Samoa is no longer a secular state after its Parliament voted 49-43 in favor of a bill which amends the Constitution to officially declare itself as a Christian nation whose government abides with "God's commandments."
Earlier this month, the Samoan Parliament passed a bill that would revise the country's constitution to declare that Christianity is the major religion of Samoa. Although the constitution already has a declaration in the preamble which says its government acts according to Christian principles, such wording is too broad to be used in legislation, The Diplomat noted.
The Samoan Constitution's first article previously declared that the state is "founded on God." However, it will now read "Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." This declaration specifically referred to the Christian belief of God.
The change appeared to have been done out of fear of Islam in the country, as the Samoa Council of Churches' Secretary General Rev. Ma'auga Motu previously called for a ban on the Muslim faith. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi also raised concern over the rise of "religious wars" in the international scene, saying these occurrences spark civil wars.
Another reason for the amendment of Samoa's constitution may be to prevent outside forces from influencing the country's culture and pressuring it to adopt gay rights and other related measures. One parliamentary member said they need to create laws that reflect their country's Christian background so that they will never have to bend to pressure from other countries to allow same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, Samoa's Ministry of Revenue has proposed to impose taxes on the head of state and church ministers in villages. The cabinet has already approved this measure, and Minister of Revenue Tialavea Tionisio Hunt announced that it would take effect next month, Radio New Zealand reported.
The Methodist and the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa both opposed the tax proposition. However, the revenue minister clarified that church ministers who receive less than $7,500 will not be required to pay tax. He also said he believes the time is ripe for everyone to start contributing to the improvement of their nation's economy.