in question violates the fundamental religious beliefs and the core beliefs of the E.F.K.S. Church. 

“This is why the Fonotele (E.F.K.S’s General Assembly) rejected this law in 2017 and again in 2018.”

It was not possible to get a comment from Prime Minister Tuilaepa yesterday.

The letter to Tuilaepa followed the decision by the Church to unanimously reject the law during their Annual General conference.

 “The decision from the Fonotele remains the same as in 2017 and that is to reject the law requiring Church Ministers to pay taxes,” said the C.C.C.S. General Secretary, Reverend Vavatau Taufao.

 “Keep in mind that in the C.C.C.S., there is no such thing as one’s discretion. That is why I have pride in my church because we practice the true meaning of democracy. We are a democratic church, the decision was not decided by one person, rather the entire church."

Rev. Vavatau said about 90 per cent of the church leaders reject the law.

But Prime Minister Tuilaepa has repeatedly said that any Church Minister, including the C.C.C.S., who refuses to pay their taxes will face the full force of the law.

 “This law is the same as the law governing murder,” Tuilaepa said. “Once you violate that law, you alone will be criminally charged. And if you conspire with someone else to murder another person, you’ll be charged as well.” 

Tuilaepa has insisted that the Government will not change its mind and that there is only one supreme law making body which is Parliament.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 19 June 2018, 12:00AM

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