Churches must steer clear of politics: P.M.

Christian denominations should stick to serving the Lord instead of involving themselves in politics, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi says. 

“If anything [church representatives] should go directly to their respective M.P. instead of coming together as a congregation because when I take that route as well, I will call them out and remind them they are now playing politics instead of sticking to their calling, and that is to serve the Lord,” Tuilaepa said. 

His comments follow the views of the Reverend Vavatau Taufao, Secretary-General for the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) seeking the Government shelve three bills proposing to revamp the judiciary. 

He said the elders appeared before a Special Parliamentary Committee with their submissions on the bills. 

“And apparently they did not understand the bills and so the committee explained the essence of the bill and they were happy that they finally understood what the bills were all about,” the Prime Minister said. 

“However, I was shocked to read about it.” 

The committee was tasked to review and conduct public consultations on the three proposed measures, the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020; Land and Titles Bill 2020, and the Judicature Bill 2020. Collectively they would create an autonomous Land and Titles Court. 

Last week, the C.C.C.S. told the committee they believed the legislation should be “shelved”, Reverend Vavatau, who is also the General Secretary for the C.C.C.S., told the Samoa Observer. 

"We did not go to do a debate or argue against the bills. We kindly accepted the request from the Committee so we can discuss the points highlighted in the church's submission," said Rev Vavatau. 

The Prime Minister made the remarks on Thursday evening during his 2AP radio programme, saying that the C.C.C.S. Elders needed to consult with their respective Member of Parliament on these matters. 

“The Chairman [of the C.C.C.S.] is a relative of mine and to me, if he wants to understand; he should come and talk to me and I will explain the gist of the proposed bills,” Tuilaepa said. 

He urged the public to seek the view of their M.P. regarding the proposed bills rather than gossip with people who don’t understand the bills. 

“Do you see other [denominations] doing this?,” the Prime Minister asked. 

“They know what to do and if there are pressing issues they need to discuss they can meet with the National Council of Churches.” 

According to the Prime Minister, whenever there are issues, the National Council of Churches makes time to meet with him and they consult on matters. 

“It’s evident that the majority of the issues arise due to the lack of understanding such as the move to allow casinos in the country; observing the Sabbath day etc..” he said.

“Surely there are differences between the denominations on certain matters when it comes to sensitive matters and keeping the peace the Government will step in.”

Last week, Reverend Vavatau said it was not easy for the church to come up with its submission. 

"It was also not made up by an individual or just a few people. It was a collective decision made by the church, after seeking legal advice and expertise from both sides regarding the bills,” he said. 

"We invited lawyers, one from the government and one from the Samoa Law Society to explain and help us understand the bills before we made our submission. 

"If we look at these bills, you can't help but wonder. If those who went to law school, and are well-educated in terms of laws and legislations and have experience in this profession, are making a lot of noise against these bills, I should worry too. 

"If they are threatened by these bills, an ordinary citizen like me should be alert and keep my eyes open.”

The first denomination to make a submission to the committee was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

In July, representatives of that church did express concerns about the effects of the proposed laws on fundamental human rights in Samoa. 

Spokesperson and Area Seventy Elder, Sapele Faalogo, told the Samoa Observer that their submission contained a concern that fundamental rights would be affected by the proposed changes, especially freedom of religion.

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