Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has reaffirmed his government’s intention to amend the Constitution to make Christianity the official religion of Samoa.
But he wouldn’t say whether the government would entertain a call by the National Council of Churches to ban other religions like Islam.
Speaking during his weekly media programme, Tuilaepa said that Samoa must be cautious about embracing religions that promote violence and ‘murderous rage’ as a form of worship.
Christianity, he said, does not do this. And this is why it’s important that the Constitution of Samoa is amended to reflect that Samoa is undoubtedly a Christian country.
“The government will make the amendment to the Constitution to put it boldly in the Constitution’s body that the official religion of Samoa is Christianity,” he said.
“The Preamble has no power so it must be embedded in the Constitution’s body.”
Looking at developments in other countries, Tuilaepa said the country’s leaders are monitoring global developments and they are alarmed at the amount of bloodshed by religions that encourage this as a form of worship.
He did not name any particular religion but he pointed to what is happening in the Middle East and terror attacks elsewhere near and far.
According to the Prime Minister, there is nothing wrong with the Constitution but there is a clearly a need to make changes to reflect the situation of today.
In the past when the Constitution was written, there were no extremists, he pointed out.
“But this time that is not the case,” he said.
“There are many things happening overseas because of religious beliefs.”
“So what we want to do is to make it official in the Constitution that Christianity is the official religion in Samoa.”
Asked if the government would not risk meddling with freedom of religion when it does this, Tuilaepa said no. He said there is a fine line between freedom of religion and extremists who use that freedom to justify their violent behavior.
“That is the difference,” he said. “No country would want their Constitution to include those who believe in religion that allows murderous acts.”
Looking at the Constitution as it stands today, Tuilaepa said the preamble only talks about Christianity and Samoan traditions but that carries no weight.
The Preamble of the Constitution reads: “Whereas the Leaders of Western Samoa have declared that Western Samoa should be an Independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan customs and tradition…”
Tuilaepa added that the second part of the amendment should highlight the equal importance individual and collective rights. In most cases, the Prime Minister said the rights of individuals are favoured over the impact of those rights on a group of people.
“When there is a dispute between one person and an entire church, the Court upholds the rights of the individual but overlooks the rights of the church,” he said.
“What it means is that the rights (individual and group) should be equally important.”
The Prime Minister added that it is important he clarifies the issue so that the “Samoa Observer” does not “write something incorrect just to sell their newspapers based on those wrong things”.
Looking at the reporters, he said: “Do you understand the explanation of those things? Because the brains at Samoa Observer are shallow.”