9 Apr 2004

Samoan religious dissidents welcomed back to village

10:16 am on 9 April 2004

The Samoan village of Lotoso'a has accepted back more than 10 residents expelled over religious differences after the Lands and Titles Court upheld their right to freedom of religion.

The dissidents took the town's chiefs to the Court which ruled they could continue to have their own religion and live in the village, but that they must hold services elsewhere.

As the Congregational and Roman Catholic churches were the founding denominations of Lotoso'a, older matai were reluctant to change the rule that no other forms of worship would be allowed in the village.

Four couples and three individuals were expelled from Lotoso'a when they started holding bible lessons and services in an incident that created national debate over religious freedom versus traditional authority of chiefs.

Lotoso'a filed an appeal, one ground being that matai authority existed before Christianity arrived.

With the reconciliation between the two parties this week, matai have agreed to withdraw their appeal and follow the court's ruling.