30 Apr 2003

Banishment on bible group in Samoa ruled unconstitutional

5:04 pm on 30 April 2003

The Samoa Supreme Court has declared that the banishment of nine people from the village of Falealupo last year was unconstitutional.

The nine, members of a bible study group, were removed from the village after a series of confrontations extending back to 1987.

The chiefs, who had given the group permission for a weekly bible study during the 1980s, became angry when the group extended its activities to Sunday religious meetings.

The chiefs tried to ban them originally in 1987, but a reconciliation led to peace for 12 years.

However in 1999 the chiefs won the support of the Lands and Titles Court which said the 1987 ban was still valid.

The court later jailed some of the group for contempt.

But in a 14 page ruling, the Chief Justice says the banishment of the villagers because of their religious beliefs is a violation of their constitutional right to freedom of religion.