29 Oct 2002

Samoan MP supports council decision to ban new church

4:55 pm on 29 October 2002

A Samoan MP says a local council of chiefs should have the right to decide whether new churches can be established in their village.

Leao Dr Tuitama says there may need to be changes to the constitution to ensure this because there's confusion where the demarcation is between traditional rights and the law over freedom of religion.

He says he supports a decision by the council of chiefs at Samamea village in his district of Va'a O Fonoti in which they refused to allow a new church to be established.

Leao says this is not a ban on the freedom to practise religion.

"That's not banning the freedom of worship to any religion in the Samamea population, as long as they don't set up a church there, they are free to worship elsewhere."

Meanwhile, Leao says another council of chiefs from Saleimoa village is to appeal against a court decision which stated that it had the right to ban the setting up of a new church but not to banish the churchgoers.

The court told the council that the churchgoers should be allowed back into the village.